(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – Raquel Rios wants people to be less wasteful in order to help protect the environment.

That is one reason she is studying Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance at Texas State Technical College. She is in her third semester of the Associate of Applied Science degree program and has enjoyed each aspect of the curriculum.

Rios, of Breckenridge, grew up wanting to work in marine biology. When she researched her options, she saw that many people wanted to work in the field.

“I still wanted to work in the environmental field and with animals. I learned about the environmental program here and decided to give it a chance,” she said. “When I graduate from the program, I want to work in pollution control to show people there are better ways to be less wasteful.”

Instructor Teresa Purcell has seen Rios’ passion for the environment during lab sessions.

“Raquel’s interest is mostly in pollution control. She takes to heart on learning what she can do when she graduates to help the environment become more sustainable,” Purcell said. “She is a dedicated student and volunteer for the community.”

Rios has been learning many different skills during her time in class, including accident prevention, environmental regulations, industrial hygiene, safety program management and physical hazards control.

“I like the integrated safety and environmental aspects of the program,” she said. “We have learned that there is always a need for safety on the job. We will be able to show people not to be reckless in their jobs.”

During lab sessions, Rios trains on equipment like that which she will use in her career. The Breckenridge campus has received some new equipment, and Rios helped Purcell get it ready for class.

“We are still trying to figure out how to use some of the new equipment,” she said. “We have learned to set it up and work with it. It is really good practice for all of us because we will be using it in the field.”

Rios said having Purcell as her instructor has been the best part of the program.

“She is so knowledgeable about every aspect of this program. She has worked for and with so many different agencies that she knows what we should expect,” she said. “Having worked overseas has allowed her to gain more experience that she is able to share with us. She definitely knows how this program works.”

Rios hopes more people will look into the program because the need for technicians is growing. Graduates will also have an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 30-hour card, an OSHA general industry and construction card, and a Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) card.

“It’s sad that more people are not looking into this field,” she said. “There are so many jobs out there, and this is a great career to get into. I am happy I was able to find this program and will soon have a career.”

According to onetonline.org, Texas will continue to need occupational health and safety technicians for the next several years. By 2028, the website is forecasting a 16% increase for technicians around the state. The annual salary for a technician in Texas is $46,840, the website stated.

The Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance program is also taught at the Fort Bend County and Waco campuses.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

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