Studying Tool and Die: Machining careers offer exciting opportunities for graduates

HARLINGEN — Working with a $70,000 manufacturing machine may seem intimidating for most people, but for students studying Tool and Die at TSTC, it’s just another day of learning.

“There’s a lot of different facets in manufacturing, but this is where it all begins,” explained Department Chair Ricardo Limas, when describing the industry. “Somebody has to dream it and draw it. We bring that dream to life.”

While it’s very easy to wonder what a machinist does, the craftsmanship of a tool and die technician is very prevalent in our everyday lives.

“We make your refrigerators, fenders, appliances and toolboxes. It just goes on and on,” said Limas of the Tool and Die industry. “We teach blueprint reading, machine shop safety, and precision tool reading. That’s where all the magic begins to happen.”

Although the workload of learning all these skills may seem heavy, the programs offered at TSTC only take a few semesters to complete.

“We offer a Tool and Die Certificate 2 that takes four semesters, and and Associate of Applied Science for Tool and Die Technology that takes five semesters,” said Limas. “About percent of our program is hands-on, and that’s what makes our program so attractive to the industry.”

Robert Langley, a third-semester Tool and Die student, also expresses a positive sentiment about the hands-on aspect of the degree.

“I love the fundamentals of the machines. I like creating stuff and being able to use my hands. That’s the thrill of it,” he said. “It’s a lot of hands-on learning, and now I want to continue my education in the program and get my associate degree.”

Upon graduation, students don’t have to worry about the stress that comes with finding a job with a great company, because there is a demand for machinists in the Rio Grande Valley.

“It’s the best-kept secret, I call it,” said Limas of the manufacturing industry. “There’s always work. We went on a field trip recently, and the tour facilitator spoke to the students and told them that there’s a huge demand for people in this trade. Recruiting companies come to me and let me know how many graduates they need. I ask my students ‘Who’s interested in San Antonio?’ and ‘Who’s interested in Toyota?’”

The need for machinists in South Texas is greater than ever now with the arrival of SATA U.S.A. The German engineering company has recently broken ground in Brownsville, and will need to hire 300 machinists for the North American branch of the company.

“We can tailor our training to their needs,” said Limas when asked about SATA. “If you have a passion for working with your hands, as well as your head, this is a great career. The satisfaction you get from making something is absolute magic.”

Tool and Die is taught on the TSTC Harlingen campus, and other manufacturing technologies are offered at many of the other TSTC campuses.

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Students can also get more information by attending the TSTC Registration Rally to be held on on July 14 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. The rally will be held on the TSTC campus located at 1902 N. Loop 499.