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TSTC Culinary Arts program ready to fill area restaurant jobs

April 19, 2021 by Daniel Perry

(WACO, Texas) – Now is a good time to enter the culinary arts field because there is a need for skilled workers.

“I have never seen such a staffing shortage across the board right now, whether it is cooks, front of house, or food runners,” said Kyle Citrano, president of the Waco Restaurant Association and managing partner of George’s Restaurant and Bar No. 2 in Hewitt.

Citrano said Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts students and graduates should thrive as good cooks or servers.

“There is a need and shortage, and they have all of that in their favor,” he said. “They can go into a restaurant tomorrow, and someone would probably hire them.”

Michele Brown, lead instructor in TSTC’s Culinary Arts program in Waco, said students and graduates need to look at benefits and how the business of their choice is going to help advance their careers.

Brown cited a budding partnership with Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in Round Rock, which has recently hired students and graduates of TSTC’s Culinary Arts programs in East Williamson County and Waco.

“The nice thing about working with a group like Kalahari is they have more than one property,” she said.

Dorothy Lentis, a 2013 graduate of TSTC’s Culinary Arts program and owner of Alpha Omega Grill and Bakery in Waco, said students and graduates need to have patience and become good at multitasking. She said this and other skills can be learned with lots of practice and a culinary arts education.

“(At TSTC) we had to plate all the food we made in a professional manner that could be sold in a restaurant,” Lentis said. “We were judged on knife cuts, the gelatinousness of the sauce, the presentation and, of course, the taste.”

Citrano said restaurants in the Waco area felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said not every restaurant had the ability to offer to-go and delivery options while still maintaining food quality, as well as health and safety standards.

He said that since George’s reopening after being closed for six weeks due to the pandemic, the restaurant has been affected by shortages in staffing and the availability of meats and other goods. But he said patrons’ support for the restaurant is still high.

“The staff is making the best money they have probably made working here,” he said.

TSTC’s Culinary Arts program has had to adapt to the pandemic by offering to-go meals to on-campus faculty, staff and students in lieu of in-person dining. The program’s students have also learned to adapt to the changing pandemic situation.

“They can go out and do whatever is thrown at them,” Brown said. “They have shown their leadership skills this semester.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected more than 158,000 chefs and head cooks will be needed by 2029. This will be driven by restaurant patrons who want high-quality, healthier meals.

In May 2020, Texas had 4,900 chefs and head cooks earning an annual mean wage of more than $57,000, according to the federal labor statistics agency.

Registration continues for the summer and fall semesters at TSTC. For more information, go to tstc.edu. 

Perry’s decision to attend TSTC based on helping family

April 19, 2021 by Ben Barkley

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Growing up on a farm in Jacksboro, Kenneth Perry was constantly repairing equipment.

When it was time to choose a career path, Perry said he had two career options, and both included Texas State Technical College.

“My school counselor told me about TSTC’s programs. It was either going to be diesel or airplanes,” he said. “Anything that had a motor, I liked to work on it.”

His decision, in part, was made on the farm. The family 18-wheeler became his, and he decided to enroll in the Diesel Equipment Technology program. He is currently studying for an associate degree he can use on the farm and later in life.

“I wanted to be able to work on the farm and help my dad,” Perry said. “I also like the small environment we have in Sweetwater.”

While Perry has been used to working on trucks and tractors, he admitted that some areas still give him issues, especially the lab sessions’ transmission portion.

“There are so many moving parts. If you put it together wrong, you will not know it until you are done,” he said. “There is more tedious work when it comes to the transmission, so you have to pay attention.”

Perry said having instructors who have been in the field has helped him improve his skills.

“The instructors want you to figure out what is being done wrong before they come in and help,” he said. “They have set this up so we can learn all of the details.”

Perry does not know what his long-term plans are, but he knows he will put his knowledge to use helping his father on the farm.

“I will go home and drive the diesel and work on things for my dad,” he said. “I know that I will be able to work on our tractors and trucks. I will also be hauling hay and anything else for my father.”

Perry also knows that having a degree will help him when he does begin looking for a career.

“I am going to be prepared for work. Having a degree will be important, and TSTC is known for having graduates hired,” he said.

Instructor Shannon Weir said companies look for students like Perry, who show initiative while in school.

“Companies are always looking for good people to work on their trucks and equipment,” Weir said. “The best thing is many companies trust our graduates.”

With oil prices increasing, Weir said more companies will begin looking for employees. According to onetonline.org, the need for diesel engine specialists in Texas is expected to grow by 14% by 2028. That forecast is higher than the national growth of 3%. (I was a little confused reading this paragraph. Are the ONet.org numbers for Texas or nationally? And, where does the thre percent come in?)

Perry said he is pleased that he decided to make working on heavy equipment a career.

“This decision set me up for a lifetime,” he said. “I am happy to be learning a skill that will help my family.”

For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC student adds paramedic to family’s list of first responders

April 19, 2021 by Ben Barkley

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Anthony Monaco has been around first responders his entire life.

When Monaco lived in New York, his father was a volunteer firefighter, and his mother was a nurse. After his father’s job moved the family to Fort Worth, Monaco wanted to continue the family tradition.

After high school, Monaco attended a firefighter academy and was hired by the Stephenville Fire Department. He said the department operates both the fire and emergency medical services operations for the community.

Monaco completed an EMS program at his fellow firefighters’ suggestion and decided to take it one step further. He enrolled in Texas State Technical College’s Emergency Medical Services Paramedic program and now is nearing graduation.

“My entire life has led me to TSTC, and I love it,” he said.

Monaco always enjoyed watching his father rush out to a fire call.

“It was an all-volunteer department, and I knew he was helping people,” he said. “When I was a kid, I would run around the house with his bunker gear on. I knew being a first responder was in my blood.”

Moving from New York to Texas, Monaco said he did not know what to expect. He was surprised at how quickly he was able to adapt to a different environment.

“Texas grabbed me from the start. Everyone has been so friendly,” he said. “I am definitely making this my home.”

That friendliness carried over to TSTC.

“Everyone is so welcoming and wants to take care of us. They want everyone to succeed,” he said.

That includes his instructor, Tim Scalley.

“He works daily to put the things he learns in class into his work,” Scalley said. “It is good for paramedics to learn how to do things in class so they are prepared for the next call they go on during work.”

In working toward becoming a paramedic, Monaco admitted that some of the lab sessions were difficult.

“The trauma scenarios we go through are some of the hardest,” he said. “We have to do a full assessment of the situation of a multivehicle accident and fix each life threat at a time.”

Monaco, who describes himself as a lifelong athlete, likened being in the lab environment to being on a practice field.

“I love sports and always told myself to practice like I would play the game,” he said. “I know the better I practice, the better I will perform in the field. That is how I am pursuing my education.”

Monaco said he noticed his critical thinking skills are heightened when working in the lab.

“I have to keep my mind open, like I would in the field, to assess what I am doing on a patient,” he said. “This is the best way for anyone to learn.”

Monaco said knowing he will join an elite list of people known as paramedics will be rewarding. Texas has more than 20,000 paramedics employed statewide, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The need for paramedics is expected to increase 11% by 2028 in Texas, according to onetonline.org.

“My family is proud I am pursuing a dream, and I am proud to be doing it at TSTC,” he said.

For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC students see career opportunities in Industrial Systems program

April 16, 2021 by Ben Barkley

(ABILENE, Texas) – One of the first things students learn in Texas State Technical College’s Industrial Systems program is that many job opportunities await them after graduation.

That was the reason why Jacob Nelson, Levi Taylor and Dalton Tiner decided to enroll in the program. What they have learned over their first two semesters is that they made a good decision for a career.

“There are so many different areas we can choose from. This truly is a jack-of-all-trades program,” said Nelson, of Abilene, who is pursuing a certificate in the program.

Industrial Systems students learn to install, operate, test and maintain equipment in various facilities. The three students, along with their classmates, are learning industry-standard safety procedures, mechanical and electrical skills, diagnostic techniques, how to read and interpret schematics, and how to work with motors, pumps, chillers, boilers, and programmable logic control systems.

Nelson said his family worked in many of the fields covered in the program. It was a perfect opportunity for him to expand his knowledge.

“I am pretty good at welding and working with my hands. I wanted to broaden my skills in that area,” he said, adding that he plans to study for an associate degree.

Taylor, of Hawley, is also pursuing an associate degree in the program and has been impressed with what he has been able to learn in a short time.

“I have learned there are a lot of opportunities available for people who study in this program,” he said.

According to onetonline.org, electrical technician positions are expected to grow by 8% in Texas over the next decade.

That trend has led to younger people enrolling in the program, something instructor Daniel Diaz likes to see.

“With many of our students starting younger, it gives them more time for growth in the industry,” Diaz said. “All of our students see success in the industry. This program helps get them off on the right foot.”

Nelson said having Diaz as an instructor helps him know that what he is learning will be used in the field.

“All of the experience he has had in the field is helpful,” Nelson said. “We know that when we read something, the instructors will tell us about that and how it applies to what we may see in the field. They have seen it, so they can explain it to us and give us their experience in that situation.”

Taylor said having state-of-the-art equipment to train with was another reason he chose to attend TSTC.

“I am a very hands-on person, and having time in the lab is the best part of the program,” he said.

Tiner’s father studied Industrial Systems at TSTC more than 10 years ago. Having the lab sessions today is something that Tiner, of Brownwood, is proud to talk to his father about.

“He had to do a lot more reading back then. He told me that having the equipment here is going to help me prepare for a career,” said Tiner, who is pursuing a certificate of completion in the program.

For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC Computer Programming Technology prepares students for the industry

April 16, 2021 by Naissa Lopez

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Computer Programming Technology at Texas State Technical College equips students with the essential tools they need to continually stay in demand in this rising industry.

The job outlook for computer programmers has not slowed down. In fact, the remote work environment that many people have become familiar with will lead to the need for more technicians who understand the gadgets and gizmos of the devices that connect us to the rest of the world.

“We have not seen a decline in demand for computer programmers and do not expect to see one anytime soon,” said TSTC instructor Shelby Coffman. “In addition, we have been very encouraged to see our recent graduates of the Computer Programming Technology program around the state find employment after graduation despite recent events.”

According to thebalancecareers.com and indeed.com, responsibilities of computer programmers include developing, testing and implementing programs on multiple operating system platforms, creating and publishing technical diagrams to support coding efforts, and integrating new functions into existing applications.

Coffman said that much of the work can be done from a programmer’s own home.

“Computer programming can generally be performed with the resources that most people either already have or are within reach, like a computer and broadband internet connection,” he said. “Aside from the actual act of programming, communication with teammates and clients can be performed remotely utilizing virtual meeting applications.”

Shannon Ferguson, an instructor in the TSTC Computer Programming Technology department, said that TSTC is not only teaching students what it takes to dominate in this field, but also changing the curriculum when needed to keep up with the standards of the industry.

“Technology, as well as industry demand, is continually changing and evolving,” he said. “Like most programs at TSTC, the Computer Programming Technology department regularly reevaluates and adjusts our curriculum to meet the needs of industry partners and demand.”

He said that the ultimate goal is creating graduates who are ready to get to work.

“We work closely with our departmental advisory board to ensure we teach the skills and topics that industry is looking for in prospective employees,” Ferguson said. “Our goal is to make sure that we produce graduates that are ready for the workforce.”

To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

Photo caption: Computer Programming Technology at Texas State Technical College equips students with the essential tools they need to continually stay in demand in this rising industry.

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