BY Amanda Sotelo
With a knack for adventure and a love for education, Texas State Technical College student Robert Craig McWhinney enrolled in Wind Energy Technology and Engineering to pursue a new career.
The Pittsburg, Pennsylvania native said he and his brother were avid rock climbers, seeking adventure throughout their home state. It is this hobby that McWhinney parlayed into Wind Energy Technology, an industry that requires employees to climb up four-story turbines.
“I’m 55 years young and ready for a new degree and new career,” said McWhinney. “This is a new chapter in my life and I’m excited for it.”
McWhinney earned his bachelor’s degree in 1987 and shortly after his master’s degree, both in English Literature.
“I only worked for a short time teaching basic composition as a graduate assistant,” he said. “Music was my primary passion and I’m still doing that today.”
His band, “Pelican West,” has been together for 30 years, performing throughout the states and calling South Padre Island its new stage.
In addition to his music, McWhinney has been the Ministry Coordinator at Christ’s Harbour Church in Laguna Vista for the past six years. So why the drastic career change?
“It started with a brochure on wind energy and I thought I want to climb those,” said McWhinney. “But as I did research I found that wind energy is a growing industry and technicians are in demand. So I started researching programs and it led me directly to TSTC.”
McWhinney said although he looked at this new career with trepidation because of math, he knew he was up for the challenge and a fresh start.
“I was an English major. I avoided math,” he said. “But the instructors here at TSTC have really helped me eliminate my fear of math and become successful. I’m entering a career where students like me are in high demand, and TSTC is the place to start.”
McWhinney, who today holds a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, credits his Wind Energy Technology Instructor David Gomez, Math Instructor Mehrdad Hosseinpour and Engineering Instructor Abdulhakim Agll for his current success.
“TSTC is set up to help their students succeed,” said McWhinney. “Everyone is a canon of knowledge, helpful and supportive. I’ve been in my fair share of colleges, and none of them compare to TSTC.”
Lead Instructor for Wind Energy Technology David Gomez said the department works hard to prepare students like McWhinney for the high demand jobs in the industry.
“We place students in not only wind energy, but also in construction and utilities,” said Gomez. “The doors of opportunity are open for our students if they’re willing to work for it.”
Gomez said he knows that McWhinney will be a great asset to any company.
“He (McWhinney) is highly intelligent, knowledgeable, engaged in his studies and overall a great person to work with,” he said. “He has many aspirations in this field and he will be successful.”
McWhinney is one of 135 students enrolled in Wind Energy Technology this semester, which has increased from the 60 students enrolled in Fall 2016.
“Word of mouth and our wind turbine skyline is attracting people to our program,” said Gomez. “I get 3 to 4 prospects a week in my office interested in discussing their future in Wind Energy Technology and opportunities available in the industry.”
TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology is backed by the American Wind Energy Association, and according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wind Energy is the fastest growing profession in the U.S. with a starting salary around $50,000 per year.
“Students who graduate from our program have opportunities to work locally, across the state, through the U.S. and even overseas,” said Gomez.
Since the initiation of Wind Energy Technology in 2010, 200 students have graduated from the program which holds a 100 percent placement rate.
Wind Energy Technology is also offered at TSTC’s Sweetwater campus.
For more information on Wind Energy Technology call 956-364-4729.