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Flores experiences college life while training for career

June 01, 2021 by Ben Barkley

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Isaiah Flores wanted a 24/7 college experience.

He decided to attend Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology program in Sweetwater and live on campus. He has not regretted the decision to leave his childhood home of Hamlin to attend school.

“I toured the Abilene lab and knew that welding would be a career for me. But I chose Sweetwater because I wanted to have the college experience,” said Flores, who is pursuing a certificate of completion in welding.

College life for Flores includes meeting new people and being able to walk around campus. When he is not in the lab working on projects, he makes sure to complete his online assignments in between other activities.

“I have made a lot of friends living on campus. We like to hang out and have fun,” he said.

Flores’ favorite time of the week is welding in the lab and helping his friends with advice.

“I like welding, and it is good we can work in the lab every day,” he said. “(Instructor) Taylor (Elston) explains things a lot, and it helps us complete our projects.”

Elston said Flores works hard to complete projects and help others.

“Isaiah does his work really well and is always asking questions. He wants to be the best he can,” he said.

One of the first things that Flores and the other students completed was a weeklong safety training course.

“We have to be safe in the lab, and spending a week reviewing what we need to do was helpful,” he said. “Taylor really wants us to be safe, and we work to make sure we are not doing anything that could cause an injury. The sparks are always flying, and it is easy to get hit. We make sure we watch to see where our friends are before we get to work.”

Flores said people who do not have experience could begin this program. He had some welding experience helping his uncle in Hamlin, but for others, Flores said Elston is the perfect instructor to help them get started.

“One of my friends did not have any experience welding when he started the program. Taylor worked with him and showed him how to weld,” he said. “Now he is doing projects really well and becoming a better welder. I hope more people look to start a welding career because Taylor has the experience and can teach you everything you need to know.”

While Flores enjoys the campus life, he also enjoys returning to Hamlin to visit friends and going on an occasional fishing trip. But he is looking forward to the day he can show his uncle what he has learned in the lab.

“I have texted him some photos of my work, but he has not seen my full potential,” he said. “I cannot wait to show my uncle what I can do with a welding torch.”

Registration for the fall semester is underway. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit

TSTC Electrical Power and Controls program filling area jobs

May 28, 2021 by Daniel Perry

(RED OAK, Texas) – Electricity drives not only productivity, but also job creation.

Warren Ketteman, president and chief executive officer of the Waxahachie Economic Development Corp., said the availability of electricity is a key factor for prospective companies interested in the city. The Waxahachie EDC and Texas State Technical College in North Texas work together to ensure that there is a trained workforce for new and existing companies to fill jobs.

“With manufacturers, they want to know the proximity of available power, or if it is not in near proximity to the site, how soon can it get there,” Ketteman said.

Nick Scarpinato, lead instructor in TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls program at the North Texas campus, said he has talked to representatives of four companies in the last month regarding employment opportunities for students. This is a sign, he said, that the job market is doing well.

“They (employers) come to our facility, and they see what we are doing and say, ‘Wow, that is what we need,’” he said. “We are trying to make courses that fit the industry.”

Scarpinato said TSTC students often have jobs lined up before graduation, with many staying to work in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He said Oncor has hired several alumni, and Sherwin-Williams has expressed interest in program graduates. AEP and Coca-Cola have also hired recent graduates statewide.

“With Electrical Power and Controls, there are so many different options,” Scarpinato said. “You can start out in one area, and if you don’t like it, you can move to another very easily.”

Cisco-Eagle Inc., which has its headquarters in Dallas, is currently looking for a programmable logic controller and field technician who can program automated safety systems, do minor controls wiring, create electrical drawings and schematics, and troubleshoot issues. The company specializes in all facets of materials handling, including automation and distributed intelligence.

Logan Beard, Cisco-Eagle’s health and safety manager who also does onboarding of new employees and handles job postings, said he has noticed more people applying for jobs throughout the company. He said the company likes to see job applicants with some technical experience. The company works with Allen-Bradley and Schneider programmable logic controllers.

“If we are asking for someone to hit the ground running, we want them to have that background,” Beard said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, powerhouse, substation and relay electrical and electronics repairers make a yearly median salary of more than $70,000 in Texas. More than 1,900 workers will be needed in the state by 2028.

Graduates can also go on to become commercial and industrial equipment electrical and electronics repairers. These workers make a yearly median salary of more than $61,000 in the state. More than 5,800 workers will be needed by 2028.

North Texas’ Precision Machining Technology program teaches hybrid classes and labs during the day and at night. Students can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology or a certificate of completion in Machining.

“We leave the construction and installation to the electricians,” said Richard Filut, statewide lead instructor in TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls program. “We are more about the engineering and maintenance aspects. We still have some of the same skills as far as being able to install a piece of conduit or run wires or terminate conductors. We are more worried about the operations of the equipment.”

This fall, Advantage Academy Charter School Grand Prairie and Red Oak High School will have students taking dual enrollment classes to earn a certificate of completion in Machining.

Registration continues for the fall semester, with scholarships available. For more information, go to 

TSTC Digital Media Design graduates offer skills, creativity to Rio Grande Valley

May 28, 2021 by Daniel Perry

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – People who thrive on creativity can easily find digital media design jobs in Texas.

Texas State Technical College’s online Digital Media Design program teaches students about digital imaging, digital video, photography, typography and other topics. With a well-curated portfolio, students can be confident in their abilities to work in agencies and businesses of all sizes.

Devon Smittkamp, a founding partner at Glitch Creative Labs in McAllen, said he has noticed the creative talent growing during the last few years in the Rio Grande Valley.

“We live in a time of instant gratification,” he said. “Someone with a camera is an influencer. Someone with a laptop and a design program is a designer. A lot of people can do good design, but they need to have the mentality behind it and know the customer-service end.”

Smittkamp said people who are successful in the digital media design field have an eye for what looks good and the skills to do work that does not always follow traditional rules. Those entering the industry should have good critical and logical thinking skills. Fitting in with a creative agency or business can also help potential workers.

“We work hard here,” he said. “It’s important to be able to have some fun in the creative process. Culture is a really important thing.”

Jerry Vavra, statewide lead in TSTC’s Digital Media Design program, recommends that students do freelance work before they graduate in order to gain experience in dealing with customers and understand the financial value of their work.

Vavra said students seeking jobs upon graduation should pay attention to the kind of portfolio that employers want to review. He said the type of work they apply for also factors into what materials should make up the portfolio.

Smittkamp said those interviewing for jobs should not put random files into Dropbox, a hosting service using cloud technology, to present portfolios. He said personal design websites are good to point potential employers to, along with a range of images and a resume put together in a PDF format.

Vavra said people who are job hunting should consider employers’ benefits and insurance plans. They should also embrace remote work.

Smittkamp said he is excited to see young adults starting their own creative agencies in McAllen.

“It is proven (that) the world is going digital,” he said. “There is value still in traditional media, but in looking for a younger audience, everything is digital.”

Students who graduate from TSTC’s Digital Media Design program can go on to become art directors, graphic designers, film and video editors, and photographers. The yearly average salary among these professions in Texas ranges from $47,000 to $76,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website. There will be a need for more than 36,900 workers in Texas by 2028.

This fall, TSTC’s program will be taught in a performance-based format. Performance-based education allows students to have flexibility with their schedules as they master set competencies. Students can build on existing knowledge and may have the opportunity to graduate earlier than planned. Students will still have semesters, but the number of classes will vary.

Vavra said performance-based education appeals to a new kind of student that TSTC is seeing.

“They come in knowing how to self-teach, and they go at a faster pace,” he said. “They could go through a class much faster and end up with a good portfolio. We are forcing them to perfect the competencies before they move on.”

Students already enrolled in the Digital Media Design program before the start of the fall semester will be considered “traditional” because they will still take classes lasting the full 15 weeks of a semester.

Vavra said due to the online program expanding statewide, faculty members will use Google rooms starting this fall to connect students from different locations. Faculty members will also have set room hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays and be ready to answer students’ questions and spur on creative discussions.

TSTC offers an online Associate of Applied Science degree in Digital Media Design.

Registration continues for the fall, and scholarships are available. For more information, go to 

With construction increasing, TSTC fills welding needs

May 26, 2021 by Ben Barkley

(ABILENE, Texas) – With construction projects increasing in West Texas, the need for welders will only grow.

Greg Nicholas, Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology instructor in Abilene, said the number of area job postings for welders increases on a weekly basis, and that means construction is underway.

“Currently there are more jobs available than we have welders in our area. That is a good problem to have,” he said.

With two major construction projects underway in the area, Nicholas said TSTC will play a key role in filling positions. In Abilene, Great Lakes Cheese Co. is planning to build a facility, and Georgia-Pacific is building a second gypsum plant in Sweetwater.

“There are several construction projects going on in our area, and I know many contractors will be needing qualified welders,” Nicholas said.

In West Texas, the average salary for a welder is $46,490, according to lists more than 60 welding jobs in West Texas.

Nicholas said many of his students are already working on jobs while attending school. One of those students is Jeremiah Hall, who is working toward an Associate of Applied Science degree.

“People are looking for welders all over. I am working at a fabrication shop and doing some welding on the side,” he said.

Hall said when Texas began reopening businesses, people were looking for jobs. He said with more businesses opening up, construction will return at a brisk pace.

“I know that the oil and gas industry is still not what it used to be, but once we get that going, Texas will be booming with even more welding jobs,” he said.

Hall said many contractors are looking for welders to do frame work on projects, and having a degree or certificate from TSTC will help.

“The program is amazing and will prepare you for a great job with great pay,” he said.

Donavan Gomez is also pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree and will have a job waiting when he completes the program.

“I know things are going to pick up for us, and I am glad I am studying for a degree,” he said. “The instructors want all of us to be successful, and that is the most important thing. Our success is the school’s success.”

Nicholas said welding opportunities will always be available, and he works to make sure that TSTC provides quality employees.

Welding Technology is one of five programs at TSTC that have money-back guarantees. The college’s commitment to welding students is simple: If they do not have a job within six months of graduation, they will receive a full refund of their tuition. For more information on the money-back guarantee program, visit

Registration for the fall semester is underway. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit

TSTC Paramedic student takes advantage of second chance at life

May 26, 2021 by Ben Barkley

(ABILENE, Texas) – Brittney Sims said she received a second chance at life for a reason.

In 2005, Sims attempted to take her own life as a teenager and at one point was not responsive to paramedics trying to save her. Sixteen years later, Sims is now a student in Texas State Technical College’s Paramedic program and is studying under the paramedic who was the first to arrive at her house that day.

Ronnie Pitts, TSTC’s Emergency Medical Services instructor, was that paramedic. Doctors said Sims would not have normal brain function, but Sims wanted to prove everyone wrong.

“Ronnie Pitts played a key factor in saving my life. Without him, I would not be here today,” Sims said.

She earned her emergency medical technician certificate from TSTC and began the paramedic program for one reason.

“I knew I could do more with my life, and I knew that I wanted to help people the way that Ronnie helped me,” she said.

Pitts said when Sims began the program, he did not remember who she was at first. It was through an email that took Sims some time to write that he learned who this student was and what he meant to her.

“Out of the blue, I received her email, and it hit me,” Pitts said. “Many times as EMTs and paramedics, we wonder what happens to our patients after we drop them off. It is only normal. I am able to see what became of her, and I know she will be a successful paramedic.”

Sims said it took her some time to decide to leave her position in an orthodontics office to attend school, but she is glad she made the choice.

“(Pitts) was thrilled I made the decision to come back to school. I was glad I could show him that the outcome of his call to my house turned out for the best,” she said.

Sims currently works as an EMT at both MetroCare in Abilene and Scurry County EMS in Snyder. She said having experience at both a rural and a larger city service will pay off in the future.

“There are some things I do in Scurry County that I do not do in Abilene. I am impressed that I am learning something new every day,” she said.

Scurry County EMS Director Jason Tyler said Sims has shown signs of becoming a good paramedic.

“She is very confident in what she does and is a quick learner,” he said. “She is getting her eyes open to what rural EMS is about and what we stand for. She is beginning to understand that it is an entirely different system and one she could be successful in.”

Sims said she wants to help pay it forward by promoting TSTC’s program as often as possible. That included recruiting her best friend to join the program earlier this year.

“I hope we will be able to work on an ambulance together one day. Right now, it is good that we are able to see each other on a daily basis,” Sims said.

Sims is also able to talk to her instructors about the calls she had to answer. She said that makes the program appealing to many students.

“There is such amazing team support with all of the instructors. We know that we will be able to talk to them about things we experience in the field,” she said. “I knew I was saved for a reason. I just needed to search for what it was — and it was to become a paramedic and help people like Ronnie helped me.”

Registration for the fall semester is underway. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit

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