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East Texas industrial systems jobs are ready for TSTC graduates

April 14, 2021 by Daniel Perry

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Rush Harris, executive director of the Marshall Economic Development Corp., said the need for industrial systems workers is being seen right now. 

Harris said he recently has spoken with two companies that need new workers. He said more than 20 companies in Harrison County and surrounding counties are searching for industrial systems employees.

This means job opportunities for graduates of Texas State Technical College’s Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization in Marshall.

Edward Chaney, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Industrial Systems Technology program, said students focus on an array of skills in hands-on labs. Some of the classes taught in Marshall focus on basic hydraulics, basic electrical theory, compressors, and programmable logic controllers.

“Our students in Marshall are given a heavy dose of electrical skills but are also backed up with the mechanical skills needed to tie the two together and make a well-rounded technician,” Chaney said.

He said the goal is for students to experience as much as they can about the work they will encounter after graduation.

“We don’t have near enough students to be able to fill the demand for good technicians,” Chaney said. “With an Industrial Systems Technology skill set, graduates have plenty of options available for placement, so the jobs are out there.”

Harris said industrial systems, like other technical fields, will see many workers retiring and newer employees needed to fill positions in the next few years.

“This creates an excellent opportunity for a high school graduate to move on and get an accessible two-year education specializing in industrial systems, where they will likely earn well above the median household income in Marshall,” Harris said. “These skills are in demand and can be learned for a reasonable price that allows a single person to make more money than most combined households bring in.”

The highest-paying career in the industrial systems field in the third quarter of 2020 in the East Texas Council of Governments’ 14-county region was electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation and relay, with those workers earning an annual mean wage of $70,800.

Harris said in the Marshall area, there are more than 2,100 workers in jobs that involve industrial systems. Their annual wages can be as high as $66,000, depending on industry and occupation.

TSTC’s Marshall campus offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization and an Industrial Systems Mechanic – Electrical certificate. Students have the opportunity to earn an Environmental Protection Agency Section 608 technician certification for handling refrigerants.

Registration for the summer and fall semesters continues at Texas State Technical College. For more information, go to

Lifeguard Ambulance Service EMTs travel similar paths to TSTC

April 13, 2021 by Ben Barkley

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Two Lifeguard Ambulance Service emergency medical technicians began their medical careers in similar fashion.

Michelle Bates and Brittney Evans did not immediately begin studying to become EMTs. Now the two first responders are completing their third semester in Texas State Technical College’s Emergency Medical Services Paramedic program.

Bates, of Fort Worth, earned a college scholarship to play soccer and originally wanted to study clinical psychology.

“It was a couple of years, but I decided I wanted to study emergency medical services,” she said. “I first brought it up to my parents, and they were not sure that was something I should do.”

A couple of years later, Bates returned to her parents and was met with a positive response.

“I really got into the work, and it became my passion,” she said. “My parents are now 100 percent supportive of my decision.”

Evans, of Bangs, said she took time after high school to think about her career options. It was not until 2013 that becoming an EMT entered her mind.

“I fell in love with the EMS world,” she said.

Like Bates, Evans said her family has been supportive of her decision to become a paramedic. The mother of one and with one on the way said it has been hard to juggle family, work and school.

“I am ecstatic to get this done. I am so happy I have gotten this far,” she said. “My husband has been there the entire time supporting me.”

Bates had to face adversity during the past few months. She contracted the coronavirus and was quarantined during and after her illness. But she persevered in her studies through the help of TSTC EMS instructor Tim Scalley, who pushed her to get back into the lab sessions.

“He has been amazing and has taught us so much,” she said. “I had to tell myself to not kill myself to get everything done when I got back. I am not suffering now.”

Both Bates and Evans said their co-workers are excited for them to complete the program. They plan to stay with the company, but Evans said that does have one disadvantage.

“It is hard to help someone you know, but it is good that we are helping people,” she said.

Bates said the Paramedic program is challenging, but the rewards pay off.

“You have to know that you are here to learn and things are not going to happen quickly,” she said. “The best advice I can give anyone is to stay calm and take it one day at a time.”

Evans offered similar advice for prospective students.

“You are going to have to hunker down and be serious about the program. There will be a lot of sacrifices,” she said. “I have learned that the more you put into it, the more you get out of what you learn.”

When Bates and Evans complete the program, they will join more than 26,000 EMT-paramedics employed in the state, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

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TSTC Wind Energy Technology student looking for adventure

April 13, 2021 by Ben Barkley

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Grant Cusenbary likes to explore nature and go on adventures.

Cusenbary’s sense of adventure led him to Texas State Technical College’s Wind Energy Technology program. Nearing the completion of his second semester in pursuing an associate degree, he is ready to explore more of the program.

“I am naturally curious. I like to ask a lot of questions, and with our small classes, we get the answers from our instructors,” he said. “It is one thing to know what you have to know, but it is another thing to understand why something does what it is supposed to do.”

Cusenbary’s curiosity came at an early age.

“Working on a farm, I did not know how some of the things worked on our tractors. But I wanted to learn more,” he said.

The same curiosity led Cusenbary to TSTC. He knew people in his hometown of Graham who had wind turbines on their property. He asked the farmers different questions and soon realized he could have a career in wind energy.

“I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of research. TSTC is known for its wind program, and I knew it would be the best place to receive an education,” he said.

Instructor Billie Jones said Cusenbary is very attentive, a positive trait for future wind turbine technicians.

“He does ask a lot of questions, and that is something I like in students,” she said. “He has worked hard in all of his classes.”

With the questions, Cusenbary notices a trend in class.

“It opens a lot of opportunities for us to have in-depth conversations with our instructors,” he said. “I enjoy having the smaller classes because we can have great discussions with the best instructors.”

Cusenbary said he chose TSTC for another reason.

“Almost all of the graduates are guaranteed to be working when they finish. That means the program has a great reputation, and I wanted to be part of that tradition,” he said.

Jobs in the wind energy sector are some of the fastest-growing in Texas. According to, the need for wind service turbine technicians in Texas will increase 83 percent over the next decade. That trend is higher than the national forecast of 61 percent by 2029.

Even with his second semester coming to an end, Cusenbary is ready for what comes next.

“I know what I am learning now will prepare me for the day when things become more hands-on. I can then apply all of the knowledge I have gained into doing it with my hands,” he said.

Like most students in the program, Cusenbary said it will be gratifying when he makes his first turbine climb.

“I used to work on a ropes course, so I am used to climbing high and having to wear safety equipment,” he said. “But to be able to do it with my classmates and make the climb in the turbine, that is one adventure I cannot wait to have.”

Cusenbary said his adventures will continue after he completes the program, and he is looking forward to traveling while working in his chosen career.

“Wind energy is going to offer me an adventure of a lifetime. I am looking forward to seeing the country and taking hikes and seeing the views from the top of the turbine,” he said. “I cannot believe I will be able to explore our country while making money. TSTC is offering me a great opportunity.”

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Moeller sees link between TSTC, student success

April 13, 2021 by Ben Barkley

(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – When Monty Moeller learned that Texas State Technical College was hosting a high school welding event, he knew his students would be in attendance.

Moeller, the Rolling Plains Technical School coordinator and welding instructor, wanted his students to see TSTC’s facilities. Two of his students finished in the top three at the recent Breckenridge welding competition.

“Prior to the pandemic, I would always take our students on tours to see the programs offered in Abilene, Breckenridge, and Sweetwater,” Moeller said. “We are within 90 miles of each of those campuses.”

He has seen many success stories at TSTC, from his students to his own family.

“My son graduated from TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology program in Sweetwater,” Moeller said. “My son-in-law was in the same class as my son, and they did not even know what the future would bring them. They both have great jobs, thanks to TSTC.”

One student who Moeller is particularly proud of took the welding skills he learned at TSTC into a military career.

“He earned his degree and is using the things he learned at TSTC to protect our country,” he said.

Another student wanted to stay close to his home in Haskell. Moeller said since graduating from TSTC, the student is welding in Haskell while also learning other trades, like electrical work, on the job.

“I have told him and many of my students to soak up all of the knowledge you can,” he said.

With welding being one of Moeller’s focuses at the school, he looks for competitions throughout West Texas. In October, he hosted an event that was judged by Stephen Hope, TSTC’s welding instructor in Breckenridge.

“Monty and the school are big supporters of the programs we offer at TSTC,” Hope said. “We have had many students from his school enroll in West Texas.”

Hope said students from the technical school based in Rochester come into TSTC with an advantage.

“The students are a step ahead of many first-year students. That is a direct result of Monty and what he teaches,” Hope said.

It showed during the TSTC competition. The three students welded a 6-by-6-inch cube and continually ground the cube, and checked for leaks before the final judging.

“These students were prepared for this competition,” Hope said.

Moeller said students from smaller campuses, like Haskell and Benjamin, attend the school through a cooperative agreement. The purpose, like at TSTC, is to prepare people for the workplace.

“So many students do not go to college anymore. We set up our programs to help get people to work,” he said. “We also tell our students that if they go on to higher education, like TSTC, they will be more marketable.”

Moeller plans to bring additional welding students to competitions scheduled later this month at TSTC in Abilene and Sweetwater.

“The more we can show our students the great facilities TSTC has, the better chance they will come here to earn a certificate or degree,” he said.

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TSTC candidate for graduation eager to educate people about safety

April 13, 2021 by Daniel Perry

(WACO, Texas) – For Mary Lopez, attending Texas State Technical College is a family effort.

Not only did Lopez’s education mean a move from Combes in Cameron County to on-campus housing in Waco, but it also involves her family keeping her on schedule with assignments and helping her study.

“My family has really stepped up to the plate in supporting me in this opportunity given to us,” Lopez said. “If it was not for them being team players, I do not think we would all be succeeding as we are right now.”

Lopez is an associate degree candidate for graduation in the Occupational Safety Compliance Technology program at TSTC. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, TSTC will honor graduates with a virtual graduation celebration on Thursday, April 22.

“She always strives for excellence in all of her schoolwork and makes certain her kids do the same,” said Mark Wilfert, lead instructor in TSTC’s Occupational Safety Compliance Technology program. “It is a pleasure having her in class, and I know she will be excellent in her future endeavors.”

There were several things Lopez enjoyed about the program, from hosting a study group for classmates to hands-on labs using equipment to determine gases in the air. She also learned about the different kinds of personal protection equipment. During her time in the program, she developed an interest in manufacturing.

“I like order and consistency,” Lopez said. “In a manufacturing facility, it is the same routine over and over. You know what to expect and what will happen, and nothing changes.”

Lopez grew up in Laguna Heights, near Port Isabel in Cameron County. She said her childhood was a time of protectiveness, with much time spent with her siblings.

Lopez graduated from Port Isabel High School and then joined the U.S. Army, where she was a generator mechanic.

“It (the military) taught me discipline and structure,” she said. “It taught me not to leave anyone behind. If I see someone struggling, it kicks in for me to help. The mission is to not stop until you finish.”

When she left the military, Lopez said she had a challenging time finding a job that suited her. She reached out to an education and career counselor at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for guidance. She learned about Occupational Safety Compliance Technology and that it was offered at TSTC’s Waco campus.

“(TSTC is) giving me a second chance at a career in my life to where I can feel I am contributing to my community and be a role model to my children that involves more than being a housewife,” Lopez said.

This summer, Lopez will begin taking classes to earn the Associate of Applied Science degree in Environmental Technology – Compliance at TSTC. In the future, she wants to gain experience in the manufacturing field and teach at TSTC.

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