TSTC automotive student gets to practice his skills for AEP

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Automotive Technology student Hugo Villanueva never thought college would be in his future, much less a cooperative (co-op) education learning experience with American Electric Power (AEP).

The San Benito native who expects to earn his certificate in Automotive Technology in Spring 2020 is working 20 hours per week at AEP’s San Benito location as a co-op fleet technician conducting oil changes, automotive diagnosis and troubleshooting, hydraulic repair, among other preventative maintenance.

Through this educational experience, Villanueva is supervised, evaluated and paid by the employer, and receives course credit for his work.

“This has been an amazing experience and opportunity for me,” said the 28-year-old. “I’m sure this is going to look great on my resume and give me an advantage when I begin applying for jobs soon.”TSTC Automotive Technology student

The co-op position is only for the Fall 2019 semester, but Villanueva said although he’s approaching his job hunt with an open mind, he hopes to gain permanent employment with AEP in the near future.

“This is my chance to make a great first impression,” he said. “My foot is in the door and I am working hard and honing my skills and passion for the field. I want them to see what I’m made of.”

AEP lead technician and Villanueva’s director supervisor Mario Tovar said it was Villanueva’s military experience – he served five years as a U.S. Marine – mechanic experience, and knowledge of the field that left an impression and eventually got him hired for the co-op position.

“Villanueva already shows a great deal of knowledge in the field. He’s well versed,” said Tovar. “He’s a hustler, self-starter and I never have to worry about him getting his work done. From what I see, he’s going to go a long way in the industry and be very successful.”

Tovar also mentioned that since the inception of the co-op partnership between TSTC and AEP nearly six years ago, the company has been impressed with the participating students and their skills.

“We’ve had an excellent experience working with these TSTC students who enter the co-op program,” said Tovar. “They are ready to work and knowledgeable in the field, and this is a great way to help them gain the experience they need. It really is a win-win all around and we hope to continue this program for years to come.”

As for Villanueva, he said it was his wife who convinced and encouraged him to return to school, and he’s glad she did.

“I’ve received opportunities I could have never imagined and it’s all because I came to TSTC,” he said. “Because what I am doing is to give my family a better future so we can continue moving forward.”

Tovar said he is thankful that all of his instructors take an active approach in their students’ learning and job placement because it makes all the difference.

“This isn’t just a hobby for me or a way to stay busy, this is my livelihood and a way to support my family,” said Tovar. “And I am excited that I’ll be able to do that while doing something I’ve always had a passion for and that TSTC is helping me get there.”

Automotive Technology is also offered at TSTC’s Sweetwater and Waco campuses.

For more information, visit https://tstc.edu/programs/AutomotiveTechnology.

TSTC Wind Energy Technology changes alum’s outlook on life

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Froilan Gaitan began his college career at Texas State Technical College with the idea of transferring to pursue a bachelor’s degree. But somewhere between dream and reality, he realized that a technical education could pay off big and chose to pursue Wind Energy Technology.

“This was a huge move for me,” said the 32-year-old. “After reflecting on my career choice and the path I was following, I wasn’t where I wanted to be. And I felt returning to TSTC could change that.”Froilan Gaitan Wind Energy Technology alum

After completing his academic requirements for a bachelor’s degree in sociology, he took time off from school so he could work to help his mom.

“My mom was a single mom, and my siblings and I were her top priority every single step of the way,” said Gaitan. “I always told myself that when I grew up, I would take care of her the way she did us.”

But odd jobs here and there were not cutting it for the Mercedes native. That’s when he began doing research on different careers and their outlooks, which led him to TSTC Wind Energy Technology.

“Renewable energy is growing fast, is here to stay, and technicians are in demand,” he said he remembered reading. “So I returned to TSTC and enrolled. I never looked back.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of wind technicians is expected to grow 57% through 2028, and because of the wind industry’s rapid growth, the number of available jobs is expected to be over 6,000.

And with an average salary of around $54,000 a year, Gaitan knew this could be a life-changer.

“Nothing worth getting in life is easy, and this was one of those instances,” said Gaitan. “I was barely getting by, but I kept the prize in mind, and that helped me to keep going.”

As a full-time student in the Wind Energy Technology program, Gaitan worked three part-time jobs to make ends meet.

One of those jobs was at TSTC as a work-study employee in Central Receiving. Gaitan said it was there that he met TSTC inventory control supervisor Ruben Ochoa.

“Ruben was my inspiration,” he said. “He would motivate me, encourage me, and get mad at me when he knew I was in the wrong. He wanted nothing more than to see me succeed, and that made all of the difference.”

Gaitan said in addition to Ochoa being a positive role model, his instructors also played a huge part in his success.

“Our instructors helped us be the best we could be,” he said. “They never denied us help. They led us to resources if we needed assistance and made sure we were job-ready.”

While it was no easy feat for Gaitan and there were times he said he felt like giving up, he finally graduated with an associate degree in Wind Energy Technology in Spring 2018, and he already has a stable career.

He works as a traveling wind technician with BHI Energy and is currently stationed at the Los Vientos wind farm in Rio Grande City.

“I have had the opportunity to see places I never thought I would, but I’m fortunate to be back home,” said Gaitan. “Everything leading up to this has been quite a journey, but it was worth it.”

Gaitan said he can now fulfill the promise he made at a young age to take care of his mom, and he hopes everything he has done has left a positive impact on his siblings, and anyone else who may be in his situation.

“I can only go up from here, and I plan to learn as much as possible so that I can begin to advance in my career,” he said. “And I hope that my story not only inspires my family, but also others who may think education is impossible. Because I’m here to say that if I can do it, so can you.”

For more information on Wind Energy Technology, visit https://tstc.edu/programs/WindEnergyTechnology.  

TSTC, Mueller Co. receive TWC skills grant for workforce training

By Amanda Sotelo

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – A Texas Workforce Commission grant will allow Texas State Technical College and Mueller Co. at its Brownsville location to advance the technical skills of more than 80 Mueller Co. employees through workforce training provided by TSTC.

Bryan Daniel, TWC’s chairman and commissioner representing the public, on Wednesday presented both organizations with a Skills Development Fund grant in the amount of $107,705.

“TSTC is at the forefront of employer and student success,” said TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez. “It’s a privilege and honor to be part of transforming a major segment in our local manufacturing.”TSTC, Mueller Co. receive TWC Skills Development Fund grant

The training for Mueller Co. employees began earlier this month. It is administered by TSTC Workforce Training and Continuing Education at the Mueller site and includes Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour safety training, as well as courses in basic math, basic machining, troubleshooting of electrical and motor systems, introduction to Microsoft Excel, pneumatics and hydraulics.

Sergio Marroquin, manufacturing manager at Mueller Co., said TSTC’s ability to provide the technical training they require to meet their company’s goals encouraged the partnership.

“TSTC knows and understands the fundamentals and advances in technical training,” said Marroquin. “We know that TSTC makes things happen, and over the next year our employees will receive the training they need to achieve success within our company.”

Daniel views Skills Development Fund grants as an investment back into the community.

“These grants allow employers to help their employees advance their skills and opportunities,” he said. “These trainings can help lead an employee to an increased salary or promotion, which in turn strengthens our communities.”

He added that having the opportunity to partner with top-notch institutions like TSTC ensures that every partnership’s needs will be met and training will continue for generations to come.

Over the next year, Marroquin said they will work closely with TSTC in growing this newly formed partnership.

“We look forward to growing with TSTC and building upon the customized training we’ve created,” he said. “We will continue to advance the skills of our employees, and with TSTC’s help we will stay up to date on all of the latest advances in technical skills training.”

Based in Tennessee, Mueller Co. manufactures fire hydrants, gate valves and other water distribution products.

For more information on the services provided by TSTC Workforce Training and Continuing Education, visit https://tstc.edu/workforce/home.

TSTC Police Officer Honored by Lacy Lakeview

(WACO, Texas) – A Texas State Technical College police officer was among four local law enforcement officers honored Tuesday by the Lacy Lakeview City Council.

TSTC police officer Landon Rowell, along with Lacy Lakeview Police Department officer Scott Dent, received the Blackinton Commendation Bar, Life Saving for their work in helping to keep a woman alive on Sunday, Sept. 8. Lacy Lakeview police officers Kadaro Klanika and James Plummer were also honored but unable to attend the ceremony. 

“The honor is very prestigious,” said TSTC’s Lt. Roman Proctor. “Even though officers face a lot of different challenges and have certain things they are recognized for, being recognized for saving someone’s life is paramount.”

According to the Lacy Lakeview Police Department, the officers answered the late evening call for help on North Rita Street. When the officers arrived, they found a 64-year-old woman having medical issues and who was unresponsive. When the woman’s breathing and pulse stopped, the officers began CPR) and used an automated external defibrillator to revive her.

“We all switched out doing CPR and moving her off the bed and moving around the furniture,” Rowell said.

Rowell said he did what he was trained to do in the situation.

“You never know what the day will bring,” he said.

An ambulance arrived at the scene and took the woman to an area hospital as an officer rode along to continue administering CPR. Unfortunately, the woman died a few days later, according to the Lacy Lakeview Police Department.

Rowell grew up in Waco and was home-schooled. He said he always wanted to be a police officer to help serve a community. He is a graduate of the McLennan Community College Law Enforcement Academy.

Before joining TSTC’s police force, he worked for two years for the Woodway Public Safety Department.

“He (Rowell) adds value to our department as far as his willingness and his service to us,” Proctor said. “He helps out by always being available to assist when needed.”

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

TSTC Students Chosen for Nationwide Safety Conference

(WACO, Texas) – Four students from Texas State Technical College’s Environmental Technology Compliance and Occupational Safety Compliance Technology programs have been selected to attend the American Society of Safety Professionals’ 2019 Future Safety Leaders Conference from Nov. 7 to 8 in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Joshua Campbell of Bruceville-Eddy, Chris Garibay of Mart, Robert Johnson of Waco and Craig Womack of China Spring are the first students from TSTC chosen by the organization to attend the conference.

“These are the ones that have stood out the last year I have been here at TSTC,” said Kimberly Williams, an instructor in TSTC’s Occupational Safety Compliance Technology program.

The students completed an application and wrote an essay to be considered. They are among 150 students nationwide going to the conference.

“I was excited to get four accepted,” said Williams. “It will put the program out there and the people who are graduating out there that are transitioning into the workforce.”

Garibay keeps safety in mind daily as a bus driver for the Connally Independent School District. He works in the mornings and on weekends for special events to earn money while attending TSTC.

Garibay said he looks forward to attending the event.

“It seems like it would be a good opportunity,” he said. “I hope I come back with a job. Just about everyone needs some kind of safety person.”

The students took different paths to their programs of study, and all hope to gain more knowledge from the conference.

“I have always been into safety,” said Campbell. “I was in the Boy Scouts. At work, I was the one that watched out for people.”

Campbell said he wants to work for a company as a health, safety and environmental specialist after graduation next summer.

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

TSTC Debuts Updated Programs This Fall in Marshall

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Students attending Texas State Technical College this fall have found two programs that have been updated and renamed, and a third that replaces an older program. 

“This is evidence of TSTC’s ongoing efforts to tailor our programs to the precise skill sets Texas employers need,” said Barton Day, TSTC’s provost in Marshall.

The Automation and Controls Technology program (formerly Industrial Controls Technology) teaches automatic control principles, energy industrial safety, electrical theory and motor controls. Graduates can pursue jobs as electrical engineering technicians and industrial engineering technicians, among others. 

“They can stay local,” said Nathan Cleveland, TSTC’s associate provost in Marshall. “They are going to the same places that an instrumentation technician would go. They do a little robotics, they do a little programmable logic controls, a little instrumentation.”

The Industrial Systems program (formerly Industrial Maintenance) offers an associate degree with an electrical specialization, as well as a mechanic-electrical certificate.

“This is a program we can place students in jobs all day long,” Cleveland said. “It is an in-demand occupation.”

Computer Programming Technology replaces Software Development Technology. It teaches advanced Java programming, database programming and mobile applications development. 

“Most of the work that Computer Programming Technology graduates would do around here is the development of business applications,” Cleveland said. “If you go into the San Antonio and Austin areas, you are going to get more into the gaming applications.”

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


TSTC Students Tour Merrick Engineering Inc. in Waco

(WACO, Texas) – Students from Texas State Technical College’s Facilities Management Technology and Industrial Systems programs toured Merrick Engineering Inc. in Waco on Friday.

The tour occurred on Manufacturing Day, which is observed nationwide on the first Friday in October.

“We want them to understand the manufacturing fundamentals,” said Ali Jawady, the company’s operations manager. “Anything we can do to help attract new people in this trade is what I am hoping for.”

The students learned about the company’s production of plastic clothes hangers, bowls, plates and other items. The company supplies these products to Dollar General, Target, Walmart and other retailers.

“It was a pleasure talking to area students today about the great work going on at Merrick Engineering in Waco, the thousands of jobs they create for Texans and the relationship they share with Walmart,” said Rudy Garcia, manager of Walmart’s Franklin Avenue location in Waco.

Students saw Merrick Engineering’s inventory, production, recycling and shipping areas. Large machines hummed and employees stacked newly made plastic goods and boxes as students walked through the plant.

Michael Hubbard, lead instructor in TSTC’s Industrial Systems and Engineering department, said he was glad to see the students engaged during the tour.

“It is fun for me to listen to the students repeat things they are hearing in class,” he said. “It means they are listening.”

Kevin Wright, a Facilities Management Technology student from Sherman, said the program’s field trips are valuable learning experiences.

“You can only learn so much in class,” he said. “We get to see the real aspects. There is just so much. You have the pneumatics, the hydraulics. We get to know the parts and their importance.”

The company has more than 850 employees at facilities in Waco, along with Corona, California, and Clarksburg, West Virginia.

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

TSTC Program Sees Largest Female Cohort

(RED OAK, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s North Texas campus has three women enrolled this semester in its Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization program, the largest female cohort for that program in the campus’ history.

Biatris Arevalo of Red Oak and Abby Ramsey of Maypearl are pursuing associate degrees, while Tiquila Dawson of Dallas is studying for a program certificate. The women have things in common, including having grown up in the country and being curious about how the equipment works.

“I probably talk to them about working on stuff more than the guys,” Arevalo said.

John Walker, an instructor in TSTC’s Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization program, said the students are enthusiastic and come to class each day ready to work.

“Abby is so sharp,” he said. “Tiquila is coming here to enhance her skills and get set to move up the pay scale. Biatris wants a better income and opportunities. She likes working with her hands.”

The Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization program has more than 50 students this semester taking day and night classes. Walker said the program’s goal for the spring semester is starting a new night cohort. Some of the skills students are learning include commercial wiring, electrical theory and machinery installation.

Ramsey is a home-schooled high school senior who began taking dual enrollment classes this year at TSTC. She said picking her major was a natural fit for her.

“I live in a small town where we do a lot of hands-on things,” Ramsey said. “That is the mindset of small towns. My family is very hands-on. If you break it, you fix it.”

Dawson is doing some of this work already at the Kohl’s Distribution eFulfillment Center in DeSoto, where she has been employed for three years. She works three days a week and goes to classes four days a week.

Earlier this semester, she received a $250 scholarship from The TSTC Foundation as part of TSTC’s Shaping You to Get Hired campaign. She said the money enabled her to buy tools and other items for classes.

Dawson said she did not think she would go to college. She grew up in Elkhart and said she did not have the guidance needed to plan for life after high school. But, she had a breakthrough while in circumstances that were not ideal. 

“I guess it was my second time going to prison when I realized you get older, and the years, you can’t get back,” Dawson said. “Either you are going to do right or go back where you have been.”

Dawson said she is content working and going to classes.

“Everything is new to me,” she said. “I am meeting new people. It’s tough trying to work and go to school.”

Arevalo grew up with an interest in robotics and majored in criminal justice at a four-year university before realizing it was not a good fit for her. She also endured a sports injury that took her away from playing soccer.

Arevalo said she had a period when she had to think about her career and incorporating her mathematics and science abilities. She eventually knew TSTC would be the right place for her.

“Here, the instructors explain it, and then you work on it,” she said.

Arevalo said her career goal is to work at Oncor.

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

TSTC Hosts Mock Interview Sessions for Students

(WACO, Texas) – Several Texas State Technical College students have become better prepared for job hunting after practicing their interview skills on Wednesday and Thursday.

TSTC’s Career Services department in Waco hosted an interview practicum at the Murray Watson Jr. Student Recreation Center for students to sit down with business recruiters and TSTC staff for mock interview sessions.

“Many of our students have not had an interview before, and this event is a great opportunity for them to get practice in doing so,” said Jose Muniz, TSTC’s Career Services director in Waco.

After the sessions were completed, students received forms highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

Josue Lopez of La Grange is a first-semester Electrical Power and Controls student who attended the practicum to see how he can refine his interview skills. He said he is eager to use what he learned when he meets with potential employers upon graduation.

“I’m feeling confident, but I don’t want to be too confident,” Lopez said.

Jeff Williams, an Industrial Systems major from Temple, said he wants to better his soft skills. He said what he learned will help him throughout the fall as he prepares for graduation in December.

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

TSTC HVAC Technology creates cool careers in a hot job market

By Amanda Sotelo

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The demand for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians is high and continues to grow as the number of residential and commercial sites increases.

And Texas State Technical College is working diligently to meet industry demand and fill the jobs that are vacated as people retire.

TSTC HVAC Technology

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for HVAC mechanics and installers is increasing by 13 percent, faster than average, and will have more than 46,000 jobs available nationwide by 2028.

“In the RGV alone, construction is booming. Imagine that tenfold across the state,” said TSTC HVAC Technology instructor Jorge Cabrera. “This is leading to greater opportunities for our students, and we’re training them right here at TSTC.”

Cabrera went on to explain that HVAC systems are becoming more complex as technology advances, and TSTC is training its students to master those skills and more to give t

hem a leg up in the industry.

What is the length of the program?

The program offers two pathways: Certificate 1, which is three semesters, and an associate degree, which is five semesters.

What can a student expect when they graduate?

When a student graduates from the program with either a certificate or degree, they will also hold an EPA608 refrigerant certificate and an employment-ready certificate, which recognizes the mastery of industry-standard HVAC equipment and skills.

Both additional certifications can mean more job opportunities, promotions and a salary increase.

What skills do you learn in HVAC Technology?

In the program, students learn all of the fundamental basics of heating, air condit

ioning and refrigeration, such as basic electricity for HVAC; refrigeration principles; mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems in construction; air conditioning installation and troubleshooting; and residential air conditioning systems design.

As the program transitions to performance-based education in Fall 2020, students can expect to work toward mastering skills quicker to graduate sooner.

What types of technologies are used to learn these skills?

TSTC is constantly working with advisory boards, made of industry partners, to stay up to date on the latest technologies in the field. In HVAC Technology, students have access to industry-standard tools and equipment like Bluetooth gauges; phone and tables application downloads for reporting; air conditioning, refrigeration and heating units; and online video content and three-dimensional simulators.

How do these skills prepare a student for the workforce?

A company’s goal is to hire an already technically trained and licensed graduate who will need little to no on-the-job training, so the skills students learn in this program through hands-on learning prepare them to enter the workforce ready as entry-level technicians. By the time they graduate, they are familiar with what’s expected in industry, familiar with equipment and tools and how to troubleshoot, diagnose, repair and service all types of HVAC units. This makes them more marketable and leads them into successful careers.

What kinds of positions can a graduate from this program obtain?

Graduates from HVAC Technology can become heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians, mechanics and installers, and can work in schools, hospitals, and residential and commercial HVAC and refrigeration companies.

Companies that have hired TSTC HVAC Technology graduates range from Central Air and Heating, Coca-Cola, George Cunningham Air Conditioning and Heating, Southern Mechanical LLC, and Trane Heating and Cooling.