Category Archives: Williamson County

TSTC Hosts Drive-In Celebration for Spring Graduates – Williamson County

(HUTTO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College honored its spring graduates Friday with a drive-in celebration.

Instructors and staff members lined up at the entrance to the East Williamson County Higher Education Center and cheered graduates and their relatives as they drove onto campus in decorated vehicles. Participating graduates were eligible for a drawing to win a professional diploma frame and other prizes.

Some graduates took photos in front of a TSTC-themed banner and received a diploma cover and yard sign before leaving campus. The actual diplomas and certificates have been mailed to graduates.

“We are trying to limit contact with each other,” said Chemese Armstrong, TSTC’s campus enrollment officer.

This is the first time TSTC has honored its graduates in this manner.

“We want to show them we are proud, and this is our way of doing that,” Armstrong said.

Instructors were happy to see their students take the next big step in their lives.

“As an industry, culinary arts is fortunate to have such innovative minds pursuing their careers, especially in times like this when the making and breaking of businesses is completely contingent on their adaptability,” said Nelson Adams, lead instructor of TSTC’s Culinary Arts program.

Joshua Schier, an instructor in TSTC’s Cybersecurity program, said graduates are ready to enter a workforce that has seen dramatic changes this year.

“We who celebrate all your achievements at TSTC are certain of one thing: You will not let us down,” he said. “You are TSTC graduates!”

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TSTC Graduates Sought After by Area Companies

(HUTTO, Texas) – Some recent graduates of Texas State Technical College are in-demand by several area companies despite the current economic climate.  

Hunter Henry, a TSTC Career Services associate at the Williamson County campus, said some companies within a 100-mile radius of Hutto have contacted him about multiple open positions they have available. He noticed that jobs for maintenance technicians are among the most plentiful. 

Michael Smith, a senior field development officer for The TSTC Foundation, said TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology and Welding Technology programs are also in demand from employee-seeking companies.  Smith works with area companies to build relationships with the college.

“We push for quality,” he said.

Some of the common questions Henry has received from company representatives include how students are doing and if they are looking for jobs.

“I have gotten a lot of questions on what students are expecting to make after they graduate,” Henry said. “They are asking me for that information, which I thought was interesting.”

TSTC’s Williamson County campus had about 40 candidates for graduation in the spring semester. 

Some of the companies that have hired TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology graduates in the past include Athena Manufacturing in Austin and TASUS Corp. in Georgetown. Babeco Fabrication and Machining in Taylor has hired Welding Technology majors, and Cisco systems in Austin has hired Cybersecurity graduates. 

John Newman, owner and chief financial officer of Athena Manufacturing, said his company looks for good students in the high-demand programs at the Williamson County campus. He said the company has about 30 open positions.

“We find students that are interested in what we do and are being educated to do what we do and we find that to be very helpful,” Newman said.

The current economic challenges are calling for creativity for TSTC and area companies alike.

Henry envisions virtual employer spotlights for companies to showcase their work to students, who are their prospective employees.

“One of the things I am excited about in the future is the fact that despite everything that has been happening, the unemployment rate in Texas has been significantly lower than the national average,” Henry said. “I can expect at least in the job market in my area, we will see a lot of resiliency and companies that are innovating and changing the way they do business.”

Lissa Adams, associate provost of TSTC’s Williamson County campus, said she envisions a gradual shift to keep supply chains local. She said TSTC plays a role in economic development discussions as companies are enticed to come to Hutto and the surrounding area.

“They look at how quickly they can get talent and are trained,” Adams said. “Beyond our graduates, that speaks to our workforce. The sheer volume of companies that are interested in this sector, the manufacturing industry, highlights that need.”

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Industrial Systems program offers a diversity of classes for TSTC students

(ABILENE, Texas) – The Industrial Systems program at Texas State Technical College’s Industrial Technology Center in Abilene offers a diverse curriculum for students.

Instructor Daniel Diaz said students learn different aspects of industrial systems, from hydraulics and electronics to welding and small engine repair.

“We have had students get jobs with the wind industry, prisons and hospitals,” Diaz said. “We teach a lot of different facets, and that helps students in the job market. No matter what the market is doing, we will train students with the skills they need to go where they want to.”

During the three-semester program for the Industrial Systems Mechanic certificate, students perform industry-standard safety procedures, learn mechanical and electrical skills, perfect diagnostic techniques, and read and interpret schematics. In addition, students work with motors, pumps, chillers, boilers and programmable logic controllers.

Current students returned to the Abilene facility this month to complete required lab sessions. Diaz said students are practicing social distancing and have adapted to new safety guidelines, including facial coverings.

“This has taught students to adapt to what has been given to them,” Diaz said. “At any job, you are going to have to adapt and change some things on the fly. This is a good way for students to learn that.”

Diaz said the new safety guidelines have helped him as an instructor.

“It is a good teachable moment. We have to show the students how to be able to adapt to something new,” he said.

Diaz said classes include online lectures, but the most important portion of the course takes place in lab sessions.

“All of the skills students learn come in the form of the labs,” he said. “That is where the bulk of the learning is done.”

TSTC also offers Industrial Systems programs at the East Williamson County, Fort Bend County, Marshall, North Texas and Waco campuses.

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TSTC Culinary Arts Students Have Online Celebration

(HUTTO, Texas) – Five candidates for graduation in Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts program in Williamson County were honored Friday with a teleconference celebration.

Nelson Adams, a TSTC Culinary Arts instructor, said the online gathering was an idea the students developed and brought to him to implement. 

The candidates for graduation are Victoria Cruz, Chasey Davis, Davyn Garcia, Nicole Hanks and Luis Rodriguez. Most of them already have jobs in the Austin area.

“That has been par for the course for this group, and I have been lucky to simply be a conduit to make their great ideas come to life,” Adams said. “They are a phenomenal group of students that I am proud to say are ready for the workforce.”

The celebration’s guest speaker was Chad Blunston, executive chef at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Round Rock. He encouraged the students to respect their work and listen to others to learn.

“Make good decisions, be dedicated to your team, yourself and to your owner,” Blunston said. “Your role is to master and learn and pass it on to someone else.”

Lissa Adams, TSTC’s associate provost in Williamson County, thanked the students for their work not only in class, but  also outside of it — baking cookies to decorate at Halloween, preparing Thanksgiving dinner for employees and catering special events.

“You are a special cohort,” she said. “We hope that you will come back and visit us. We do accept deliveries.”

Mark Schneider, statewide director of TSTC’S Culinary Arts department, told students to share knowledge with humility and keep practicing their skills.

“It is special how you bonded and supported each other in the kitchen,” he said. “I think that will flow into your work sites.”

Schneider encouraged the students to compete in culinary contests.

“I can tell you through experience, once I got in the competition arena, I met those chefs, judges and mentors that saw something special and put me in the right place at the right time and moved my career forward,” he said.

Michael Smith, senior field development officer for The TSTC Foundation, surprised the students by announcing the organization will cover their first year of membership in the American Culinary Federation. He also encouraged the students to join the TSTC Alumni Association.

“You have a local leadership that truly cares about this program,” Smith said.

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Virtual events keep TSTC students engaged

(ABILENE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College students are facing a new challenge with online learning.

Michael LeRoux, coordinator of Retention Services for the West Texas campuses, said the staff wanted students to have a sense of normalcy. Through a brainstorming session with team members, LeRoux said the idea of a daily virtual experience was the way to go.

These experiences include Trivia Tuesday, Wellness Wednesday, and discussions about what students face working at home.

“We are talking a lot about time management in what is our new normal,” LeRoux said. “We are doing things online that we did during our leadership luncheons. We had to adjust the approach by doing them online.”

Belinda Palomino, Harlingen’s Student Life and Engagement coordinator for TSTC, said students are wanting something positive to do with their time.

“We are there for the student experience on campus and wanted to keep that going in these times of uncertainty,” she said.

Eight students participated in the first Wellness Wednesday event, LeRoux said. However, as word spreads, he expects the numbers to grow.

There is an incentive for students, LeRoux said. Each student who signs in will have a chance to win prizes and shout-outs in future events.

There is also the chance to be the top campus. LeRoux said each of the 10 TSTC campuses is conducting virtual activities. But Wellness Wednesday is a statewide challenge. With the theme “Commit 2 B Fit,” students will have a chance to win prizes throughout the month.

“All students have to do is log 30 minutes of activity in order for it to count toward the challenge,” he said.

LeRoux and other staff members will send wellness tips and links to workout videos to help keep students active. One of the wellness tips was for students to do school work outside because, as LeRoux said, it can “break up the day.”

The experiences will vary by campus, and Palomino said Harlingen students can expect online hangouts with counselors, receiving positive messages. She said that a virtual movie night is in the works.

“With the different demographics, we are setting up each experience specific to where we are at,” Palomino said.

Fridays have been set aside as a virtual hangout for students just to talk about the week, LeRoux said.

“The students participating so far have really liked the activities,” he said. “We are getting some very positive feedback.”

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TSTC Employees in Williamson County Recognized With Statewide Award

(HUTTO, Texas) – Two employees at Texas State Technical College’s Williamson County campus have been honored for their work and skills.

Nelson Adams, an instructor in the Culinary Arts program, and Chemese Armstrong, a campus enrollment executive, have received the TSTC Chancellor’s Excellence Award.

The Chancellor’s Excellence Award began in 2001 and has been given to more than 300 TSTC employees statewide. Recipients are nominated by their peers for their work toward advancing the college’s mission.

“The teammates who win this award model excellence for us all and are recognized for both their sound character and for advancing TSTC’s mission,” said TSTC Chancellor & CEO Mike Reeser. “Due to their caring and dedicated efforts, TSTC continues to make a difference in the employment success of our students.”

Adams lives in Walburg and began work in 2018 at TSTC.

“I have the great fortune of working with our students on a daily basis in the classroom,” he said. “My day revolves around not only what they are learning and how it is applied in the workplace, but showing our students all of the different facets of making a living in the culinary industry.”

Adams said he enjoys working at TSTC because of its dedication in placing students in high-paying jobs in Texas, and the experiences the faculty and staff share regarding instruction and pedagogy.

“Knowing that my work is recognized by my peers, that I am valued as a contributor and that they hold me in the same esteem that I hold all of them is a humbling experience, to say the least,” he said.

Lissa Adams, associate provost at TSTC’s Williamson County campus, said Adams holds himself and those around him to a high standard of excellence.

“He is a constant beacon of hope, support and encouragement,” she said. “Nelson’s positive, passionate, can-do attitude, integrity and focus on student success are contagious, and we are fortunate to have him as part of the TSTC team.”

Armstrong resides in Hutto and has worked for 11 years at TSTC. She enjoys her job because she can watch how TSTC changes students’ lives. Armstrong said she is honored to receive the recognition.

“Chemese is a pillar of our TSTC community,” said Lissa Adams. “She exemplifies our core values of excellence, integrity, accountability and service in all that she does. Chemese is a fierce advocate for every student and is widely respected for her compassion, dedication and consistent servant-leadership.”

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TSTC Cybersecurity Program: Use Different Passwords for Online Shopping

(HUTTO, Texas) – As Central Texans adapt to an uncertain future of self-isolation and businesses temporarily closing, online shopping is becoming the way for consumers to acquire what they want.

“That is where everybody is headed, especially with the coronavirus,” said Joshua Schier, a Cybersecurity instructor at Texas State Technical College’s Williamson County campus. “It is the way for us to have less contact. It is a simple convenience. Anyone who uses Amazon realizes how nice it is.”

People who are new to online shopping could be prime targets for scammers.

“These scammers capitalize on every opportunity like this anytime there is panic and fear and people are vulnerable,” Schier said.

He said consumers should diversify the passwords they use for online accounts.

“To do that, people are using a password manager to hold and store them,” he said.

Schier cautioned against shopping through mobile and social media apps because of security risks.

The Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration recently sent warning letters to seven companies selling essential oils, teas and other products claiming to prevent or treat COVID-19, according to a blog recently written by Colleen Tressler, an FTC agency consumer education specialist.

“Both agencies will continue to monitor social media, online marketplaces and incoming complaints to help ensure that the companies do not continue to market fraudulent products under a different name or on another website,” Tressler wrote.

In 2018, the Better Business Bureau received more than 28,000 complaints and at least 10,000 scam reports nationwide related to online shopping.

Emily Gaines, a public relations coordinator for the Better Business Bureau in Austin, said scammers are using health as a way to get to consumers.

“Medical face masks can be counterfeited and sold at a lesser quality than advertised, making them less safe than the consumer would hope,” Gaines said. “Scammers may advertise fake cures or preventions for sale, and there are currently no FDA-approved vaccines, drugs or preventions available to purchase online.”

The bureau recommends consumers do online research before making purchases. The agency advises to research sellers, use a credit card for secure online payments, take time to think about purchases and keep documentation of all orders.  And, consumers should not do online shopping using Wi-Fi hotspots because of security concerns.

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TSTC HVAC Graduates to Experience Smart Technology in the Workplace

(HUTTO, Texas) – Today’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians need to know more than basic electrical theory and refrigeration processes. As technology evolves, so does the need to be familiar with how smart technology is being used in HVAC systems.

Curtis Christian, a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology instructor at Texas State Technical College’s Williamson County campus, said the students who are adept at computers and electronics are going to have a hiring advantage.

“There is a lot of detailed work,” he said. “You have to get all the sensors and get everything lined up, and everything has a little code to go with it.”

Some of the technology being seen in the industry includes smart sensors that can communicate with downloaded phone apps and smart thermostats. Employers can provide training through outsourcing or equipment manufacturers.

Christian said the use of smart technology is evolving from the wiring work that technicians have done in the past. He said smart technology is being used more in new and remodeled construction.

“Now they are able to do it using a router and wireless technology,” he said. “You can put a sensor in a room and a controller somewhere else and dispense with all the wiring.”

The HVAC Technology program receives input from its state advisory board made up of industry personnel who give advice on how to adapt the curriculum to what is occurring in the workplace.

“They are interested in having guys that can understand and troubleshoot,” Christian said.

The number of jobs for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to increase to 414,200 workers through 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It credits the increase in workers to growth in modernized climate-control systems. The Austin area had more than 1,800 HVAC technicians in May 2018, according to the labor bureau.

TSTC’s HVAC lab will undergo a makeover this year, including the installation of a variant refrigerated flow (VRF) digitally-controlled heat pump.

“It is made by Toshiba, so it has sensors that you would not find on a regular residential HVAC system,” Christian said. “VRF takes heat and puts it in another room. You still have the outdoor unit, and it ups the efficiency and is popular in new construction and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified construction.”

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TSTC Culinary Arts Program Reopens Student-Run Restaurant

(HUTTO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts program at the Williamson County campus has reopened Level 3, its student-run restaurant, for the spring semester.

Friday’s Mardi Gras menu included creamy new potato and leek soup, chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, and other dishes.

The menu and restaurant’s festive decor was designed by Luis Rodriguez of Hutto, a TSTC Culinary Arts student scheduled to graduate in May.

“I am a huge fan of Louisiana in general,” he said. “I love the culture there and how it feels.”

Rodriguez admitted he was nervous Friday about the restaurant’s opening.

“It was a little hectic in the middle, but we fired on all cylinders,” he said.

Students prepared the meal, seated patrons and served their dishes.

Caroline King, a TSTC Culinary Arts major from Round Rock, said she was excited about the restaurant’s opening week. Her favorite meal on the menu was shrimp po’boys, which could be grilled or fried.

“I love the whole production and being in the hive,” she said. “I’m always excited to cook.”

The restaurant attracted a mix of TSTC employees and area residents.

Timothy Hemesath, an instructor in TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program, was one of the people making his way to the third floor of the East Williamson County Higher Education Center to eat. He said the Louisiana sunburst steak salad was well prepared.

“The students are learning a valuable lesson on how a restaurant operates, from orders to the happy customers,” Hemesath said.

Morgan Hubbard, a member of the Hutto Independent School District’s board, was taking a box of sugar dusted beignets home to her husband. She said the food and service were excellent.

Chef Nelson Adams, an instructor in TSTC’s Culinary Arts program, said the time was right to reopen the restaurant due to the number of students in the program. The student restaurant was last open more than four years ago, Nelson said.

The restaurant is donation-based, Nelson said. Patrons’ tips and donations in lieu of meal prices go to the Culinary Arts program to support students’ education needs.

The restaurant will be open on Fridays during the spring semester. Future themes and dates include Caribbean on March 6, Trendy Cuisine on March 20, Vietnamese on March 27, Germany on April 3 and Texas Buffet on April 17.

To get a registration link to sign up to attend the restaurant, email Adams at

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TSTC Precision Machining Graduates Needed in Williamson County

(HUTTO, Texas) – Astro Mechanics in Round Rock is one of the few manual machining shops in the Austin area, said Carrie Stemp, the company’s president.

“I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars looking in Texas, and I just don’t get anybody,” she said. “I may get one or two (potential employees), but they do not have experience in machining.”

Texas State Technical College’s Precision Machining Technology program on the Williamson County campus in Hutto teaches both manual and computer numerically controlled machining processes.

Tim Hemesath, an instructor in TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program, said machining is facing a growing skills gap that is leaving jobs open. He called it a good problem to have.

“If you like to work with your hands and have an entrepreneurial spirit, then this trade is for you,” Hemesath said. “You definitely always have a job until you decide to retire.”

Stemp said the company began using an employee search firm for the first time this month to find qualified job candidates. She said machining should be taught in schools to entice youth to pursue the field once they graduate.

Jobs for machinists are projected to grow to more than 405,000 through 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Texas had more than 26,000 machinists in May 2018, according to the agency.

In the third quarter of 2019, there were more than 360 machinists working in Williamson County making an average mean annual wage of $44,100, according to Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area in Cedar Park. A majority of the county’s machinists work in machine shops, while others are in agriculture, construction and mining machinery manufacturing.

The agency predicts 74 jobs will be added in the next seven years in Williamson County.

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