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TSTC Ready to Meet Aviation Job Needs in Williamson County

October 16, 2020 by Daniel Perry

(HUTTO, Texas) – The Texas aviation and aerospace industry is responsible for creating more than 778,000 jobs and a payroll of more than $30 billion, according to the Texas Department of Transportation’s 2018 Texas Aviation Economic Impact Study. 

“Aviation is a huge, growing field,” said Michael Smith, senior field development officer for The TSTC Foundation at Texas State Technical College’s Williamson County campus. “Aviation is a prime opportunity because you have an aging workforce.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a need for more than 23,000 avionics technicians and more than 143,000 aviation mechanics and service technicians by 2029.

“We have two generations of workers that never went into those fields,” Smith said.

Williamson County residents interested in aerospace and aviation careers can learn needed skills in the Industrial Systems, Precision Machining Technology and Welding Technology programs at TSTC’s campus in Hutto. 

Robert Capps, TSTC’s statewide lead for the Aviation Maintenance department, said the COVID-19 pandemic has not decreased students’ desire to study in TSTC’s Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology programs in Abilene, Harlingen and Waco. 

“We pull in quite a few students from the Williamson County area,” Capps said. “There is certainly plenty of interest.”

Capps said due to the popularity of TSTC’s aviation maintenance programs, spring student intakes are being considered for the first time at the Abilene and Harlingen campuses. Spring intakes will continue at the Waco campus.

Capps said he advises students visiting the aviation maintenance programs to be willing to move where their first job is.

“Unlike automotive, where you have mom-and-pop shops spring up all over the place, there are very few mom-and-pop shops popping up for aviation maintenance,” he said. “Most of the work is done in hubs.”

The Georgetown Municipal Airport can be considered Williamson County’s aviation hub, as more than 20 aviation-related businesses are clustered there. The airport has two runways, the longest being 5,004 feet in length. The airport’s economic impact is more than 500 jobs with a payroll that exceeds $14 million, according to TxDOT’s 2018 aviation impact study. 

Joseph Carney, the airport’s manager, said encouraging students to pursue aerospace and aviation careers should start in high school. He cited the Georgetown Independent School District’s Tango Flight program as a way to give students hands-on experience by building small airplanes to sell.

“This exposes the students to colleges with aviation programs,” Carney said. “They are not going into college completely blind.” 

One of Cedar Park’s largest employers, Firefly Aerospace, has more than 150 employees, according to the Cedar Park Economic Development Corp. The company specializes in designing, manufacturing and operating reliable launch vehicles. It has hired TSTC alumni for jobs in machining, manufacturing, engineering and technology integration.

Ben White, president and chief executive officer of the Cedar Park EDC, said Firefly Aerospace’s presence in the city and county signals a change in the economy.

“I think it has demonstrated Cedar Park can be home to high-tech and forward-thinking companies,” he said. “It is a startup company working with NASA to deliver payloads to the moon. There are many cities and companies in Texas that are working on that. That kind of demonstrates the progression of the workforce in Williamson County. It is becoming more of a high-tech workforce.”

There have been 31 openings for avionics technicians advertised through Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area in the last 12 months. Several of the openings have been at Firefly Aerospace.

White predicts Cedar Park will be the next employment hub for the Austin area.

“You will see a lot of technical jobs, high-tech jobs, Firefly-like corporations, but you will also see regional headquarters and office support for corporations coming here,” he said.

TSTC also offers Aircraft Pilot Training Technology and Avionics Technology in Waco.

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

TSTC Receives Greater Texas Foundation Grant

October 16, 2020 by Daniel Perry

(WACO, Texas) – The Greater Texas Foundation has awarded a $715,742 grant to help develop Texas State Technical College’s performance-based education initiative. The grant was awarded through The TSTC Foundation. 

Performance-based education allows students to have flexibility with their schedules as they master set competencies in their programs. Faculty members guide the students as they take courses. 

“Performance-based education pathways allow students to build on their existing knowledge and complete credentials without putting the rest of their lives on hold,” said Sue McMillin, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Texas Foundation. “We are proud to support TSTC in developing these pathways to extend postsecondary opportunities to more Texas students.”

The money will be used to hire three instructional designers to reshape nine of TSTC’s programs in the next three years. Performance-based education is scheduled to debut in fall 2021 in the Computer Networking and Systems Administration, Cybersecurity, and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology programs.

“It is great for the institution,” said Kyle Smith, TSTC’s deputy chief academic officer. “I would say with this particular grant, it is going to be transformative for our students. If you look at the key drivers of the grant, it is all very student-centered. It increases the accessibility to college, the ability to accelerate, with programs being available from morning to evening.”

Instructional designers deconstruct curricula down to knowledge, skills and abilities that provide the foundation for competencies and master assessments, said Gena Jean, TSTC’s performance-based education program manager. Instructional designers will work with faculty to develop engaging curricula.

Performance-based education could allow some TSTC students to graduate early after showing they have mastered competencies to their instructors. Students will still have semesters, but the number of classes will vary.

“The whole intent of the vision is to put more Texans in great-paying jobs by allowing them (the students) more accessibility and flexibility in scheduling and the ability to accelerate through the courses they will be in,” said Lance Eastman, TSTC’s senior vice president of student learning and interim provost of the West Texas campuses.

The Greater Texas Foundation supports initiatives that increase rates of postsecondary enrollment and completion for all Texas students, with a particular focus on students who may encounter barriers to postsecondary success, according to the organization’s website. 

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

TSTC observes Drug and Alcohol Awareness week with online presentations

October 16, 2020 by Naissa Lopez

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College is getting creative with events this semester. Social distancing has brought about a new way for students and staff to get together, and utilizing technology to get students involved in events that would normally happen on campus shows no signs of slowing down.

This month TSTC will recognize Collegiate Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week virtually. Current students and staff will be invited via a link that will guide them to an online hangout where different topics will be discussed. TSTC counselor Angela Dunn talked about the importance of the events, as well as what she hopes students will gain from attending.

“Collegiate Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week is an educational week held in institutions of higher education nationwide,” she said. “Alcohol and drug safety should be a priority throughout the year for colleges and universities, but this week is a helpful reminder to follow best practices and to bring attention to issues posed by excessive drinking or drug use among college students.”

The week will consist of various digital activities, including participants taking part in making graffiti art, an overview of making “mocktails,” and a Netflix watch party. As with any event, there were a few logistics that needed to be figured out to make sure that things run smoothly.

“All event planning comes with its own challenges,” she said. “Engaging students to attend the event is the hardest part of hosting virtual events. Other challenges are technical issues or participants not having supplies if it’s an activity.”

The activities planned for the week involve using household items, which Dunn said will allow for more students and staff to participate.

“We utilize generic items around the house that most people will have,” she said. “In order to avoid technical issues, we practice ahead of time to try to minimize any errors that might occur.”

Ultimately, virtual events such as this are to benefit students.

“Our hope is to open a line of communication within the college community,” she said. “We want to educate students on how to recognize the signs and behaviors of someone who might have issues with alcohol or drug abuse and teach students how to deal with stress in a healthier way.”

TSTC’s Collegiate Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week begins on Monday, Oct. 19.

To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC Nursing students achieve milestone

October 16, 2020 by Naissa Lopez

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – This week, Texas State Technical College celebrated a cohort of nursing students who passed the National Council Licensure Examination with a success rate of 96 percent at its traditional nursing pinning ceremony. The milestone is particularly special because the passing percentage with the Board of Nursing is 80 percent, which puts TSTC well above average of most other colleges and universities

This particular group of students was at the forefront of adjustments made by TSTC because of the coronavirus, something that Associate Provost Jean Lashbrook said adds even more meaning to their accomplishment.

“They have definitely stepped up to the plate, and quickly,” she said. “This group started in the fall of 2019 and completed their program at the end of summer 2020. They started the program with face-to-face classes and then had to quickly move to online learning with minimal face-to-face conversations with instructors, and the inability to be at the clinical sites due to the coronavirus.”

Program director Shirley Byrd acknowledged that both faculty and students being able to adjust so rapidly to the new methods of learning is something to be proud of.

“These students need to be recognized for the hardships they endured,” she said. “They came into the program with an excellent attitude and a gung-ho spirit to accomplish their goal of becoming registered nurses. They were already familiar with being able to interact with faculty on a daily basis, and all of a sudden, because of the pandemic, that was gone.”

The pinning ceremony, which became a tradition in the U.S. around 1916, was started by Florence Nightingale on her quest to honor nurses for their dedicated and selfless service.

“The pin identifies them as nurses,” Byrd said. “It bears testimony to their education.”

Lashbrook added that the ceremony is a well-deserved send-off into the field of nursing.

“Pinning is a rite of passage, so to speak,” she said. “It is presented to the new graduate as a symbol that welcomes them to the profession of nursing.”

Byrd said that the instructors of the program are incredibly proud of this cohort, and she even had a few parting words.

“Continue the dedication you showed in the program to your patients,” she said. “Show everybody what excellent nurses you have become. The world is yours.”

To learn more about TSTC’s Nursing program, visit https://www.tstc.edu/programs/Nursing.

TSTC Dental Hygiene instructor brings experience from Alaska to Texas

October 16, 2020 by Naissa Lopez

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Students in Texas State Technical College’s Dental Hygiene program are fortunate that their instructors bring a wealth of experience to the classroom each day. One of these instructors, Victoria Martin, lived in such diverse locales as Alaska and Puerto Rico before calling Texas home.

How long have you been with TSTC?

I began teaching with TSTC in the summer of 2016, but my love for wanting to teach at the Harlingen campus started much earlier, around 2007. I was living and teaching in Anchorage, Alaska, back then. My husband and I would come down to the Rio Grande Valley to vacation — and warm up a little. Going to and from the airport, we would pass by the TSTC campus. The main quad area of the camps is just beautiful, and I would say to myself, I pray I get to teach there someday.

What inspired you to get into teaching?

One of my former instructors, a mentor and friend, approached me to take over one of her classes when she retired. I was deeply honored. Once I started, my love for teaching grew with every class.

What did you do before your time with TSTC?

That is a topic that could make its own book. As I mentioned, I was teaching dental hygiene in Anchorage. During that time, I was also highly active in the American Dental Hygiene Association, along with practicing clinical dental hygiene in a public health setting. Besides providing oral health care in a hospital setting in Anchorage, we would fly to parts of rural Alaska to set up portable dental units and provide oral care to Alaska Natives. It was a fun and exciting time. My husband was a commissioned officer and dentist with the United States Public Health Service. Later, he was transferred to Puerto Rico. While there, I completed my master’s degree in dental hygiene. When my husband retired, we moved to the Rio Grande Valley.

What do you enjoy most about working with students?

Wow, there are so many things that I love about teaching. My favorite is watching the students grow, not only with their dental hygiene and critical-thinking skills, but also as confident professionals. By the time they graduate, they believe in themselves and are willing to take any challenge head-on.

Do you have a favorite TSTC memory?

A year after I had been teaching, my dad, who is a dentist, came down from Chicago to visit. I brought him to the TSTC dental hygiene clinic to meet my co-workers and students. This simple thing turned into a lifelong memory for both me and my dad. Both the faculty and students not only welcomed my dad, but they treated him like a rock star. My dad felt incredibly special and still talks about it to this day. That moment will forever be in my heart.

To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

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