(SWEETWATER) – Ivan Covarrubias, 19, of Perryton became interested in automotive repair by working on cars with his uncle.
Covarrubias, a certificate student in the Automotive Technology program at Texas State Technical College, has a goal of returning to Ochiltree County after graduation to help others get back to driving.
“Once I’m done, I hope to work at O’Reilly Auto Parts in my hometown and then work at Chevrolet,” he said.
TSTC offers the Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology and two certificates. TSTC in Sweetwater is the only one among the four West Texas campuses to offer the technical program.
Mike Myers, a TSTC Automotive Technology instructor, said some students typically have part-time jobs in the automotive field while in college. He said other students search for employment upon graduation.
“Some look at dealerships,” Myers said. “It’s a good way to get better knowledge of a brand and further yourself in the field. Others go to independent shops that work on all makes and models. Those graduates try to find a mentor and they are the apprentice. They follow and learn from that person for a certain amount of time before they are put out on their own.”
Texas had more than 47,200 automotive service technicians and mechanics as of May 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. West Texas and the Panhandle had more than 1,600 jobs.
Nolan County’s only major automotive dealership, Stanley Ford Sweetwater, uses TSTC as a resource to fill automotive technician jobs. Kevin Atwater, the dealership’s fixed operations manager, said a TSTC graduate has recently been hired.
“We definitely need more automotive technicians. As we grow, we need more,” Atwater said.
This year, TSTC’s Automotive Technology program has more than 20 dual credit students from school districts in Big Spring, Bronte, Colorado City and other West Texas locations.
The need for automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow nationally to more than 795,000 through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.