Waco Auto Collision and Management Technology

(WACO, Texas) – Zackery Mitchell, of Mesquite, took automotive collision classes in high school before spending four years in the U.S. Marines driving military vehicles. 

After he left the service, Mitchell found his way to Texas State Technical College’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program because of the college’s work with veterans. 

Mitchell said adjusting to college life has been easier because some of his program instructors are veterans. He said working with the college’s Veteran Services department has also eased the transition, especially when dealing with Hazlewood Act paperwork.

“They give you a lot of information you would have not gotten off the internet,” Mitchell said. 

Ricci Stevens, a VA (Veterans Affairs) certifying specialist at TSTC, said it is important for Veteran Services’ staff to stay up to date on resources and programs available to veterans, spouses and dependents to pursue their education. 

Stevens said the department is currently studying how the PACT Act, which expands VA health care and benefits to those affected by exposure to Agent Orange, burn pits and the like, can impact current and future students.

Welding Technology was the top program among TSTC’s campuses that veteran students, spouses and dependents were enrolled in during the fall 2023 semester, according to the college’s Veteran Recruitment department. 

Luther Johnson, a Welding Technology instructor, said military personnel who leave active duty need to take time to focus on themselves and be productive.

“The skill set of the welding industry falls into manufacturing, building structures, oil and gas, and many other career fields, which will guide these veterans to a new era of their life,” he said. “The mental focus to learn this trade and the work ethic to succeed in this trade is a great fallback for veterans.”

The Electrical Lineworker and Management Technology program was also one of the top programs for veteran students, spouses and dependents during the fall 2023 semester.

Gerdarrion Taylor grew up in Alabama and spent a little more than two years in the U.S. Army working as a signal support specialist. He learned about TSTC and the lineworker program through an online search. Taylor now lives in Waco and is in his second semester in the program.

Taylor said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veteran Readiness and Employment program and the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Employment’s nonprofit Helmets to Hardhats program have helped him during his time at TSTC.

“I just considered all the different careers I wanted to do,” Taylor said. “I checked the best for me as in job security. It (electrical line work) is an essential career, and it has good growth prospects and a nice income.”

Taylor said the thing he enjoys most about the program is the excitement of it.

“I already dealt with heights in the military, so going up high (on utility poles) has never been nerve-wracking to me,” he said.

Texas State Technical College was named in the top 10 among two-year colleges in the nation in the 2023-24 Military Friendly Schools rankings.  

For more information on TSTC, go to tstc.edu

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