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As a 7th grader travelling from Los Angeles to his family’s current home of San Angelo, Armando Gurrola admired the wind turbines dotting the horizon.
The family moved to San Angelo to live a safer life.
“There’s a lot of gang activity over there and it was calm here in San Angelo,” Gurrola said. “We had family here and we came to visit, and they liked it.”
Gurrola’s father works for Coca-Cola, and his mother works at a local grocery store. He’s the first in his family to attend college.
“My parents pushed me a lot to go to school,” Gurrola said. “My dad always said he wanted to give us what he didn’t have. So I have the same mindset. When I have kids, I want them to have what I didn’t have, and just keep it going and so they can live a better life.”
Gurrola started college with his basics at Angelo State University, but wasn’t sure what career he wanted to pursue.
“I didn’t want an office job; I didn’t want to get into Pre-med. I had always been interested in the wind turbines,” Gurrola said. “I wanted to work on them, but I thought it was just a regular job. I thought I wasn’t going to get paid well and it was just like working anywhere else. Once I started looking into it, I saw that I could actually get a degree for it.”
After finishing his basics, he chose the Wind Energy program at Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater for its hands-on aspect.
“I’m a hands-on person. That’s the way I learn,” Gurrola said. “I learned a lot with the hands-on work, messing with the circuits and things.”
A member of Phi Theta Kappa and the Winds of Texas club, a TSTC Student Ambassador and a Room Assistant for the campus housing, Gurrola made a name for himself while attending the school. He graduated in May 2015 with a 3.71 GPA, as an outstanding graduate, and with a Leadership Award. He even represented the school at TSTC’s 50th Anniversary day at the capitol in Austin, where he got to meet and take a photo with Governor Greg Abbott.
After completing his co-op semester with Granite Services International, they offered him a job as a Wind Service Technician before he had even graduated. He graduated May 1, and began his first assignment for Granite, an affiliate of General Electric, on May 11.
As a Wind Service Technician, there are certain procedures he has to follow, like locking the turbine blades while work is being done, and controlling the turbine from a computer. So far, he’s had a positive experience.
“I love it. I love being here,” Gurrola said. “I have good hours. You’re not always doing the same thing. Things are always changing. You’re always travelling from one place to another. I’ve been in Texas, Illinois, and right now I’m in Oklahoma. I’ve been to Nebraska. I just got back from GE training in Albany, New York, and I know I’ll be going back soon.”
So far, he’s enjoying travelling for work.
“It’s fun. You get to see new places, just experience seeing what’s out there,” Gurrola said. “Like last week, I was in New York and I never thought I would go to New York. I saw how beautiful it is. Just seeing the differences from state to state is crazy.”
Gurrola hopes to eventually settle down, though.
“My plan is to travel with Granite for a while, get the knowledge and experience, and then settle somewhere,” Gurrola said. “I can settle with many companies that own GE turbines and I’ll already have the education so it will be very easy for them to hire me.”
For those who are considering TSTC and college in general, Gurrola advises them to pay attention.
”Actually get to know what you’re doing,” he said. “Pay attention to everything; everything is important.”
Texas is the number one employer of Wind Turbine Service Technicians in the country, with a 43 percent increase in jobs in Texas through 2022. Texas State Technical College offers Wind Energy Technology at its Sweetwater and Harlingen campuses.