TSTC graduate Juan Cerda took second place in CNC 2-Axis Turning Programmer at the 2024 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Texas State Technical College graduate Juan Cerda left the recent 2024 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, with a silver medal around his neck.

The Longview resident had already competed in the conference’s CNC (computer numerical control) 2-Axis Turning Programmer category in 2023, coming in fourth. This year he was determined to be among the competition’s top three in the same category.

“When they announced that Texas was in the top three, I was so excited,” Cerda said. “Second place means that only one person was better than me. Just one.”

Cerda graduated from TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program in fall 2023, taking home the Provost’s Outstanding Achievement Award. Cerda said he credits his SkillsUSA silver medal to the many hours that he spent working in the machining lab while enrolled at the Marshall campus.

“I’d show up at 10 in the morning, and I wouldn’t leave until 8 at night,” he said. “Finding out new tips and tricks, it was really interesting to me.”

Precision Machining Technology instructor Daniel Nixon said Cerda made it his goal to win the national SkillsUSA competition on his first day of class.

“I could not be any prouder of him than I am right now,” Nixon said. “He is going to make one lucky employer very happy that they hired him. His work ethic is like no other I have seen.”

Cerda hopes to inspire other TSTC students to compete in SkillsUSA.

“The trip is a blast,” he said. “If you’re thinking about good job opportunities, definitely make it to nationals. If you’re at nationals, you’re already good at what you do and I’m sure a company will hire you.”

According to onetonline.org, CNC tool programmers earn a median salary of $62,160 in Texas, where the number of these jobs was projected to grow 47% between 2020 and 2030.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree and two certificates of completion in Precision Machining Technology. The program is available at the East Williamson County, Fort Bend County, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas and Waco campuses.

SkillsUSA is a nonprofit professional organization teaching employability, leadership and technical skills that can help middle school, high school and college students pursue successful careers and be part of a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA has more than 100 leadership, technical and trade competitions. For more information, go to skillsusa.org.

Registration for TSTC’s fall semester is underway. For more information, go to tstc.edu.

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