(ABILENE, Texas) – With several industries calling West Texas home, environmental safety technicians are in high demand.
To train these technicians, Texas State Technical College offers an Associate of Applied Science degree, certificates of completion, and an occupational skills achievement award in Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance.
Two TSTC alumni in particular know that the needs are there for the program to help West Texas industries strive for safer workplaces.
Dusty Jenson, the director of safety and training at Airway Services, earned an associate degree in Environmental Science Technology in 2012, while his sister, Denise Akins, who is the safety, health and environmental affairs officer for TSTC’s West Texas campuses, earned an associate degree in Occupational Safety Compliance Technology in 2018. TSTC merged the two programs into Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance in 2021.
“West Texas’ labor market is strong,” Jenson said. “Even with the struggles that the COVID-19 pandemic created, West Texas continues to see some growth in the job market. The struggle for employers, however, is finding qualified workers. I believe this program is helping to overcome that struggle for employers seeking qualified employees to help manage their safety and environmental programs.”
Having the program available at TSTC’s Abilene campus is convenient for many prospective students, according to Akins.
“I feel having the program available in Abilene will allow more students to look at registering,” she said. “With it being centrally located in Taylor County, TSTC can offer students who plan to enter the field to attend, or the ability to partner with businesses around the area.”
Akins said the many different program options will help a person decide a career path.
“Anytime you can offer more than one way to earn a certificate or degree, it opens it up to so many people,” she said. “For the nontraditional students, you can devote your time to the classes you want.”
Akins said that could lead to students returning to learn more.
“Once you get your feet wet, you probably will want to come back and take some more classes to earn an associate degree,” she said.
Jenson said TSTC prepared him for a successful career at Airway Services, an independent service provider to utility-scale wind production and battery storage facilities in the United States.
“TSTC’s Environmental Science Technology program taught me the basics of environmental and occupational safety regulations, including how to identify hazards, assess risk, and implement effective risk mitigation strategies and safety programs,” he said. “More importantly, the program helped me develop important soft skills, such as effective communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork, that are crucial for success in the safety management field.”
Jenson said he is often asked by frontline workers how they can pursue a career in occupational safety.
“I explain that there are many ways to achieve the training and qualifications needed to get a foot in the door, but in my opinion the best way is to complete this TSTC program,” he said.
During the 20-month associate degree program, students will learn different skills, including accident prevention, environmental regulations, industrial hygiene, safety program management and physical hazards control. Students will also be able to obtain an OSHA construction card and a Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) card when they complete the program.
According to onetonline.org, Texas’ need for occupational health and safety technicians was forecast to grow 22% between 2020 and 2030. The average annual salary for a technician in the state is $52,460, according to the website.
TSTC offers Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance at the Abilene, Fort Bend County and Waco campuses.
Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.