Harlingen, Texas - From airplane landing gears to smartphones, precision machining is a critical component of our lives.
“Everything comes from an actual machine shop making the products you are going to need for later use,” said Isaac Gonzalez, lead instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Precision Machining Technology program in Harlingen.
Gonzalez said it is challenging to change misconceptions about how modern precision machining is. While students learn some techniques on older, more manual machines, technology is at the forefront in hands-on lessons. Students work with Mastercam and SolidWorks software, both used for computer-aided design and engineering.
“You can design what you want on your laptop at home, go to TSTC and have it produced on the actual machine,” he said. “You can do anything on computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines now. A lot of our industries have moved toward all CNC machines, which is high technology. That is what we are trying to teach our students.”
Gonzalez said the program’s students are sought after by employers by the time many of them graduate. He said the salary that employers can offer makes a difference in whether graduates stay or leave the Rio Grande Valley to work.
Jerry Portales is general manager at the Harlingen location of Atlantic Durant Technology Inc., or Adtech, which is part of Ohio-based Atlantic Tool & Die Co. He said the company is constantly looking for talented precision machinists and tool makers to ensure that stamping production tools are in good condition to maintain quality and customer satisfaction.
“TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program is a great option for kids who are looking for a short training program,” Portales said. “It will help them improve their income by working in machine shops to support a manufacturing plant using precision machines and tools, or working for a manufacturing plant such as ATD to maintain tools in a good condition by using precision tools and machines.”
Raudel Garza, manager and chief executive officer of the Harlingen Economic Development Corp., said ITD Precision in Harlingen also has a need for well-qualified technicians.
“HEDC stands ready to help these companies and others gain access to TSTC’s programs and the Texas Workforce Commission’s grants, such as the Skills Development Fund,” he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, computer numerical controlled tool programmers are making a yearly median salary of more than $57,000 in Texas. Most jobs are concentrated in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio areas.
Harlingen’s Precision Machining Technology program teaches in a hybrid format for both day and night classes. The program starts new students each fall and spring. Students can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology and a certificate of completion in Machining.
This fall, high school students from the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District and Mercedes Independent School District will begin taking dual enrollment classes to work toward earning certificates of completion in Machining.
Registration continues for the fall, and scholarships are available. For more information, go to tstc.edu.