TSTC Automotive Technology fine-tunes alum’s career

Juan Ochoa

By Amanda Sotelo, TSTC Staff

Juan Ochoa’s father gave him his first vehicle, a 1993 F-250 diesel truck, and it was this truck that led Ochoa to Texas State Technical College and a successful career.

The 21-year-old earned an associate degree in Automotive Technology in Spring 2019 becoming the first in his family to graduate from college.

“My first truck started it all. It would break down and I would fix it. I was self-taught,” said Ochoa. “Slowly my passion for mechanics grew.”

The Harlingen native went from wanting to become a game warden to an automotive technician.

A family friend realized Ochoa’s skill progression when it came to repairing his truck and took notice of his passion. He was impressed enough to offer him a part-time position at his automotive shop in San Benito.

“This was my first step into the automotive world,” he said. “I’m grateful that he gave me this opportunity because it was my time there that made me realize that I wanted to pursue this field as a career.”

This is when TSTC came into play.

It was Automotive Technology’s diverse set of courses that made an impression on Ochoa.

“I knew I was going to learn and gain skills in a number of areas and that’s what I was going to need to get started in the field,” said Ochoa. “I enjoyed that hands-on learning was a priority. There’s nothing better than learning by doing.”

In fact, it was the knowledge and experience in areas such as automotive electrical diagnosis and repair; brake systems and engine repair; that helped Ochoa obtain a part-time position with Valley Metro in Harlingen before even graduating.

“When Valley Metro offered me a part-time position I jumped on the opportunity,” he said. “The company was recruiting from TSTC and had it not been for my instructor helping us with job placement I wouldn’t be here today.” 

Ochoa is now a motor technician for Valley Metro, a full-time position he accepted before graduating from TSTC.

Guillermo Zapata, Valley Metro maintenance supervisor, said Ochoa made a positive first impression.

“Juan came in knowledgeable and ready to work. And he’s continued to show us that he is a valuable employee,” said Zapata. “He’s a hard worker, always willing to help and learn new things and a team player. In fact, we’ve always had a great experience when we hire TSTC graduates.”

Ochoa said he feels that TSTC has given him a leg up compared to others his age because while some of his friends and acquaintances are still completing their degrees or searching for jobs, he has already started his career with great pay and benefits. And better yet, no debt.

“I was never the studious type, but I knew TSTC would be my door to greater opportunities,” said Ochoa. “And it has paid off big and I hope that I can share my knowledge and advice with others to show them how an education can make all of the difference.”

Ochoa said his future goals are to continue climbing the ladder in the industry and becoming an Automotive Technology instructor at TSTC.

“TSTC really challenges us to learn and become critical thinkers. They genuinely want to see us succeed,” he said. “I highly recommend TSTC for anyone looking for a career.”

For more information on Automotive Technology, also offered at TSTC’s Sweetwater and Waco campuses, visit tstc.edu/programs/AutomotiveTechnology.