TSTC Industrial Systems graduate Hunter Burney (center) is the automation technician lead for Genpak's Carthage plant. Maintenance manager Hal Rymel (left) said he and plant manager Darin West (right) look for TSTC graduates like Burney who have electrical and mechanical backgrounds. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)

(MARSHALL, Texas) – When restaurant customers are handed to-go boxes for their leftovers, most do not know where the boxes come from. 

But Texas State Technical College Industrial Systems graduates Hunter Burney and Matthew Ham know all about them. Both are employees at food service packaging manufacturer Genpak’s Carthage plant, which ships out an average of 50,000-70,000 cases of to-go boxes every two weeks.

Hal Rymel, Genpak’s maintenance manager in Carthage, said the company has hired TSTC graduates for about 10 years.

“We’re excited about the curriculum that they use,” Rymel said of the college’s Industrial Systems program and Automation and Controls Technology program, both of whose industry advisory boards he serves on. “They’re modifying it as the years go by to fit some of our requirements here. We actually have donated equipment for them to use.”

Rymel said he looks for TSTC graduates with both electrical and mechanical backgrounds.

Burney graduated from TSTC’s Industrial Systems program in 2019. He said he got his start at Genpak in Carthage when he worked there one summer, and he continued on after he returned to TSTC in the fall.

“Most of my time was spent running to classes and then coming back over here to work,” he said. “I ended up starting as a temporary maintenance employee, and then the day I graduated I moved up to a shift mechanic.”

Burney now lives in Nacogdoches and is the automation technician lead for Genpak’s Carthage plant.

“I maintain and fix robotic equipment and packaging equipment,” he said. “I learned a lot of that with TSTC before I even started this job.”

Ham said he has been a mechanic since the age of 12, having been taught by his grandfather. When his interest in the electrical side of mechanics grew, he enrolled in TSTC’s Industrial Systems program.

“It taught me a lot of stuff that I would need to know going into the workforce so I wouldn’t have to learn as I went,” the Carthage native said. “It was definitely a lot of hands-on work, and I really enjoyed that.”

After receiving his Associate of Applied Science degree from TSTC in 2020, Ham briefly went to work in the petroleum industry in Corpus Christi. He returned to Carthage when offered employment with Genpak, where he is an electromechanical technician.

“It’s never the same; it’s always something new,” Ham said of his job.

According to onetonline.org, electromechanical and mechatronics technologists and technicians earn a median salary of $59,940 a year in Texas, where the number of such jobs was projected to increase 12% between 2020 and 2030.

In Marshall, TSTC’s Industrial Systems program offers an Associate of Applied Science degree and two certificates of completion. Night classes are also available.

Industrial Systems is one of nine programs at TSTC that have money-back guarantees. For more information, visit tstc.edu/mbg.

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

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