(WACO, Texas) – The city of Glen Rose in Somervell County has proven to be an inspirational place for Texas State Technical College student Iris De La Fuente.
De La Fuente, an Instrumentation Technology major, once worked as a painting foreman at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Glen Rose. Hearing the success stories of TSTC alumni working at the power plant motivated her to go to college for the first time.
“Everyone is helpful here at (TSTC),” De La Fuente said. “You have so many tools to be successful here. This is the best decision of my life.”
De La Fuente and classmates Brittany Cobb of Weatherford and Cara Conte of Kenai, Alaska, are all working toward the Associate of Applied Science degree in Instrumentation Technology at TSTC. Instrumentation is the science of measurement and control of flows, levels, temperatures, pressures or other variables used in industry in process control.
“Iris, Cara and Brittany are going to be our best ambassadors,” said Linda Martin, an instructor in TSTC’s Instrumentation Technology program in Waco. “They are going to be making a good living, and other women will see that.”
The students have already done internships at Comanche Peak, earning valuable in-the-field experience.
“They put you to work one-on-one with a technician,” said De La Fuente. “You learn what you will see in the next semester.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected more than 14,000 electromechanical technician jobs being available by 2026. Electromechanical technicians can work in the aviation, energy, machine manufacturing, robotics and other fields, according to onetonline.org.
“The only way to get more females in the program is to get more females,” Martin said. “Once they graduate, others can see that and realize they can do it also. Most of the women we have here are coming into the program from other jobs.”
De La Fuente is the first in her family to go to college, while Conte is the first to attend a technical college in her family.
Conte worked in the oil fields of Alaska as a cook and housekeeper before coming to TSTC. She said Martin is one of her biggest influences in pursuing a job in the instrumentation field.
“I can go to her and tell her what I am thinking,” Conte said.
Although Cobb has a bachelor’s degree in theater performance, she was encouraged to pursue instrumentation while working at Comanche Peak as a pumps setup and contamination control contract laborer.
“I liked the hands-on work,” Cobb said. “I would get in a tank and get covered in dirt.”
During this period, Cobb happened to meet a TSTC graduate from the Instrumentation Technology program who also had a theater degree.
“I needed formal training to get a skill set,” Cobb said. “I definitely feel like I made the right decision.”
Conte said it helps having an inquisitive nature and appreciation for the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields when choosing to study instrumentation technology.
“I think you have to go in with the mentality of it being hands-on and something different daily,” she said.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.