Texas instructors lead regional workforce training by earning special NIMS certificate

Texas continues to lead the nation in sustaining and creating new jobs. One major contributor may be because of how well the Rio Grande Valley is performing compared to many other regions in the state. Collectively, Valley business, industry and education partners continually seek new ways to innovate, maintaining high standards while minimizing costs, showing that the key is workforce training and innovation, particularly in the area of manufacturing. The region continues to pave new ways for hands-on training and seeks new certifications to set higher standards for workers and employers. Leading the momentum is South Texas College (STC), the biggest U.S. college south of San Antonio.

In the summer of 2007, STC became the first, and so far the only, college in Texas accredited by the National Institute for Metalwork Skills to certify students and industry workers in (NIMS) standards. Now, a select group of instructors and one student have been awarded the NIMS Certificate of Special Merit. The certificate identifies them as belonging to a very elite group, as only 1.2 percent of all NIMS credentialing candidates have earned the certificate. What this indicates is that the certificate holder is no longer considered a novice, possessing knowledge equal to that of at least a third-year employee in the industry.

Recently honored at a special recognition ceremony held at STC’s Technology Campus in May 2009 were Pete Garza, chair of STC’s Precision Manufacturing Technology Program; Gerald Stinson, STC NIMS program manager; Doug Schelbert, STC NIMS faculty support; Daniel Morales, STC PMT instructor; Harold Bernard, STC PMT instructor; Esmeralda Adame, STC PMT instructor; and STC student Raul Gutierrez, who works for GE Engine Services.

“South Texas College is now well positioned to continue to advance its mission of creating and maintaining a globally competitive manufacturing workforce throughout the Valley,” said Stephen C. Mandes, Executive Director of NIMS. “The current recession has only drawn a very thin mask over the skill shortage that faces our industry. Your work will be extremely critical in enabling manufacturers to rebound, and in affording young men and women the opportunity.”

“We are so proud of our staff and students, and the high standards they set for themselves in our Precision Manufacturing Technology Program,” said Mario Reyna, STC division dean of business and technology. “Since we began certifying students in NIMS standards, we are proud to say that 46 students have earned various certifications. They are working at companies like GE, Southwest AMT, Kings Prosperity and Alamo Tool and Die, all big manufacturers that rely on getting things done right the first time around. The level of precision that employees in the industry must meet is within hundredths of the width of a hair and our NIMS certified students are besting those standards through our top-tier programs and trainings.”

Among the honorees, Esmeralda Adame takes particular pride in earning the certification in a predominantly male career.  "I also hold an AutoCAD certificate, a bachelor’s in engineering, and an MBA along with several other professional certificates in technology and manufacturing,” said Adame. “And through it all the challenge became more and more interesting to me. Of course there were a lot of people saying that this path wasn’t for me because I am a woman, so I continue to strive to prove them wrong. Women can be highly successful in manufacturing, especially if you enjoy the hands-on work and being able to create or be a part of a new design. I am very proud of this new accomplishment and look forward to more opportunities to broaden my horizons so that I can train the students to be their best in order for them to go out and fuel our local, manufacturing-based economy.”

STC’s precision manufacturing technology and NIMS Center instruction teams include some of the most highly-qualified professionals in the nation. Pete Garza has been instructing at STC since 1998 and holds 11 professional certificates. Gerald Stinson brings STC more than 30 years experience in manufacturing, including 12 years in tooling and engineering. Doug Schelbert, a 36-year industry veteran is a graduate of Indiana University. Harold Bernard holds a variety of professional certificates and is known for his ability to program CNC machines from 3-D blueprints.

In addition to its top-notch Precision Manufacturing Technology Program and NIMS Center, the college’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing trains workers in a variety of areas including leadership skills, precision manufacturing, welding, and facilities maintenance, which feeds the complete manufacturing talent pipeline. Additionally, the college is one of the lead agencies and home to the headquarters of the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative (NAAMREI), which also supports NIMS credentialing in the region as it pushes the development of rapid response manufacturing.

“STC is completely committed to offering the finest training and ensuring business and industry access to the professionals that they need to stay competitive in this fast-paced, global economy,” concluded Reyna. “Although we have different groups devoted to training new and existing workers, we are one team offering seamless resources. The Valley is and will continue to lead our state and our nation in manufacturing workforce training.”

For additional information about South Texas College visit www.southtexascollege.edu.