TSTC and GWAMA Partnership Help Promote Career and Technical Education

(WACO) – Hipolito Galan is already putting a spark in his future career.

Galan, 18, is a senior who spends mornings at Waco High School and afternoons at the Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy, or GWAMA. His days are a combination of textbooks and hands-on learning with welding equipment.

“It’s something different every day,” said Galan, who plans to enroll this fall in the Welding Technology program at Texas State Technical College.

Students in GWAMA’s welding program can earn dual enrollment credits good for use at TSTC.

Galan said he has come to enjoy fabrication work while attending the academy.

“I like to build things that can be used,” he said.

Besides welding, GWAMA also offers courses in robotics and electronics, along with construction.

“It gives them an advantage to the beginning of a career,” said Brandon McMahan, an instructor in TSTC’s Robotics Technology program. “They have the hunger to learn.”

The high school students use professional-level equipment in their classes, such as 3D printers to create parts for small rockets.

“They are using the same type of robots we have here and in industry,” McMahan said. “We want to maintain a strong relationship with that school. Their students are doing what we want to teach them.”

The academy has about 200 juniors and seniors from more than 10 area high schools, the farthest being in Mexia.

“I get to see people who have the same interests that I do,” Galan said.

GWAMA’s classes enable small, rural school districts who cannot afford to have an array of technical education classes to be able to give students high-quality experiences that can spark curiosity.

“This whole concept was designed for surrounding districts to share the costs of having a program of this magnitude,” said Donna McKethan, director of career and technical education for the Waco Independent School District.

McKethan said the academy’s precision metal manufacturing program will be tweaked this fall to include an emphasis on computer-aided design. And, the architecture program currently at Waco High School will be moved this fall to GWAMA for all interested students to participate in.

GWAMA’s plans do not stop beyond the fall.

McKethan said a new academy focusing on cyber security and networking will have a dual enrollment component with TSTC and another two-year college starting in 2020. McKethan said the number of students is expected to be capped at 40 juniors and seniors a year.

“A lot of what you see is years of working with TSTC and some hard lessons on what can work with the students,” McKethan said.

For more information on the Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy, go to wacoisd.org/gwama.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.