(MARSHALL, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Automation and Controls Technology program is providing students with new opportunities to learn valuable job skills.
“The buzzwords in the industry are smart devices, the internet of things and also Industry 4.0,” said Douglas Clark, the program’s lead instructor. “There are big things surrounding this new push in automation.”
Clark said there is new equipment aligning with what workers are using in the field. Some of this includes three industry-standard robotic arms and a two-sided, stand-alone process instrumentation unit.
One of the adjustments the program has made is expanding on how wiring is taught, covering sizes, cutting methods, splicing and making connections. Clark said workers in the automation field handle smaller-gauge wires than electricians do.
Tennile Tsosie, of Longview, received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automation and Controls Technology earlier this year and is now working on an associate degree in Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization. She grew up with an interest in robots, with the movie “Terminator” spurring on her interest in mechanical engineering.
“I have lots of experience working in manufacturing as an inspector,” she said. “Maintenance has always been something I enjoy doing at home or work.”
Tsosie said she knows there will be a need for more technicians in the future.
“My future goals are to understand more about robotics and mechanical motors to develop uses out in the field where manufacturers can look to build more systems to enhance productivity,” she said.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, electro-mechanical and mechatronics technologists and technicians in Texas make a yearly median salary of more than $52,000. Jobs are concentrated in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas. The federal agency has projected that more than 1,800 workers will be needed by 2028.
Clark said a lot of automation-related jobs are being seen now in the oil and gas and manufacturing industries.
Louisiana-based Danos, which has locations in Houston, Kenedy and Midland in Texas, is a family-owned energy services provider. The company currently has automation technician, deep-water automation technician and instrument controls automation engineer positions open in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. There are also openings for instrumentation and electrical technicians.
Brandon Barrilleaux, Danos’ automation operations manager, said artificial intelligence, automation and controls are the future.
“Titles and degrees are great, but finding someone with experience to accompany those qualifications can be a challenge,” he said. “These jobs come with a lot of hazards, so we need people who are comfortable with what they are doing.”
Clark said one field needing workers surprises him: the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry.
“They do big buildings like hospitals and schools where everything is controlled automatically,” he said. “They work with programmable logic controllers (and) frequency drives and do programming on temperature controllers. They program the system once it is installed and maintain it.”
Clark said some program graduates go on to pursue bachelor’s degrees.
For more information, go to tstc.edu.