Energy corporate giant Chevron doesn’t always wait to hire Mechatronics Technology (MT) majors until after they graduate from Texas State Technical College (TSTC) Harlingen. Chevron sometimes hires MT students who begin training with the company and step into their careers while they gain their final TSTC credits in an on-the-job environment.
Oz Mejia, a 2005 graduate of Lopez High School in Brownsville and a MT major, began work for Chevron about a year ago as a field specialist trainee in San Angelo and he could not return to Harlingen for summer semester commencement August 17. Alfonso Arjona of Weslaco, who graduated from the Science Academy of South Texas in Mercedes in 2008, left behind TSTC classes to report for six months of operation and maintenance training with Chevron that began August 13 at Lovington, N.M. However, Maritza Salazar of San Benito, a 2007 graduate of San Benito High School, and Tomas Pulido, a 1992 high school graduate from Vera Cruz, Tamaulipas, Mexico, both MT majors, will don the traditional black mortars and gowns for commencement and then they will join Chevron.
“The Mechatronics Technology Program is well suited for entry-level opportunities in our oil fields because the TSTC experiences with mechanical and electronic equipment provide students with a foundation to build on as they learn about our oil production,” said Greg Yoxsimer, human resources business partner for Chevron in Midland.
“We recruit employees from all the TSTC system campuses and I always encourage young people to take a strong look at TSTC before they choose a college.”
Mechatronics combines mechanical and electrical systems through automation and computer control systems, MT Chairman Adam Hernandez said.
“The MT Program takes our students from fundamental courses such as DC Circuits and AC Circuits and advances those concepts to an industrial-type level. We train the ideal technician for various industries such as oil and gas, automotive, automated manufacturing, power transmission and distribution, renewable energies and in general any industry that involves automation and control systems using electro-mechanical systems,” he said. “All our technicians are well rounded individuals that have shown working knowledge of system integration and installation.”
Mechatronics majors hired by Chevron generally possess three characteristics, Yoxsimer said. Students should learn to self-manage time and equipment while functioning effectively with a team of colleagues that’s accountable for results. “Second, we need people with two-year degrees who are accomplished with communications like reading, writing and speech. The tools include more than a wrench and gauges because technology in this industry has evolved into laptop computers and complex systems. A two-year college degree prepares our trainees to feel comfortable in a class environment and then apply their knowledge,” he said. Finally, there’s mobility because Chevron can move personnel around the globe.
Mejia said that before attending TSTC working in an oil field never crossed his mind. “The reason I was attracted to the Mechatronics program was simple. I wanted to put things together and be a part of an entire manufacturing process. I wanted to design, build and trouble shoot a system all on my own,” he explained.
He met Chevron recruiters at a TSTC career fair. “I talked to the recruiting team and I was interested in the company immediately. I never would have grasped the caliber of opportunities I was being presented off the bat, but I quickly realized that these friendly people were here for one reason. I wanted to know what I had to do to get a job and the answer was simple: have a good grade point average, never be late or absent, and never hesitate to do more than what is asked of you.”
Mejia said that field specialist tasks and responsibilities are challenges, but skills learned in Mechatronics such as safe work practices, automated process control, field communications, field standard operating procedures, alternate energy sources and stop work authority prepared him for the career. “One reason the Mechatronics program is unique is because the dedicated professors work very hard to get with major companies and cater to the workforce demand,” he said. “Faculty pushes students to create innovative ideas everyday.”
Salazar will start work for Chevron in Fort Stockton on October 10. She said that students brought resumes to a recruitment presentation Chevron made on campus and then company officials interviewed qualified students. “The Mechatronics Technology Program at TSTC gave us modern equipment to work on and faculty provided us with projects that required critical thinking skills,” she said.
The Support Services Office Non-Traditional (NT) Program provided Salazar with textbook assistance. Students who excel in the classroom and the NT Program are selected to be NT Ambassadors, said Edda Urrea, director of Support Services.
“Maritza has been a Non-Traditional Ambassador for the Support Services Office since the Spring Semester 2011. As an NT Ambassador she assisted with TECHquity events, facilitated non-traditional tours for our on-campus visits, assisted with our NT mini-expo and numerous events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and National Women’s History Month. Her dedication to helping promote gender equity and non-traditional careers to young women is what helped earn her the Support Services Office Inspirational Award this year,” Urrea said.
Arjona said that he originally enrolled in the Dental Hygiene Program at TSTC, but a friend suggested he should switch to MT. “I evaluated Mechatronics again,” he recalled. “I’ve always been interested in fixing things and finding out how things work. The programmable logic controller class was pretty fun to use simulations to create programs that solve problems based upon the parameter of a set of rules.”
For example, he could use the simulations to test the functions and efficiency of a water tank, an elevator and a tape recorder. He also studied the conversion of renewable or alternative energy such as solar, wind and water into electric power. He said that the program provided routine job applications for motors, relays and components within manufacturing processes. “I was very relieved and excited when Chevron offered me the opportunity because when I began the program I was a little skeptical about workforce demand,” Arjona added.
Hernandez said that the MT Advisory Board cooperates with companies to find jobs for graduates. “Realistically, we have placed 90 percent of our students in industry and the remainder has chosen to continue their education,” he said. “The U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that pay rates typical for our entry-level technicians range from $18 per hour to $22 per hour. Recently, our students have been achieving salaries at or beyond the higher end of the pay range because there are willing to travel and they bring multiple skill sets to the workplace.”
There are many common traits between graduates from the MT Program and engineering graduates who earn an Associate of Science degree due to the rigor of the coursework, he said. “Our winning point is the immense amount of hands-on skills we give our students. Apart from the traditional lecture and theory,” he added, “we use industrial type equipment to conduct labs and to create working scenarios for our technicians.”
Some of the other companies that hire MT graduates include Shell Exploration & Production, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, American Electric Power, Trico, Festo Corp., TYCO, Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Plastipak, Toshiba and Halliburton. Scholarships are available for qualified students. For more information contact Hernandez at email@example.com or 956.364.4982.