Archives for August 2015

How a 1-Year Certificate Turned into a Dream Job for a San Jacinto College Student

Robin Coto turned a one-year certificate from San Jacinto College into a dream job.

Coto has come a long way in a short time, starting out as a painter’s helper and working his way up to a management position at Penske’s Houston regional collision repair center. The center provides collision repair services for all Penske lease vehicles for the entire Gulf Coast region.

Coto earned an occupational certificate in automotive collision repair technology from San Jacinto College in 2007, and shortly afterwards was hired in an entry-level position at Penske. With technical skills and enthusiasm, he went from painter’s helper to lead painter in a matter of months. He had dreamed of such a job, and he was determined to excel.

“I always enjoyed working with cars and trucks,” Coto commented. “In high school, after painting my first car, I knew at that moment that is what I wanted to do.”

Auto bodywork is a specialized, skilled craft, and Coto knew that to go far would require training.

“I chose San Jacinto College because I had heard their training was top notch and very hands-on,” he said. “Glen Kirkwood, collision repair instructor at the North Campus, interacts well with students and keeps them engaged. He would explain to us students how to do paint and bodywork, but he would not do the work for us. We would have to learn through experience. I think that’s why the program is so successful.”

Coto has been doing vehicle bodywork for 12 years now. He especially likes working as production manager at the Penske collision repair center, which services a wide range of vehicles, from trucks and vans to large 18-wheeler rigs. Kirkwood is proud of the way Coto has applied himself and rapidly advanced.

“What’s really impressive is how Robin has adapted to a different style of bodywork,” he commented. “Our program does not specifically train to do bodywork on larger vehicles like 18-wheelers, which requires working with quite a few different tools and techniques. It shows how our students can excel if they are willing to grow and continue to learn.”

A large percentage of the employees at the Penske collision repair shop are San Jac Certified, having graduated from the San Jacinto College auto collision repair program.

“When possible, I try to hire a San Jac graduate when a new position comes open,” commented Coto. “They are well trained, dedicated, and have enthusiasm. They want to learn new techniques and are eager to keep up with new trends and developments. That’s a good work ethic.”

Coto’s training in auto collision repair has led to other unexpected dividends.

“Some colleagues and I started a used-car sales business,” he said. “We buy cars at auction, I do body repair work and do some body customizing, and we then offer the vehicles for sale. Not long after start-up, the business was turning a profit.”

Graduates of San Jacinto College’s auto collision technology program generally have no problem finding jobs. During the past five years, the job placement rate for graduates has been 90 percent or higher. The pay scale is generally above average compared to other skilled craft jobs. According to the Texas Workforce Commission Texas Cares website, the median annual wage in the Gulf Coast region for auto body technicians is $42,432.

“Considering that a person with only one year of college training can be earning around $42,000 not long after graduation, I think that is very impressive,” commented Eddie Foster, North Campus industrial technology department chair. “That’s as good as some career fields that require four-year college degrees.”

San Jacinto College offers automotive collision repair technology courses and degree options at the North Campus. For more information, please visit sanjac.edu/career/auto-collision-repair.

43 Community College Students Receive Petrochemical Scholarships

With the Gulf Coast area petrochemical industry needing more than 50,000 new workers within the decade, the nine community colleges of TGCCCC have set out to find and train this “next generation” of skilled workers, enabled by a grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation.

Now in its third year, the Community College Petrochemical Initiative (CCPI) has spread the word across the region that salaries in this expanding industry average $99,700.  It’s not surprising that enrollments in training programs are growing significantly.

On Thursday, Aug. 13, representatives from all nine partnering colleges and ExxonMobil met in the Nolan Ryan Center on the Alvin Community College campus to present more than $60,000 in scholarships to 43 selected students.

CCPI Scholarship Recipients

Representatives from nine community colleges and ExxonMobil gathered for a photo with recipients of the 2015 CCPI scholarship in the Nolan Ryan Center in Alvin, Texas, following a luncheon for the recipients.

Students heard a rousing message from the manager of the ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant, Woody Paul, who reminded students that, while their backgrounds and stories may differ, each one is seeking to improve their lives through careers in the petrochemical industry. He applauded their discipline, tenacity, and determination as they juggled career training with family and current jobs.

In all, ExxonMobil has contributed more than $1.5 million towards training skilled new workers. This is the second consecutive year that CCPI and ExxonMobil have brought together new recipients to present scholarships and encourage them in their educational pursuits.

2015 CCPI Scholarship Recipients

From Alvin Community College:

  • Joshua Huerta, Process Technology
  • Matthew Mitchell, Process Technology
  • Shemilore Oguntoye, Process Technology
  • Robert Robinson, Process Technology

From Brazosport College:

  • Mark Morales, Process Technology
  • Hong To, Welding Technology

From College of the Mainland:

  • Christine Guevara, Process Technology
  • Byron Howard, Process Technology
  • Danny Magee, Jr., Process Technology
  • Robert Ware, Mechanical Maintenance Technology

From Galveston College:

  • Frank Ross, Electrical and Electronics Technology
  • Samantha Weber, Electrical and Electronics Technology
  • Angelica Yanez, Electrical and Electronics Technology

From Houston Community College:

  • Samson Akinlade, Engineering
  • Johnathan Barra, Electrician Technology
  • Victor Lopez, Welding Technology
  • Vaibhav Patel, Drafting and Design Technology
  • Binh Pham, Drafting and Design Technology
  • Tuyen Le, Engeineering Technology

From Lee College:

  • Javier Barajas, Instrumentation
  • Blake Bogie, Process Technology
  • Eleazar Cantu, Pipe Design Technology
  • Lawrence Daniel, Process Technology
  • Ellis Dorrance, Instrumentation
  • Marisela Puente, Process Technology
  • Martin Resendez, CADD

From Lone Star College:

  • Justin Cassaro, Automated Manufacturing
  • Said Charouch, Petroleum Data Technology
  • Milton Edwards, Automated Manufacturing
  • Laura Gimenez, Chemical Engineering
  • Stephen Hilliard, Welding Technology
  • Shannon Lee, Petroleum Data Technology

From San Jacinto College:

  • Jonathan Gallo, Instrumentation
  • Gladys Jackson, Process Technology
  • Laura Plazibat, Process Technology
  • Austen Riche, Process Technology

From Wharton County Junior College:

  • Heather Bannert, Process Technology
  • Dillon Baumgarten, Process Technology
  • Brian Hausler, Process Technology
  • Carl Jones, Process Technology
  • Matthew Krenek, Process Technology
  • Willie Walker, Process Technology
  • Dakota Wallace, Process Technology

You Can Afford to Go to College

TGCCCC Petrochemical DegreesEverybody can afford to go to college, now. It’s true! You might have to do some planning, be really smart with your money, and commit to getting good grades so you don’t waste your money. But, Texas community colleges can pave the way for you to earn a degree in just two years that will get you a great salary … at less than the cost of a used economy car.

If you watch or read news, it’s no secret that rising tuition, student debt loans that can take years to pay off, and a questionable economy have made many people scared to pursue higher education. What many people don’t realize about college, though, is that it is not a one-size-fits-all plan. A variety of options exist for students from all walks of life and with differing interests and career goals.

And, in Texas, the economy and population are growing at a rate faster than the rest of the U.S., offering fantastic career prospects in technology, infrastructure, manufacturing, oil and gas/petrochemical, education, and healthcare. Research the jobs being created in your community and see how they compare to your interests, then start thinking about what education you need to get the job you want.

Many students choose the path of a college education at a four-year public or private university and moving away from home. And, those students are often the ones who end up in the dire news stories.

Have a Game Plan
for Your Education

Whether you are soon to be graduating high school or re-entering school to continue your education, there are several things everyone should do to prepare.

For High School Students:

  • Ensure you are in good academic standing with your counselor and on track to graduate.
  • Ensure with your counselor that all necessary Texas Assessment of Knowledge & Skills (TAKS) and State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing is complete.
  • Ensure your SAT and/or ACT scores qualify you for college-level work and enrollment.

For Non-High School Graduates:

  • Take the General Education Development (GED) test to qualify for enrollment.
  • Complete College Readiness Standard tests for college-level aptitude in basic subjects.

For many others, a combination of finances, time, work outside of school, and family responsibilities may prevent them from being able to have that “traditional” college experience. At Texas Gulf Coast Community Colleges, we want to break each of these down and help you understand what you will get out of your experience at our campuses and that “traditional” doesn’t always mean better.

Finances

First, we will start with finances by themselves, since they are a critical issue for people who are exploring a college education. At a private university, tuition and fees alone can cost $8,000 to $20,000 each semester. On the other hand, the cost of two years at a public university in Texas could cost upwards of $17,800. Over time this is less than what you would pay at a private university, but doesn’t include books, supplies, and room and board costs for a four-year university education, which come in addition to normal tuition and fees.

At a community college, tuition and fees for school start as low as $820 per semester. In addition to the lower price tag of community colleges, they also offer more financial assistance and flexibility than a four-year university. Many students are even eligible for federal grants covering some or all tuition and fees, grants for which do not need to be paid back. In fact, 35 percent of Texas college students qualify for and receive the federal Pell Grant each year. With these financial aid options, many students are able to complete two years of courses at a community college before transferring to a university, easing the financial burden of paying for school on the way to their bachelor’s degree.

Time

Second, we will address time, work outside of school, and family responsibilities together as one. Community college is a great option for students who must work to pay for school, as well as for older adults who want to further their education. Community colleges offer open enrollment year-round, allowing you to take a flexible number of hours each semester with no penalty, in addition to offering evening and weekend classes. At a community college, it is entirely possible to work fulltime, take classes, and have time with your family each week while still receiving a quality education.

Work

Now that you’ve seen the differences, you’re probably asking “Where can a community college education lead me?”

Graduates with technical certificates and associate degrees are in high demand. You probably did not know that nearly half of all Texas college students – some 700,000 people – enrolled in community college. This number is greater than the state’s public university, private university, and medical institutions combined. Many of these students are pursuing two-year degrees in fields related to the state’s booming energy, medical, and IT industries. A two-year associate degree can qualify you to go to work immediately in the healthcare industry or petrochemical industry, where you can earn $40,000 to $100,000+ annually.

We encourage everyone to choose the path that works best for themselves. At Texas Gulf Coast Community Colleges, we hope you choose to consider the possibilities and make us part of your path. Find out more about registering now to attend your local community college.

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