two men standing in welding shop

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Mat Kirkwood likes the learning environment at Texas State Technical College’s Brownwood campus.

“It is big-time learning with a small-town feel,” the Welding Technology student said of his first semester in college.

After serving 14 years in the U.S. Army, Kirkwood knew that his military benefits would be used to study in college. He did not realize how easy the process of applying at TSTC would be, especially with some assistance.

“I was familiar with the college before I considered enrolling,” he said. “Once I started the process of applying, everyone was willing to help.”

Annette Collins, TSTC’s senior Veterans Affairs school certifying specialist, helped Kirkwood the most.

“Annette is a rock star,” he said. “She answered every question I had, and she is the reason I am in school today.”

Collins and Kirkwood met for the first time in person during TSTC’S fall Industry Job Fair in Abilene. Collins was excited to see how he was doing.

“I treat every student I come into contact with as the most important person I have encountered,” Collins said. “A simple greeting and smile can actually make someone’s day.”

When it comes to the time in the welding lab, Kirkwood said instructor Salvador Marquez is one of the best to learn from.

“Sal is always there for any student, no matter what the question may be,” Kirkwood said. “He makes learning new welding techniques exciting.”

Marquez said Kirkwood’s work ethic shows inside and outside the lab.

“He always shows up with a smile on his face, day in and day out,” Marquez said. “He comes to the lab with a great attitude and handles constructive criticism very well. Mat displays an exceptional level of work ethic and strives to better himself every day.”

Kirkwood already has a plan in place for when he completes his certificate of completion.

“I want to work for myself as a welder to help offset the costs of my small cattle ranch,” he said. “I am excited about what I am doing, and I cannot wait for the next semester to learn even more.”

According to, welders can earn a yearly median salary of more than $48,000 in Texas. Welding jobs were expected to increase 23% between 2020 and 2030 in the state, according to the website.

Welding Technology is one of nine programs at TSTC that have money-back guarantees. The college’s commitment to participating students is simple: If they do not have a job in their field within the six months following graduation, then they will receive a full refund of their tuition. For more information, visit

Registration for TSTC’s spring semester is underway. For more information, visit

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