(WACO, Texas) – Instrumentation plays a critical role in the operation of oil refineries, petrochemical facilities, and power generation plants. Workers use programmable logic controllers, calibrate equipment, and maintain the control of flows, levels, temperatures, and pressures for production.
Many of Texas State Technical College’s Instrumentation Technology graduates either have jobs before they graduate or shortly thereafter.
Program faculty said they have noticed a change in hiring patterns during the pandemic, but companies are starting to reach back out to TSTC. Mike Martin, a faculty member in TSTC’s Instrumentation Technology program, said Celanese, Dow Chemical Co. and Phillips 66 are some of the companies that have hired TSTC graduates in the past.
“We still have students interviewing for jobs,” Martin said. “We have some waiting for final replies back from companies.”
Robert Lovelace, TSTC’s statewide lead in the Instrumentation Technology program, said graduates tend to go to work for refineries and power plants after graduation.
The Luminant Generation-owned Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Somervell County has hired several TSTC graduates. The plant employs about 1,300 employees and has two nuclear reactors.
Somervell County Judge Danny Chambers said Comanche Peak is a valuable asset to that area. The power plant pulls in workers not only from throughout the county but from neighboring counties as well. And those workers need some sort of education to handle the daily grind of producing power.
“When you get an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, it opens doorways and leads to a better future,” Chambers said.
Chambers is familiar with TSTC, having taken Automotive Technology classes there himself. His son graduated from TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls program in Waco.
Chambers said the county benefits from having the nuclear plant by way of property taxes, which the city of Glen Rose does not receive. But the city reaps the benefits of tax money as out-of-town workers sleep in hotels, eat in restaurants, buy gas and shop for groceries during planned plant outages.
“Without the power plant, Glen Rose would not be what it is now,” Chambers said.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, power plant operators in Texas make a yearly median salary of more than $78,000. Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators and gaugers in the state make a yearly median salary of more than $76,000. The state will need more than 13,000 workers by 2028.
The Instrumentation Technology program has over 100 students taking classes this summer. Students work toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in Instrumentation Technology. Martin said the students attracted to the program typically know someone who works in the industry.
Starting this fall, Instrumentation Technology students will be in labs for longer periods. Lovelace said seven of the program’s 12 classes will have lab time expanded by an hour with less lecture time. He said the program’s goal is to provide more hands-on experiences for students.
Instrumentation Technology is part of TSTC’s Money-Back Guarantee initiative, which enables students who do not find a job in their profession within six months of graduation to have their tuition refunded.
Registration continues for the fall, and scholarships are available. For more information, go to tstc.edu.