Don’t be afraid or intimidated. That’s the message that two Texas State Technical College students want to spread.
April Abitago-Thompson and Sara Rivera are the only two women currently enrolled in Welding Technology at TSTC in Fort Bend County.
“When I saw the campus being built while driving down the expressway I told my husband, ‘I’m going to enroll there,’” said Thompson. “I had no fear, I knew welding was what I wanted to do.”
Thompson, 33, now sees graduation around the corner. She will be receiving her certificate in Welding Technology in August during TSTC’s first Fort Bend County commencement ceremony to be held the Rosenberg Civic Center.
“I can’t wait to graduate and get my career started,” she said.
Pending a passing grade on her Certified Welding Inspector test, Thompson already has a job with a Bay City company as a Welding Inspector.
Before TSTC, the mother of four worked as a welder’s helper for nuclear plants and the oil industry.
“I didn’t want to be a helper for the rest of my life,” said Thompson. “TSTC is helping me change that. I’ve had the best experience and I’ve learned so much. TSTC has given me a career to be proud of.”
Thompson’s classmate, Rivera will also be earning her certificate in August, but will return to TSTC in the fall to pursue her associate degree.
The Rosharon native said it was her brother, who works for the oil industry, who introduced her to the possibility of a career in welding.
“What I immediately loved about welding was building something from nothing,” she said. “And now I see how I can take my career anywhere. Welding really can take you a long way.”
Rivera added that her goal is to work in fabrication, her favorite part of the program.
“TSTC is really setting my foundation,” said Rivera. “I appreciate every critique and piece of advice from my instructors, especially as a woman in a male-dominated field. I honestly feel prepared to work in the field.”
She hopes that by telling her story, other women will be encouraged to enter this or other male-dominated fields, and so she offers the following advice: “Work hard, do your best, be the best at what you do, don’t give up and show those men what you are made of.”
TSTC’s Welding Technology gives students like Thompson and Rivera the opportunity to learn how to work all of the equipment that is used in industry, while gaining real-world experience with hands-on training.
The program offers certificate and associate degree tracks in areas such as combination welding and advanced pipe welding.
Upon successful completion of the program students can expect to find careers in welding, in addition to, soldering and brazing, or as pipefitters and steamfitters, cutters and machine setters and operators.
Welding Technology Instructor Brooke Williams said Thompson and Rivera are driven to succeed in this field.
“Since I have known her, April knows where she wants to go with her career and has never lost sight of that,” said Williams. “She is always quick to help other students and isn’t afraid to seek advice on how to achieve her dreams.”
“As for Sara, she is a focused and hardworking student,” she added. “No matter how hard something is she never lets that stop her or bring her down.”
Welding Technology is offered at eight other TSTC campuses: Breckenridge, Brownwood, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater, Waco and Williamson County.
For more information or to register for Fall 2017 visit tstc.edu.