Category Archives: Williamson County

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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Leander Company Gifts Scholarship Money to TSTC

(HUTTO, Texas) – A Leander company recently gave a $10,000 gift to Texas State Technical College’s Williamson County campus for student scholarships.

One Source Manufacturing is a contract manufacturer specializing in precision machining for the aerospace, semiconductor, gas and oil industries. The company has about 100 employees.

“We are in the business of machining parts, so we have a hard time finding employees,” said Kevin Shipley, the company’s owner and president. “I am big on the trades.”

The scholarship money is for students living in the Leander area who are interesting in attending TSTC.

“We have been hyper-focused on the east side of the county,” said Michael Smith, a senior field development officer for The TSTC Foundation. “Our mission is to take care of our backyard before we go into other areas. We have been focusing on Hutto, Taylor and Georgetown; Leander is next.”

Smith said TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology graduates recently toured the company. 

Shipley graduated in 1983 from the Computer Maintenance Technology program at Texas State Technical Institute (now Texas State Technical College) in Harlingen. He also employs several TSTC graduates.

Shipley said he anticipates the company giving additional scholarship money to TSTC in the future.

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TSTC Cybersecurity Program Expands in Anticipation of New Learning Initiative

(HUTTO, Texas) – As Texas State Technical College’s students at the East Williamson County campus are enjoying their holiday break, workers are physically expanding the Cybersecurity program’s first-floor learning spaces at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center.

Once completed in early 2020, the Cybersecurity program’s newly enlarged lab will be rearranged to accommodate TSTC’s Performance-Based Education (PBE) initiative set to launch in August.

Joshua Schier, an instructor in TSTC’s Cybersecurity program, said he is thrilled about the work taking place.

“This will be even more hands-on focused, and it’s going to create a lot of room for our programs to grow,” Schier said. “Students can work at their own pace and get through the system faster.”

Schier said the new space means more one-on-one time to engage with students.

“Change is always interesting, and it is exciting for us because I think of where it is going to free us up,” he said.

Starting in the fall semester, TSTC’s Performance-Based Education will give students in the Cybersecurity and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology programs the opportunity to learn course material at their own pace. PBE also will increase student access to programs throughout the year and generate a secondary learning transcript showing the competencies that students have completed.

“Students will have the ability to accelerate through their courses and program,” said Kyle Smith, TSTC’s deputy chief academic officer. “Such acceleration will be rewarded by waiving certain portions of the tuition and fees.”

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TSTC Holds Fall 2019 Commencement

(HUTTO, Texas) – More than 40 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2019 Commencement held Friday, Dec. 6, at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center in Hutto.

Several graduates either already have degree-related jobs or are looking for such work opportunities.

Jonathan Guzman of Hutto received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology. He is looking in the area for fabrication jobs.

Guzman said he enjoyed learning about stick welding in his classes.

“I like the hands-on teaching,” he said. “The instructors are always here to help you.”

Guzman said he plans to go out to eat with his relatives after the ceremony.

“I’m pumped and excited,” he said. 

Ashton Taylor of Hutto received a Cybersecurity certificate. He said he will take a short break because of the holidays and continue job hunting, most likely in the Hutto area. 

“I’m relieved,” he said about graduating.

Elton Stuckly Jr., TSTC’s president emeritus, served as the ceremony’s guest speaker.

“We are proud of our graduates and are very excited that they will leave TSTC ready to put their training skills to work in great paying, high demand jobs,” Stuckly said.

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TSTC Alumnus Uses Curiosity to Progress in Career

(HUTTO, Texas) – Edreich Torres grew up in Georgetown taking broken items and putting them back together.

“I believe that my love for knowing how things work and wanting to fix them has always driven me to pursue the next big challenge that awaits me,” he said.

Torres graduated in 2016 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial Maintenance – Mechanical Specialization from Texas State Technical College’s East Williamson County campus.

“TSTC helped me learn how to create, interpret and read many different types of schematics,” he said. “TSTC taught me how to troubleshoot fluid, mechanical and electrical systems.”

Lance Antilley, an instructor in TSTC’s Industrial Systems (formerly Industrial Maintenance) program, said Torres is a good example of the kind of graduates TSTC produces for employers. Students in the program learn about basic electrical theory, boiler maintenance, hydraulics, pumps and other equipment.

“He is a driven individual and an excellent technician,” Antilley said. “He picked up on everything very quickly.”

Torres has been at ICU Medical in Austin for about a year and is a senior electromechanical technician. The job requires him to have knowledge about electrical distribution panels, fluid systems, mechanical systems and programmable logic controls.

“Here at ICU, I help fix, maintain and troubleshoot many different types of issues with fabrication machines that make IV bags for hospitals,” Torres said.

Torres, who lives in Jarrell, said the company’s teamwork drives him in his work.

“The culture that has been established here at ICU Medical has taught me to work more methodically and diligently when troubleshooting,” he said. “This low-stress environment motivates me to perform at a higher level.”

California-based ICU Medical specializes in the development, manufacturing and sale of critical care products for cardiac monitoring, closed-system transfers and infusion therapy.

Aaron Keat, ICU Medical’s talent acquisition lead in Austin, said the company works with organizations that help place military veterans and is represented at career fairs to find technically skilled job candidates. The company also partners with TSTC.

“Over the last several years, it has been increasingly more challenging to find qualified candidates to fill our maintenance-mechanic openings here in Austin,” Keat said.

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