Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Witness Testimony of Colonel Randall Wooten (USAF, Ret.), President, Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Marshall
Background and History
Texas State Technical College (TSTC) was established in 1965 as the James Connally Technical Institute (JCTI) of Texas A & M University to meet the state’s evolving workforce needs. JCTI was located in Central Texas at the former James Connally Air Force Base in Waco. In 1967, JCTI expanded to include a South Texas campus in Harlingen. Additional locations soon followed.
JCTI separated from Texas A&M University in 1969 and became an independent state system with its own nine-member Board of Regents and the name Texas State Technical Institute (TSTI). In 1991, the Texas Legislature elevated the status of TSTI’s campuses by designating them as technical colleges with the name Texas State Technical College.
Since the inception, TSTC has grown to include four colleges and several off-site teaching locations. The four independent colleges within the Texas State Technical College System are co-educational, two-year institutions of higher education offering occupationally oriented programs with supporting academic courses for certificates or associate degrees. Emphasis is on advanced and emerging technical programs not commonly offered by public junior colleges with a core focus on placement and earnings outcomes. For 49 years, TSTC has been producing top-quality graduates, who are nationally recognized for their highly specialized, technical capabilities and job-ready skills. TSTC’s strong relationship with business and industry ensures that coursework focuses on the regional and statewide needs of Texas’ employers and leads to success in the job market.
TSTC is Texas’ only state-supported technical college system. Its statutory mission is to provide an articulated and responsive technical education system aimed at identifying and addressing industry needs. These two features make TSTC unique among institutions of higher education. The TSTC System currently has campuses in Waco, Harlingen, Marshall and West Texas, with locations in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater. The System also has off-site teaching locations in Hutto, Ingleside, Red Oak and Richmond, in addition to partnerships with many of the state’s public junior colleges.
TSTC’s colleges consistently rank as top producers of associate degrees in engineering, precision production, computer information systems, computer & information sciences, and enrollment of Hispanic students. In Community College Week’s annual report titled “Top 100 Associate Degree Producers,” TSTC has ranked number one in Texas numerous times in one or more categories and has consistently stayed among the top 50 colleges in the nation in nearly every applicable category.
In the 2012 report, TSTC Waco ranked number one in Texas for graduating the most students in the categories of precision production, engineering technologies/engineering-related fields, and computer & information sciences & support services. In both 2012 and 2013, the college ranked third in the nation for conferring engineering-related associate degrees.
TSTC offers more than 151 Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees and certificates and has produced more than 93,570 graduates in its nearly 50-year history. TSTC Harlingen also offers seven Associate of Science (AS) degrees in biology, computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics, nursing preparatory and health professions.
Since 2009, the TSTC System has generated a 32 percent increase in graduates and a 36 percent increase in job placements. The combined first-year earnings of TSTC graduates are projected to surpass $56 million in new salaries for Texas – a 54 percent increase over the last four years.
TSTC students across the System are a diverse group demographically. They are 65.7 percent minority (56.91 percent Hispanic, 8.60 percent black, 0.19 percent other minorities) and 34.3 percent white. The student body is comprised of 39.83 percent females and 60.17 percent males. Students come from 200 of Texas’ 254 counties, and nearly 63 percent are economically disadvantaged.
Veterans at TSTC
TSTC is proud to have many veterans of the armed services among its graduates. Of those, many have earned a certificate or degree in an instructional program that supports careers in the energy sector.
Sarah Kimble graduated from TSTC West Texas in 2014 with a degree in Computer-Aided Drafting and Design Technology. Sarah previously served in the United States Air Force and has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Before graduating, Sarah was hired and given an above average starting salary by Nicholas Consulting Group, a multi-discipline engineering firm in Midland, Texas. Nicholas Consulting provides process, mechanical, civil/structural, electrical and control engineering services primarily to the oil and gas industry.
An eight-year military veteran, Christopher Bowdoin graduated from TSTC Marshall in 2014 as a Process Operations Technician, training which is attractive to a variety of process industries – including chemical, food and beverage, oil exploration and production, pharmaceuticals, power generation, pulp and paper, refining and wastewater treatment. Christopher transferred to TSTC from another college and, upon completion of his degree, was hired as a Field Specialist for Chevron, a worldwide integrated energy company.
Veteran enrollment in the current academic year has surpassed 1,000 across all TSTC campuses (1,059 in total). Approximately 30 percent of these students are enrolled in instructional programs that support careers in the energy sector.
All TSTC campuses are designated as Military Friendly Schools®, which are those in the top 20 percent nationally that deliver the best experience for military students. Additionally, all TSTC campuses are participants in the Texas' College Credit for Heroes initiative. See www.collegecreditforheroes.org. The initiative is a partnership between the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. It connects active duty, former and retired military personnel with higher education institutions that maximize their military experience toward college degrees and certificates.
The College Credit for Heroes program complements the efforts of on-campus Veterans Affairs liaisons, who facilitate VA benefits like the post 9-11 GI Bill and other financial aid programs. Additionally, using grant funds, TSTC Waco developed an online tool for veterans, called Credit Crosswalk, so they can determine if college credit can be awarded for their military training. The Crosswalk compares military occupations to TSTC’s coursework and is used to determine if military training is transferrable to TSTC. The Crosswalk is available online at www.waco.tstc.edu/veterans/militaryoccupations.
Cooperative Efforts with Business & Industry
The strength of TSTC’s instructional programs rests in the strong relationships each campus has with business and industry. Each instructional program is supported by an “Advisory Council” made up of members within the industry served by the program. In each program area, Council members direct the development, evaluation and on-going modifications of curriculum and course content so that graduates possess the knowledge and skills necessary to enter the workforce with little or no additional training.
Often, TSTC campuses develop customized partnerships with businesses to tailor curriculum specifically for the needs of that company. For example, the global corporations Fluor and Bechtel helped TSTC develop a customized curriculum in Welding Technology that includes specific skill sets and an accelerated schedule. Luminant Energy is currently working with TSTC to create a pipeline of skilled workers to meet the company’s demand. The company is involved in the recruitment of potential students, selection of candidates in the program, monitoring of the students’ progression, and advising on curriculum needs. Graduates leave TSTC with assured employment.
Instructional Programs and the Energy Sector
According to statistics from the Office of Gov. Rick Perry, the energy sector contributes more than $172 billion to the Texas economy, and that number is growing. Growth is fueled, in part, by the use of new technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Nearly 900,000 Texans are employed in the energy sector today, but Texas anticipates 26 percent growth in employment across the sector from 2010 to 2020, according to statistics released by the Texas Workforce Commission’s Strategic Assessment Workforce Program. That translated into 92,776 new energy jobs between 2011 and 2013.
TSTC offers numerous instructional programs which are in high demand in Texas’ booming oil, gas and wind industries. Although many of these programs support multiple industry sectors, they are vital to the energy sector. TSTC’s degree and certificate programs that support careers in the energy sector are listed below:
- Air Conditioning / Heating / Ventilation Technology
- Drafting & Design Technology / Architectural & Civil Drafting
- Building Construction Technology
- Welding Technology
- Computer Maintenance Technology
- Computer Networking & Systems Technology
- Instrumentation & Robotics Technology
- Diesel Equipment Technology
- Environmental Health & Safety Technology
- Electrical Power & Controls Technology
- Electrical Systems Technology
- Industrial Systems Technology
- Mechanical Engineering Technology
- Plumbing & Pipefitting Technology
- Civil Engineering/Surveying Technology
- Chemical Technology
- Mechatronics Technology
- Wind Energy Technology
- Process Operator Technology
- Applied Engineering Technology
- Oil & Gas - Downhole Tool Technician
Instructional Delivery Specializations
Many TSTC students in these programs are veterans, and the technical skills they master at TSTC compliment their military training, resulting in a very high placement rate for these graduates. TSTC has developed specialized programs that allow veterans to accelerate their completion time by demonstrating the skills they mastered during their service, thereby getting them to the workforce more quickly.
One such program is a new competency-based educational initiative designed to shorten the time necessary to earn an award. The new competency-based education model, however, does not sacrifice the quality of the skills learned. TSTC began offering this competency-based approach in the fall of 2013 at two locations. The model aligns particularly well with the needs of veterans, displaced workers and career-focused high school graduates.
Competency-based programming is designed to allow a student to demonstrate mastery of real-world job skills at his or her own pace. In this way, a student will not spend unnecessary “seat time” in classes reviewing information he or she already knows, either through past job experience or through military service. As a result, a two-year welding degree can now be completed in as few as four semesters – saving time and money while minimizing a student’s deferred wages. Competency programming also ensures that the student learns and masters each required skill, rather than simply earning an average score for a semester-long course.
Without exception, the colleges within the TSTC System are committed to serving U.S. military veterans. TSTC is also committed to finding innovative educational pathways for the efficient and cost-effective transition of veterans into the workplace. The competency-based learning prototype is one such pathway. As part of Texas’ Skilled Workforce Initiative, the prototype is intended for statewide implementation and is geared toward assisting veterans wanting to maximize military training and earn a college credential. With the competency-based learning model in place and access to the Credit Crosswalk, veterans attending TSTC are able to make the most of their military training as they successfully transition into the civilian workforce.
Texas has long been a leader in the energy sector; however, recent growth in that sector has been exponential. That means veterans will continue to have access to a wide array of jobs. TSTC’s partnerships with industry through Advisory Councils, as well as collaborative efforts with industry to design specialized curriculum, ensure that students graduate with job-ready skills which match or exceed industry standards. Business and industry groups across Texas well understand TSTC’s commitment to hands-on training and a highly skilled workforce. Therefore, when industry wants qualified workers, it comes to TSTC.