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TSTC, TWC partnership provides manufacturing training for local companies

Michael Durant, a mechatronics tool and die maker at AdTech Plastic Technology in Harlingen has not been in a classroom since the 1980’s, but thanks to a partnership between Texas State Technical College and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) he is back and ready to learn.

“I love learning. You’re never too old to learn,” said the 49-year-old sitting in industrial math. “It feels great to be back and I’m excited for this opportunity.”

Durant and others from Fox Valley Molding and Aloe Laboratories in Harlingen and Sauceda’s Precision Grinding in San Benito make up a Harlingen Consortium that was recently awarded a $155,721 Skills Development Fund Grant for a full year of training.

TSTC’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education Executive Director Isidro Ramos said training provided by the TWC is crucial for companies, especially those with less than 100 employees.

“Technology is constantly evolving and it’s important for companies to keep their employees up to date,” said Ramos. “It’s a competitive industry and to remain competitive and keep production high, training is a priority.”

David Blackburn, Fox Valley Molding general manager, who has participated in other TSTC trainings in the past, said continual training is crucial. He will be sending various employees from the tool shop and maintenance to TSTC.

“We’ve always had a great experience with TSTC. It’s always a great learning experience for my employees,” said Blackburn. “So when this opportunity became available, we couldn’t pass it up.”

“I’ve personally seen skill sets improve, employees gain a better scope and understanding of their work and our production increase,” he added. “So I’m looking forward to seeing what we’ll gain at the end of this training.”

Employees from the four companies that make up the consortium began training this month and will take classes such as basic blueprint reading, industrial math, basic supervision, programmable logic controls and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10.

All training is customized to the companies’ needs and will be performed at TSTC and on-site.

Nathan Hernandez, a toolmaker apprentice at Fox Valley Molding, sat in Industrial Math with Durant, and as a TSTC Precision Machining Technology grad, being in the classroom was déjà vu.

“Knowing that my professional development is important and being given this opportunity is appreciated,” said the TSTC alum. “I’m hoping to learn as much as I can and I look forward to implementing what I learn into my daily work.”

As for Durant, who has been in the industry nearly three decades, he is excited to learn about new technologies and techniques.

“I’m just hoping to come out smarter than I came in,” he said with a laugh. “But in all seriousness, a lot has changed in our field, and new technology is introduced constantly, so I’m hoping to get myself up to speed on a lot of it with this training.”

TSTC has hosted other consortium trainings in the past thanks to Skill Development Fund Grants from the TWC with local manufacturing companies such as Saint-Gobain, Prism, Rich Products and Portage Plastics.

“Employers look forward to these trainings,” said Ramos. “This partnership is way for us to enhance our manufacturing industry and economic development, while providing quality training, which is our forte.”

For more information on the courses and services offered by TSTC’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education, call 956-364-4590 or visit


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