09:05 AM

Welding program at STC sparks student’s new career path

It's a cold morning at the new open-space welding lab at the STC Higher Education Center at La Joya and like other students, Celso Olivares is getting ready for the day.

He greets his fellow classmates, puts on his gear, and settles into his assigned station.

"I like the Higher Education Center," said Olivares. "Here you get your own welding work space; this is your station throughout the semester."

STC’s Higher Education Center at La Joya presents a number of opportunities for students interested in learning new trades. With new state-of-the-art science labs, lecture classrooms, and welding stations, the center has resources that students like Olivares find favorable.

Olivares, 41, enrolled at South Texas College to change his career trajectory.

As a veteran who already earned a bachelor's degree in international business, Olivares started up his education career once more to obtain an associate degree in combined welding last December.

"I left to the army, when I came back I started working on my bachelor's degree, I was 20-years- old," explained Olivares. "I just took this as a new experience, I wanted to learn the welding trade and took advantage of the higher education program at STC. I like to create things and be very inventive. Now, I’m thinking of setting up a fabrication shop.”

STC’s Welding Program prepares students like Olivares for the workforce. Students learn four processes of welding including Shielded Metal Arc Welding, Gas Metal Arc Welding, Gas Tungsten Arc Welding, and Flux Cored Arc Welding. Students also learn blueprint reading and graduate candidates are eligible to take a welding performance qualification test in accordance with the American Welding Society (AWS) standards.

The college offers certificate options in combination welding and structural welding, and the Welding Associate of Applied Science degree.

Olivares plans to use his degree to advance his new career goals. He says the welding program was challenging for him, as he is also a father, but was worth it.

“As any other degree, the welding career is a very complicated one but on top of that, due to the fact that I have two kids, a three-year-old and five-year-old, I knew I had two hats to wear,” said Olivares. “I had to play the part of a student and a parent as soon as I got home.”

As a disabled Veteran, Olivares says the Veteran's Affairs office at South Texas College also gave him direction and helped him continue his education and grow.

STC’s Veteran’s Affairs prides itself on being an information hub for veterans who are seeking higher education opportunities. The STC VA works to find eligible benefits and programs veterans may benefit from including the GI Bill.

Olivares says inquiring led him to classes available at the Higher Education Center at La Joya.

"I've always wanted to learn the welding trade,” said Olivares. "The Veteran's department has different programs that fit my needs and they're helping me achieve my goals."

Victor Montalvo, STC welding instructor, takes pride in guiding his students through the advanced welding class, he says what they’re doing at the center is teaching students how to be marketable.

"We don't just teach them how to weld," said Montalvo. "We teach them the proper work ethic that they need to apply out there in the work industry, we teach them how to be real professionals." 
Victor Montalvo, STC welding Instructor

"We don't just teach them how to weld," said Montalvo. "We teach them the proper work ethic that they need to apply out there in the work industry, we teach them how to be real professionals."

The center offers a variety of courses designed to get students on the right track to earning higher paying jobs including classes in criminal justice, education, and welding.

Olivares says the proximity of the center to his home was another big factor in the decision to go back to school at STC.

“When I started I didn't know about this area at first. I got very acquainted with it and very used to it because it's brand new,” said Olivares who resides in Mission, TX.

“The installations are very comfortable and the instructors are very knowledgeable, the people here are helpful, they know what you can do and what you’re capable of. They can even connect you with the right people to get you the job, but for now I want to try my own business. It’s good that you always have the backup, that card up your sleeve to go and work at several companies.”

Olivares says his decision to go back to school and graduate with an associate degree in welding has boosted his confidence knowing the many opportunities available in the welding industry.

“Now that I’ve gone through the program, even friends my own age are like 'Why did you go back to school?' I tell them it fit my needs; it fit my schedule so I might as well take it."

Olivares looks forward to his future in welding; nonetheless he says he enjoyed the pace he took in being a father as well as a student at STC’s Higher Education Center at La Joya.

“They offered a very flexible schedule, for me it fit better to come in the morning because my kids were at school. I would wake up and put my student mask on and when I got home, I put my dad mask on, it worked.”

To find out more information about the classes available at the STC Higher Education Center at La Joya visit: https://campuses.southtexascollege.edu/lajoya/index.html.