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TSTC instructor says welders are always in demand

May 28, 2020 by Ben Barkley

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Welders are always needed, no matter the economic situation.

Texas State Technical College Welding Technology instructor Robert Whitley knows his students will likely find a job soon after completing the program. In West Texas, welders are needed not only in the oil field, but also at other sites, he said.

“Other (businesses) are not hurting as bad as the oil field right now,” Whitley said. “A lot of our guys are noticing that welding is definitely a reliable source of income.”

Whitley said many welders are self-employed, while others like the structure of working for a company. No matter what, he said, welders usually can find work.

“Some of the guys like to venture out to the bigger cities for work. They go out several different directions to find a job,” he said.

With oil prices beginning to rebound, Whitley said he expects to see more students enrolled in the program, which is offered at each of TSTC’s 10 campuses. The college offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology, and certifications in structural welding and structural/pipe welding.

“Hopefully everything in the oil field will be going the right way. When that happens, we will probably pick up another boom (of students),” he said.

Whitley said his main goal is to see students employed.

“I like to see them succeed. The best thing for me is to send kids out and see them be able to provide for their family,” he said.

With social distancing being the new normal in business, Whitley said lab sessions have been set up to state standards. He said that social distancing is nothing new to welders.

“Many of them will not be near anyone when they are working,” he said. 

During lab sessions, Whitley said students have worked within the guidelines.

“It has kept our guys on their toes. It is teaching them to prepare for the unexpected,” he said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC’s Workforce Training Office Partners to Offer Specialized Medical Coding and Billing Training

May 28, 2020 by Daniel Perry

(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s statewide Workforce Training office is offering an 11-hour online Telehealth and COVID-19 bundle aimed at providing guidance to people working in medical coding and billing.

Participants who register for the training can take the 10 sessions through the Practice Management Institute at their own pace, but there is a time limit to complete the work. Topics include billing, cybersecurity, telehealth reimbursement and COVID-19’s impact on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  The sessions have been created using federal public health guidelines.

The American Medical Association and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued this year new procedure codes to use for COVID-19 laboratory testing and billing for non-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory testing for the virus, according to the Texas Medical Association.

“Medical billing and coding is ever changing, so it is always important for us to keep up with the most current guidelines,” said Carra Benson, a TMA practice management associate. “I feel the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge reminder of that.”

The training is open to Texas residents, no matter their proximity to a TSTC campus. Participants need access to a computer and internet to take the courses. Those completing lessons will receive certification from PMI, and if they are registered with TSTC’s Workforce Training office, they can receive continuing education hours.

Medical facilities who have staff that can benefit from the lessons can contact TSTC’s Workforce Training office, which can apply for Texas Workforce Commission Skills Development Fund money to cover the training cost.

“That is why a lot of businesses, organizations and vendors work with us because the (TWC) funds have to be filtered through a college,” said Cindy Brunett, a TSTC Workforce Training project manager.

To learn more about TWC funding and register for the training, go to

TSTC alumnus finds job stability in medical records field

May 28, 2020 by Ben Barkley

(ABILENE, Texas) – Like most people, Sarah Johnson was looking for job stability.

After graduating from Texas State Technical College in November 2019 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Information Technology, she found that stability. Johnson credits TSTC for helping her find a job as a medical coder at Hendrick Health System.

“At one point, it was difficult for me to find work,” she said. “Once I started in the medical field, I loved it and would make it a career.”

After being employed in customer service for 20 years, Johnson worked in the outpatient unit at Brownwood Regional Medical Center. She decided to complete TSTC’s Health Information Technology program to further her career. It was a decision she has not regretted.

Since February, Johnson has worked as a coder at Hendrick Medical Center. Coders are health information professionals who analyze medical records and assign codes using a classification system. 

“If I would have known about the HIT program first, I would have done it,” she said. “I am glad I was able to graduate and get a job I love.”

Johnson said the instructors were instrumental in helping her during school and finding a job.

“I was overwhelmed with work and school. My instructors were always supportive,” she said. “They would always tell me and other students, ‘You can do this.’ They really took an interest in how we were doing and wanted us to succeed.”

Sarah Brooks, TSTC’s Health Information Technology program chair, said Johnson “defined what makes a student successful in the online learning environment.”

“She was self-motivated and self-disciplined,” Brooks said. “Sarah was open-minded in sharing her work, life and educational experiences with others through the learning process.”

Johnson, who codes emergency room records at Hendrick, said no two days are the same and credits TSTC’s instructors for preparing her for the daily challenge.

“I see a variety of charts,” she said. “My main focus is to make sure the information is coded correctly.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

Eight area TSTC students place at virtual SkillsUSA contest

May 27, 2020 by Ben Barkley

(ABILENE, Texas) – Eight students from Texas State Technical College representing its West Texas campuses won medals at the 2020 SkillsUSA virtual conference meet.

The students earned five gold medals, one silver medal and four bronze medals. 

William Hancock earned gold medals in two events, Information Technology Services and Telecommunications Cabling. Victoria Jones earned a silver medal in Medical Math and a bronze in Medical Terminology.

Also earning gold medals were Rachel Bradshaw in First Aid/CPR, April Clark in Nurse Assisting, and Jerrod Doss in Internetworking. Bronze medals were awarded to Ashley Turnbow in Medical Math, Kerrie Helmuth in Nurse Assisting and Kaitlyn Mitchell in Job Interview.

Marchelle Taylor, TSTC’s West Texas SkillsUSA coordinator, said the students faced more of a challenge this year because of campuses being closed and the district conference being held virtually.

“It took flexibility on their part and extra work to prepare for the entire contest,” she said. “I am glad to have students at TSTC that worked together to continue to excel and participate in this excellent program.”

Bradshaw said competing online was “nerve-wracking.”

“I was more comfortable being able to do the written test from my home,” she said. “I hope the next time I compete it will be in person so we can show the judges what we know. It is always better to show your skills.”

Bradshaw, who is studying Nursing at the Breckenridge campus, said the competition will help her when she completes college.

“SkillsUSA will help you become a better employee and adult in general,” she said. “It has helped me to study more for my classes.”

Turnbow said knowing the contest would be online was not thrilling, but when it started, she changed her mind.

“It was both shocking and exciting,” she said of placing third. “Once I started taking the online test, it was an easy process.”

Turnbow, a Nursing student, said she plans to recommend that other students compete in SkillsUSA next year.

“This is a good program that will help you in your career. It is really good for resume building,” she said.

Helmuth was encouraged to participate by classmates and did not regret her decision. Even the online experience was beneficial.

“Once you completed the orientation, it was simple. I would do this again, but in person, preferably,” she said.

Helmuth, who is also a Nursing student, said competing taught her something she will carry over to her everyday life.

“I learned that no matter what the scenario is, I need to take the time to slow down and not hurry, no matter if it is at school, work or life,” she said.

SkillsUSA is a professional organization teaching technical, academic and employability skills that help high school and college students pursue successful careers. Members build these skills through student-led team meetings, contests, leadership conferences and other activities.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

Texas State Technical College student Ashley Turnbow won a bronze medal in Medical Math during the 2020 SkillsUSA virtual conference meet.

Texas State Technical College student Kerrie Helmuth won a bronze medal in Nurse Assisting during the 2020 SkillsUSA virtual conference meet.

Texas State Technical College student Rachel Bradshaw won a gold medal in First Aid/CPR during the 2020 SkillsUSA virtual conference meet.

TSTC Alumnus Strives for Excellence at Austin Company

May 26, 2020 by Daniel Perry

(WACO, Texas) – Emory Sutton of Pflugerville took his appreciation for the environment and turned it into a satisfying career. 

Sutton is a safety and loss control specialist at Professional Contract Services Inc. in Austin. He began working at the nonprofit company in August 2018 during the same week he graduated from Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus.

His work involves making sure clients are meeting environmental and safety regulations.

Sutton’s work involves traveling a week each month to visit contractors’ clients. On some days he completes reports after making site visits, while other days are spent working on gathering bids for contracts.

“Every day is different,” he said. “It’s how I can assist my department in succeeding.”

Sutton said his motivation lies in his desire to be good at what he does.

“I like the feeling of succeeding,” he said. “I think of little things as succeeding. I like to get things done, doing a good job for the company and proving that I can do it.”

Sutton grew up in Granger and is a graduate of Granger High School. He attended a four-year university to study education to become a teacher, but he said after three-and-a-half years, he concluded the field was not for him.

Sutton has an Associate of Applied Science degree in Environmental Technology – Compliance and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Safety Compliance Technology from TSTC. He said Lester Bowers, an instructor in TSTC’s Environmental Technology program, influenced him to pick up the second associate degree.

“He was a very good student and always added relevant materials into class discussions,” Bowers said.

Sutton said TSTC provided him with a solid education because of its emphasis on hands-on learning.

“I preach technical schools since I have been at TSTC,” he said. “We need people to fill technical jobs in the nation.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

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