(HARLINGEN, Texas) -Texas State Technical College recently hosted its fifth annual Empowerment Conference focused on getting students industry-ready.

Mary Morales, a TSTC Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics student, was one of nearly 50 students who attended the event.

The 30-year-old said that as a nontraditional student there are challenges she will face, and this event helped her learn the steps to break the barriers.

“As someone who has worked in retail for many years, soft skills are something I subconsciously practice,” said the Brownsville native. “So this has been a great reminder and excellent educational opportunity.”

Morales expects to earn her associate degree in Spring 2020.

TSTC Support Services coordinator Patty Flores said the event, which was open to all TSTC students, was a success if it helped at least one student like Morales.

The conference was aligned with TSTC’s statewide Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) on student success: Improve students’ job readiness for the attainment of gainful employment.  

“Our job is to not only teach our students technical skills for the workforce, but also soft skills,” said Flores. “We need to create well-rounded students who can face any challenge in the industry. A lot of times it’s these soft skills that will make them or break them.”

Soft skills are personal characteristics that allow a person to interact effectively with other people such as communication skills, time-management ability, problem-solving skills, adaptability and teamwork.

Conference sessions and interactive activities were led by TSTC faculty and staff.

TSTC assistant department chair and psychology instructor Frank Coronado covered collaboration, General Academics instructor Monica Villarreal covered communication and interpersonal skills, TSTC counselor Alex Galan shed light on problem-solving, and Student Life coordinator Belinda Palomino reviewed interview skills and resume writing.

“A degree alone doesn’t suffice,” said Coronado. “Success in industry is dependent on the graduate’s soft skills, so I hope these students take my examples and those of the other presenters and apply them. We need to fill many jobs, and our students need these skills to do well.”

For TSTC Education and Training student Angel Flores, who is enrolled in a female-dominated field, every presenter had something meaningful and useful that he can use in his everyday life and in the classroom.

“I’m so glad TSTC hosts events like this for us. This conference in particular has allowed me to realize that I need to become a better listener,” he said. “Now I can work on this to become a better teacher and teammate to my colleagues. This event really exceeded my expectations.”

Angel expects to earn his associate degree in Fall 2019.

Patty Flores said conferences like this are about bringing awareness to important topics and issues. Past Empowerment Conferences have covered topics such as human trafficking, cultural awareness and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).   

“To educate is our main purpose,” said Flores. “It’s crucial that we empower our students and community with the services and resources available to them.” For more information on the services and conferences offered by TSTC Support Services, call 956-364-4520.

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