Texas Border Business
By Amanda Sotelo
(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology alumnus Alex Herrera finds himself these days doing what he loves, but his search for the right career took years of worry and debate.
“I was undecided about my future right for a long time. It was stressful,” said the 23-year-old. “But when that TSTC recruiter showed up at my high school my senior year, it all changed.”
The Mercedes native is now a graduate from TSTC’s Aircraft Airframe and Aircraft Powerplant Technology programs. He earned an associate degree first in 2016 and again in 2017.
“To have a career in my early 20’s is amazing to me,” he said. “Sometimes it’s still surreal, but none of it would have been possible without TSTC.”
He first heard about TSTC from a couple of his uncles who graduated with degrees from Biomedical Equipment Technology and Chemical Technology.
And although he knew about the college it was never in his plans to attend TSTC because he was interested in aircraft maintenance after seeing how successful his cousin was in the field.
“I had no idea there was an aircraft program right in my backyard,” said Herrera. “And that TSTC recruiter taught me otherwise. It was the perfect match for someone like me who couldn’t leave home to attend college and didn’t want to graduate with debt.”
After more research and learning about the potential career opportunities in the TSTC program, one of only a dozen aircraft maintenance programs in Texas that is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to train aviation maintenance technicians, Herrera decided to enroll.
“I had nothing to lose, but everything to gain,” he said. “And I’m so glad I had instructors who saw my potential and believed in me because there were a few times I wanted to give up.”
Herrera had only seen planes flying in the sky or at airports, but never up close, much less worked on one. And he admitted that sometimes he would feel overwhelmed, but TSTC aviation maintenance instructor Leo Guajardo, would help him overcome the negative thoughts about quitting.
“Leo never let me give up,” he said. “He always reminded me about the career opportunities and the doors this program could open for me and that kept me going. And he always arrived early or left late to work with me and my classmates. His passion for the field was contagious.”
In the program, Herrera got to learn from instructors who are experienced in the field and had the opportunity to get real-world, hands-on experience on aircraft that he would see in industry.
“Everything about this program prepared me for the workforce and my FAA airframe and powerplant certification exam,” said Herrera. “By the time I graduated my confidence level in my skills and myself were high. I was ready.”
Herrera now works with Jet Airlines as a certified airframe and powerplant technician completing aircraft inspections, equipment repair and replacements, engine and oxygen services and airframe damage reports.
“This is a great way to start my career,” he said. “There’s still so much room to grow and climb the ladder, but I know I’m gaining the experience I need to get there.”
He also said he already works on a number of Delta and United aircrafts, so his next goal is to work for a major airline company.
“TSTC opened so many doors for me,” he said. “The college took me from a kid who had no future to a man with a great-paying career.”