(ROSENBERG, Texas) – When the pandemic first struck and many businesses closed for safety purposes, a few graduates of Texas State Technical College’s Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology program called TSTC instructor Keith Klix to let him know that their hours had been cut.
“That lasted about a week or two,” he said, explaining that when many people started working from home, only to discover their AC units on the fritz in the heat of the day, they needed HVAC services as soon as possible.
TSTC graduates working in commercial HVAC positions also experienced a cutback as businesses transitioned to remote operations and closed their in-person offices.
Still, with many companies reopening their doors and more people physically returning to work, HVAC professionals remain in high demand. TSTC’s HVAC program trains students with hands-on learning experiences to get them ready to hit the ground running in the industry.
“Most of the students we see get referrals because family and friends have either done this or said this is a good way to make a living because you can’t send it overseas,” Klix said. “Even during the pandemic, we have been busy. It hasn’t slacked off.”
At its campuses in East Williamson County, Fort Bend County, Harlingen, North Texas and Waco, TSTC offers the opportunity for students to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in HVAC Technology, as well as an HVAC Technician certificate of completion. TSTC also offers a Basic HVAC occupational skills award at the East Williamson County campus.
“(The program is) designed to take somebody who hasn’t done anything but turn on a thermostat (and), by the time they’re done, if it makes hot or cold, they can fix it,” Klix said.
During TSTC HVAC students’ capstone course, they take industry competency exams that include the basics, along with any extra certifications they would like to pursue.
“They come out of here with their certificate from us, industry credentialing from outside agencies, and then we help them get a job,” Klix said.
In the Fort Bend County area, many TSTC graduates are now in hiring-manager positions within their companies, Klix added.
“They’re circling back around to hire our students from us because they know what they had while they were here, so they know what we’re producing,” he said. “And then we keep them on our advisory board, reviewing programs and helping point us to the new technology that’s coming in.”
The HVAC lab on campus in Fort Bend County is under construction again — the third equipment upgrade over the past several years.
“We keep adding new equipment and new technologies in the lab and replacing older equipment with the newer stuff to keep the students up to date,” Klix said.
Also new to TSTC’s HVAC program as the fall semester begins Monday, Aug. 30, is the performance-based education model.
“That means the schedule now is very flexible for the students to fit into their life as it’s happening,” Klix said. “That’s a really good thing.”
Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers can make an average salary of $48,030 in Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The projected state growth for those types of positions is 16% through 2028, according to onetonline.org.
Learn more about TSTC at tstc.edu.