Category Archives: Marshall

TSTC Process Operations Technology students utilize virtual experiences

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Students in Texas State Technical College’s Process Operations Technology program in Marshall are getting the most out of some new virtual reality software.

The program’s faculty members and students began using PetroSkills Simulation Solutions’ Distillation VR software last summer. The software can be used in classes focusing on process instrumentation, troubleshooting and process technology.

The software simulates what process operators encounter in control rooms at refineries and petrochemical plants. Randy Clark, an instructor in TSTC’s Process Operations Technology program, said the software is the same kind used at Eastman Chemical Co. in Longview and Pergan in Marshall.

Clark said instructors can set up real-life situations for students to solve, such as failing pumps or equipment fires. Alerts are given through alarms sounding in the software. The students must determine how to fix the problems.

“We can make it like every pump can shut down,” Clark said.

Students can access the cloud-based virtual software through TSTC’s Moodle platform, whether on campus or at their residence. 

Nick George, of Canton, is scheduled to graduate this semester from the Process Operations Technology program. He learned about the program from his aunt, who took a campus tour with students from the Wills Point Independent School District. At that time, George said he did not know what the process operations field was.

George applied to TSTC toward the end of his senior year.

“I jumped at the opportunity to do something,” George said.

George said he enjoys the program’s hands-on labs, some of which include using the simulator software. During one recent virtual scenario, he had to deal with an overflowing condensate tank.

“This is fun,” he said. “Troubleshooting is fun for me. I like to solve and fix things.”

George has been applying at internships and feels good about his prospects. He wants to stay in East Texas to work.

Janna Jones, of Marshall, is scheduled to graduate this semester from the Process Operations Technology program. She said she chose the associate degree program because of the earning potential upon graduation and seeing what her sister, a graduate of the program, has done while working at a company in Kansas.

Jones used the simulation software for the first time during the fall semester. She said it is user-friendly because there are downloadable instructions on how to maneuver through situations. The software uses color coding to indicate problem areas.

“I’m glad it is here and available,” Jones said. 

Jones added that she is optimistic about her job prospects when she graduates.

The Marshall Economic Development Corp. (MEDCO) authorized the purchase of the virtual reality software in February 2020 and donated it to TSTC.

“We would like for those individuals to stay in Marshall and work here,” Rush Harris, executive director of MEDCO, said in July 2020. “It increases our percentage of educated folks in town and increases our annual median and mean income. We are trying to keep the pipeline of employees going to some of these larger companies that pay well.”

TSTC’s Process Operations Technology program teaches students about blueprint reading, industrial processes, process technology, safety and other topics.

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TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program and AEP Foundation celebrate financial pledge

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Leaders from Texas State Technical College and Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) recently gathered in Marshall to celebrate a financial pledge made through The TSTC Foundation to TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program.

The American Electric Power Foundation has pledged $100,000 to the program to help ease the financial burdens of students in need, enabling them to complete the program’s associate degree and/or certificate of completion. The AEP Foundation is funded by American Electric Power and its utility operating units, including SWEPCO. The first $50,000 of the contribution has been received, with an additional $50,000 gift planned for 2022. The gift adds to an existing endowment that the foundation created a few years ago.

“We are exceptionally grateful for AEP’s outstanding support of our Electrical Lineworker Technology program and the great benefit this gift brings to the students,” said Barton Day, provost of TSTC in Marshall.

Riley Hodges, lead instructor in TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program in Marshall, said the endowment can help students who might leave TSTC due to program costs.

Wade Cumbie, of Carthage, is pursuing an associate degree in the Electrical Lineworker Technology program and is scheduled to graduate this semester. He said he is happy that the AEP Foundation’s gift will help future program students at the Marshall campus long after he is working in the industry.

“It’s a big deal for people who cannot afford the program,” Cumbie said. “The work we do is very fun. It is about the friendships you have with the guys. The instructors are very good.”

Bryan K. Blanton, Distribution System manager for SWEPCO’s Longview district, said about 50 Electrical Lineworker Technology graduates from Marshall have been hired by SWEPCO in the last four years. Blanton said graduates start off in a four-month internship, then go into a three- to four-year apprenticeship program to progress into becoming an electrical journeyman.

“We have had huge success with being able to hire students that are from the area where we are trying to place positions,” Blanton said.

Blanton also is chair of the Electrical Lineworker Technology program’s advisory board in Marshall. The advisory board is made up of industry personnel who give input on what students need to learn to match what is being done in industry.

“The program’s curriculum is in line with AEP’s curriculum, and this is a huge benefit because the students come out of the program with the knowledge that we need them to have,” Blanton said.

Mark A. Robinson, SWEPCO’s external affairs manager in Longview, said the electrical lineworker industry continues to see people move into less physical jobs or retire as they get older. Newer workers will be needed.

“What we are seeing in our community is almost an expectation that some go to college, and for some, a four-year degree may not be right,” Robinson said. “They (students) are being encouraged to go toward a certificate or two-year degree. They can stay in the community, get a high-quality education, go to college and go into the workforce.”

To motivate people to pursue the electrical lineworker field, it will take entities partnering together to promote technical education.

“TSTC and AEP are essential partners in economic development,” said Rush Harris, chief executive director of the Marshall Economic Development Corp. “Our EDC is proud to have them both in the community. This is a very generous contribution by AEP that provides additional opportunities to our area’s youth and future workforce.”

TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program is a Money-Back Guarantee program. Students who sign up for the program with a Career Services representative in their first semester of study can take part in focused workshops as they work their way to an associate degree. If students do not get a job in their degree field within six months of graduating, TSTC will refund their tuition.

The Ohio-based AEP Foundation works in AEP’s 11-state service region to support education in the areas of engineering, mathematics, science and technology. The foundation also works to support cultural arts, the environment, health care and quality-of-life efforts.

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Carthage resident secures job before TSTC graduation

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Micah Johnson, of Carthage, looks forward not only to graduating this semester from Texas State Technical College, but also to starting work shortly thereafter as an instrumentation technician at Phillips 66’s Sweeny Refinery in Brazoria County.

“I’m excited for sure,” Johnson said. “It is something new. It is going to take me out of my comfort zone a little bit, but I am ready. I am due for something else, a different environment.”

Johnson is scheduled to graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automation and Controls Technology from TSTC’s Marshall campus. The program teaches students about calibration, computer instrumentation, engineering design, programmable logic controllers, robotics interfacing, and maintenance and troubleshooting.

“My instructors are really good at what they do,” Johnson said. “They are knowledgeable and have the answer to pretty much any questions you have.”

Douglas Clark, an instructor in TSTC’s Automation and Controls Technology program, said Johnson comes to class ready to learn and sometimes helps his classmates when they need guidance in understanding class material.

“When I first met Micah, I could tell right away that he was a kind, courteous, respectful young man and possessed a strong moral compass,” Clark said. “That came across in his demeanor.”

Johnson applied for a job at Phillips 66 last fall before noticing the company would be part of TSTC’s virtual industry job fair. He did a short informal interview with company human resources staff and a plant manager during the online event. He later received an email from the company indicating that they were interested in learning more about him.

Johnson went through a series of virtual and in-person interviews, along with a refinery tour late last fall, before being offered a job shortly after Christmas. He is scheduled to finish the hiring process in April and start work in May.

“I am sure they (Phillips 66) saw in him the same thing I saw when I first met him,” Clark said. 

After graduating from Carthage High School, Johnson took general studies classes at a local college but was unsure of what he wanted to do. He also got a job as a helper at an automation and measurement company.

Johnson’s cousin, Jarod Blissett, was attending TSTC’s Marshall campus to study in the Industrial Controls Technology program, the predecessor to the Automation and Controls Technology program.

“He would run me through what they were looking at and show me the assignments they were working on at school,” Johnson said. “It was really interesting.”

Johnson’s cousin motivated him to enroll at TSTC. He even arranged for Clark to meet Johnson and give him a tour of the campus.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that there will be a need for 15,100 electromechanical technicians by 2029. In Texas, electromechanical and mechatronics technologists and technicians made an annual mean wage of $56,750 in May 2019, according to the federal agency.

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TSTC’s CPT program trains graduates for in-demand jobs

(MARSHALL, Texas) – The future of Texas State Technical College’s Computer Programming Technology program is shining as bright as a laptop screen.

Last spring, the program moved all of its classes online. Due to this, the college’s programs that were physically on five of TSTC’s campuses combined into one statewide unit. This means instructors are not tethered to one geographic campus to teach, but rather can work with students online from throughout Texas.

Phyllis Hollingshead, an instructor in TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program, said she is teaching 60 students this semester in the Introduction to C++ Programming class.

“Now that we have moved fully online, I feel the program will grow,” she said. “Computer programmers are needed everywhere, even in East Texas.”

The East Texas Council of Governments, which encompasses 14 counties, had more than 1,400 software and web developers, programmers and testers that made a median annual wage of $87,100 as of the second quarter of 2020. There were more than 800 computer and information analysts making a median annual wage of $71,500 in the same period.

“Students willing to move to Austin, Dallas or Houston can make even more,” Hollingshead said.

Shannon Ferguson, statewide lead instructor in TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program, said Citibank and Texas Farm Bureau are among the companies that have hired the college’s graduates in the past.

Ferguson is excited about the statewide Computer Programming Technology and Web Design and Development Technology programs taking part in the Austin Technology Council. The council focuses on supporting business and professional growth, providing networking and business mentoring opportunities and giving public policy representation to the tech industry.

“We hope to promote our graduates and get them into companies in that area,” Ferguson said.

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TSTC Student Uses Her Education to Advance in Workplace

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Natasha Davis had a stable job at the company where she enjoys working, but she knew she needed to learn more.

She chose to attend Texas State Technical College’s Marshall campus to further her education and earn increased responsibilities at her employer, Conterra Networks in Longview. She continued to work full time while attending classes.

Davis is a candidate for graduation for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Networking and Systems Administration at TSTC. She completes her studies this month.

“As I took my classes at TSTC, it was explained to me how the things I have been privy to came to be and how it works,” she said. “It is exciting to relate the information I was learning to what I already knew.”

Amy Hertel, an instructor in TSTC’s Cybersecurity program, taught Davis in some of her classes.

“It is not enough for her to just complete assignments; she wants to understand how everything works, take notes, take time to study and push herself,” Hertel said.

Davis was recently promoted from working in customer service to assisting customers in the company’s 24-hour network operations center. The work involves giving troubleshooting assistance for internet, ethernet and phone services.

“I have already talked to my new boss about what kind of things I can do to progress in my career and what kind of things that come in hand in the position I am in,” she said. “This is really just a starting point.”

Davis said she knows it can be a rarity for someone seeking telecommunications assistance to hear a woman giving guidance.

“It is hilarious to hear their reactions,” she said. “They are not trying to be biased, but they are thrown off.”

Davis said her career advice for other women is to stand out in the workplace, be dependable and make connections.

“You want to build relationships with everybody so they feel a sense of community,” she said. “They feel like they are a part of something bigger when they talk to you.”

Due to the pandemic, TSTC’s Marshall campus is having a virtual graduation celebration at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10, on the TSTC in Marshall Facebook page.

Graduates can pick up their “Grad Swag” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11, at the campus’ Administration Building.

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TSTC Candidate for Graduation Helps Keep Jefferson ISD Secure

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Jasmonae’ Mosby grew up in San Augustine, where she began doing external repairs to people’s smartphones while in high school.

“For some reason my phone would always mess up. So I ended up repairing screens, and that is what drew me,” she said. “I started getting my own clients at home. I thought if I could do that on phones, I could do it with computers.”

Mosby is a candidate for graduation for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Networking and Systems Administration at Texas State Technical College’s Marshall campus. She will complete her studies this month.

“Jasmonae’ is the kind of student who stands out in a crowd,” said Amy Hertel, an instructor in TSTC’s Cybersecurity program in Marshall. 

Mosby chose TSTC because it was close to her hometown and was affordable. She was one of the few women in her classes.

“Growing up, I have always been with guys, and it just became a natural thing,” she said. “It didn’t bother me at all.”

Mosby got an internship earlier this year at the Jefferson Independent School District’s information technology department. The internship turned into a full-time job. The department’s staff handles preventive maintenance and work orders submitted by district employees.

“I love working here,” she said. “I get exposed to various things, especially those that are hands-on.”

Mosby’s advice for women interested in pursuing the networking field is to have a passion for the work.

Due to the pandemic, TSTC’s Marshall campus is having a virtual graduation celebration at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10, on the TSTC in Marshall Facebook page.

Graduates can pick up their complimentary “Grad Swag” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11, at the campus Administration Building.

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TSTC Industrial Systems Program Aims to Prepare Students for Work in East Texas

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Students graduating from Texas State Technical College’s Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization program in Marshall leave with knowledge about commercial wiring, electrical theory, hydraulics, pneumatics and other topics.

“There is actually big money locally if the students want to stay local,” said Edward Chaney, a TSTC program instructor.

Texas had more than 11,100 electrical and electronic engineering technologists and technicians making an annual mean wage of $68,560 in May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The East Texas Council of Governments cited the Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Midland and Odessa areas as having the highest demand for workers. The top skills sought by employers include knowledge in forklift operation, repairs and power tools, along with communication skills and problem-solving. 

The labor statistics bureau predicts the number of jobs for electrical and electronic engineering technologists and technicians will rise to more than 127,000 by 2029.

Warfab Inc. in Hallsville and Longview specializes in forging-press work, heavy equipment, manufacturing and specialty welding services for the clean coal, mining, steel mill, offshore drilling, petrochemical, pipeline and power-generation industries.

“Sometimes we try an industrial maintenance person out as a machine operator, which is different from a machinist,” said Monica Coulter, Warfab’s human resources manager. “Machine operators operate the smaller, different kinds of equipment that is not quite as technical.”

Coulter said equipment maintenance is done mostly by workers in the field. She said the company hires machinists to run lathes, mills and other computer-aided equipment.

TSTC now offers a way for students to get a hands-on glimpse into the program. The Basic Industrial Systems – Electrical occupational skills award features three classes in basic electrical theory, commercial wiring and motor controls that can be taken in one semester.

“It is going to take a dedicated student to complete it,” Chaney said. “The OSA will be labor-intensive.”

Registration for the spring semester begins November 16.

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TSTC’s Workforce Training Department Offers Funding for Learning

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Workforce Training department has $15,000 available for workforce training at qualifying East Texas businesses. .

The department has about six months to use the money from the Texas Workforce Commission’s Skills for Small Business program, or it will be returned to the state.

“With the financial opportunities that face businesses in today’s market, especially in the current COVID-19 environment, usually the first thing that gets trimmed out of the budget is training,” said Kori Bowen, TSTC’s interim director of special projects in the Office of Strategic Partnerships. “In this case, these are funds made available by the state of Texas that are allocated for training.”

The money can be used by East Texas businesses with less than 100 employees to receive training through TSTC in electrical theory, Microsoft Office programs, welding and other skills. Training can be done online when possible, with hands-on lessons being done using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines.

Training can start within 30 days of contacting TSTC’s Workforce Training department.

“Anything that closes any kind of performance gaps, we can do that,” said Dirk Hughes, TSTC’s executive director of Workforce Training.  

TSTC and the commission have a strong history of working together to teach Texans the skills they need to be successful.

“Via an array of state-sponsored programs, TWC and TSTC partner together to initiate, design and execute opportunities for industry partners that will open the door for training opportunities and ultimately strengthen the Texas economy,” Bowen said.

The TWC’s Skills for Small Business program uses about $2 million from the Skills Development Fund. The program funds training for full-time employees and must be done through a technical or community college in Texas or through the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.

For more information on the TWC Skills for Small Business funding, contact TSTC’s Workforce Training department at 903-923-3374. 

TSTC Alum’s Dream Lives on at TSTC

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Texas State Technical College now has a tangible reminder of an alumnus, thanks to a generous gift.

 Rick Berry had a heart as big as the outdoors, where he loved to hunt and fish.

 The resident of Carthage, Texas, grew up traveling throughout Greece and the Middle East with his father, who was in the oil industry, and graduated from the American School in Aberdeen, Scotland.

 Eventually Berry found his way to TSTC’s Marshall campus, where in 2009 he earned associate degrees in Computer Aided Drafting and Computer Aided Manufacturing.

 Later he dreamed of opening his own firearms manufacturing facility. Among his purchases for the nascent business was a Gunsmithing Gearhead Lathe made by Grizzly Industrial Inc.

 But soon his dream began to fade.

 “Before he was able to start his business, he started getting sick,” said his wife, Sarah.

 Berry died in 2018 at just 51 years of age.

 Sarah Berry began looking for a new home for the lathe, which was valued at nearly $6,000 and still in its original carton.

 “After he passed away and we had to move, I had no place to put it,” she said.

 Her thoughts turned to TSTC. She worked with Blake Cox, The TSTC Foundation’s field development officer for East Texas, to donate the lathe to the college.

 “It is a huge help to the program in what we are doing and trying to be as safe as we can,” Cox said. “It is an extra piece of equipment that will serve a great purpose. We want to let (the Berry family) know we are very grateful for this.”

 Danny Nixon, an instructor in TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program, taught Berry and admired his intellect.

 “He was a big guy, and he was a teddy bear when it came to getting to know him,” Nixon said. “He had a generous heart.”

 The program’s faculty will use the lathe in manual machining classes, Nixon said. He added that the lathe means more students can take classes.

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Sulphur Springs Student Perseveres in Studies at TSTC

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Kyle Hudgins of Sulphur Springs is motivated by waking up every day to do something new.

“I get ready to add to the knowledge I have already gained and get a better understanding of the work we do and how each component functions,” he said.

Hudgins is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial Systems –  Electrical Specialization at Texas State Technical College’s Marshall campus. Some of the topics he is learning about include basic electrical theory, hydraulics, industrial maintenance and pumps.

“This program is full of hands-on labs and instructors that genuinely want to see you excel,” he said. “If you don’t understand something, they are there to make sure you fully grasp the concept to the full extent.”

Hudgins likes the program because it enables workers to be a jack-of-all trades in the workplace.

“It has endless limits; it is just up to you to fulfill them,” he said.

Edward Chaney, lead instructor in TSTC’s Industrial Systems program in Marshall, admired Hudgins’ resilience last spring when the campus shifted to a hybrid instructional format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He never griped or complained but instead used the opportunity to rise above,” Chaney said. “He was part of a group of a few students who joined together to meet and go over the online material before presenting their questions to me through Google Hangouts. He took everything in stride and adapted to the new delivery system. His adaptability is a testament to what a true technician needs to be.”

Hudgins is a graduate of Sulphur Springs High School. Before he came to TSTC, he was studying business accounting at another college and working as a bank teller.

“I quickly realized that sitting in an office all day wasn’t my cup of tea,” Hudgins said. “My neighbor had recently graduated from the Industrial Systems program at TSTC when I ran into him. He gave me a rundown of the classes he had taken and how much he liked it. The diversity of jobs you can get with this degree was exactly what I was looking for.”

After his scheduled graduation in December, Hudgins wants to work in the Sulphur Springs area. But, he said he is keeping his job prospects open.

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