East Williamson County counselors update

(HUTTO, Texas) – About 70 area educators learned Tuesday how Texas State Technical College’s technical programs can support the state’s economy.

The TSTC Spring Counselors Update held at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center in Hutto featured talks from TSTC staff about the registration process, dual enrollment and certificate and associate degree options.

Josh Schier, chair of the Cyber Security program at TSTC, said the field needs problem solvers. He said there are about 10,000 jobs open now in cyber security in the state, with the Austin area being one of the places with opportunities for graduates.

“We teach a mindset to be successful,” Schier said. “The challenge is filling the jobs. Students need to learn networking to begin with.”

Darren Block, statewide chair of the Precision Machining Technology department at TSTC, said students who graduate with a certificate in the field typically make at least $18 an hour,while those with an associate degree can make at least $22 an hour.

“The job market is great right now, and our economy is great, with low unemployment rates,” Block said. “All of my students have jobs lined up in their third semester, and some companies are offering to pay for student loans as sign-on bonuses.”

Ed Latson, executive director of the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association, told attendees that manufacturing is the top contributor to the area’s gross domestic product. He said there are about 1,500 manufacturing companies with about 57,000 jobs in the area. Many of those jobs are technology-based.

Some of the skills companies are looking for in potential employees include the ability to read drawings, take measurements, do mathematics, drive forklifts and complete shop paperwork, Latson said. But, companies also need people with good communication skills.

Liane Kerkman, a teacher at Wayside: Sci Tech Middle and High School in Austin, visited TSTC for the first time on Tuesday. She said out of this year’s 34-member senior class, about half are considering two-year secondary education options.

Kerkman said TSTC’s Cyber Security program could spark her students’ interest.

“TSTC is a good resource to bring back to them,” she said. “A lot of them are hesitant about a four-year university.”

Shirley Reich, a college and career coordinator at the Hutto Independent School District, said she was surprised at the number of jobs available in technical fields. She said the labor market will give staff more information to guide students on their post-high school paths.

“This (TSTC) is in their backyard,” Reich said. “It’s getting them in the door and excited.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

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