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Dental Lab Program has Withstood Test of Time

Friday, May 23, 2014
By Eladio Jaimez

DLTAs long as there's been Texas State Technical College, there's been the Dental Laboratory Technology (DLT) Program.

When the college, known as the John Connally Technical Institute back then and later Texas State Technical Institute, first opened its doors in Harlingen in 1968, the DLT Program was one of the flagship programs and the only Allied Health Division program offered at the time.

Students in the DLT Program learn to make all fixed and removable prosthetics for dentists from dentures, orthodontic retainers to metal and porcelain crowns.

Over the years, DLT Chair Randy Bauer has seen his program grow with the college and survive the addition of other Allied Health programs.

Bauer, a Harlingen native, was a student in the DLT Program and graduated in 1974. After working as a lab technician and a dental supply salesman, Bauer returned to TSTC as an instructor in 1985. He took over as chair in 1999 for Jaime Saldivar, who served as the program's first chair from 1968-99.

Bauer also opened and ran his own dental technology lab in the Valley from 1977 to 2004.

"I've been very involved with the Dental Lab Association and in industry," Bauer said. "Over the years, I've worked to make the connections necessary in industry to help our students. When I came to school here, we didn't have placement. Our goal now is to get students into college and to find them jobs afterwards."

Bauer always offers a disclaimer to students prior to enrolling in his program.

"Employers know I'll have students ready in May so they start contacting me in January asking me that they need technicians," Bauer said. "So I tell prospective students, 'there are jobs out there, they're just outside of the Valley and sometimes outside of the state.' There are jobs in the Valley but it's very likely they'll have to move to find a job."

Bauer said many of his students find work in the Houston and Dallas areas.

Bauer said there are approximately 170 dental technicians working in the Valley that graduated from the DLT program at TSTC and of the 22 dental laboratories currently open in the Valley, 21 are owned by former TSTC students.

"I'm truthful with my students," Bauer said. "Most of these technicians that own their own labs, left the Valley initially. But they came back. If a student's desire is to be self-employed at some point, it's very doable in this field."

Bauer said about 12-15 students graduate form the DLT Program every year and the program has a 100 percent job placement rate after graduation. Bauer said starting pay can range between $12-17 per hour and most companies help with moving expenses and help a new employee find a place to live.

Students can choose to pursue an Associate of Applied Science or Certificate of Completion. Both tracks are five semesters long but the AAS requires more academic core classes.

For more information on the DLT Program, go to http://www.tstc.edu/harlingendlab.

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