Riding into a Strong Career


Almost everyone drives cars to get around. Personal vehicles, work vehicles, and even public transit.

South Texas College is committed to training and preparing the next wave of automotive technicians, mechanics and specialists to keep the wheels turning.

“Career and technical education basically is providing the skills to students to an industry that is expanding, and there is a big need for them,” STC Instructor Roberto Hernandez said.

The need is here, and so are dedicated students within the program who are expanding their knowledge and career potential in the Automotive Technology program.

“I got interested in it because growing up our cars ended up breaking down, and I didn’t know anything,” said Stephanie Guerra, a student in the program. “We would get stranded at the mall or at the gas station. We didn’t know what to do — even if it was a simple cable that was disconnected or a terminal. That’s what interested me.”

Another student, Faith Villanueva, always had an interest because it was part of the family.

“I also just had an interest in cars,” she said. “Ever since I was little seeing my dad work on the cars, I just always liked to be asking questions and seeing what they were doing.”

A big part of the program is linking students with actual decision-makers and companies in the field that can offer internships and employment opportunities.

“We provide opportunities to students — graduating and current —  by working with the local advisory committee from the automotive industry,” Hernandez said. “They provide internships, maybe apprenticeships or some type of work-related skill while they’re still learning and being able to work at the same time.”

Natasha Del Barrio is the CEO of Bert Ogden Auto Group. Her dealerships have been working with STC students for years, and she complimented the quality of autoworkers that the program produces.

“We have been so phenomenally impressed with the quality of individuals that we received out of their automotive technology program,” Del Barrio said. “We’ve been so impressed with how they’ve allowed us to partner with them. The students that come to work with us are high quality.”

Instructor Ricardo Garcia also explained the importance of students getting hands-on experience in these opportunities. He talked about the opportunities for students to work on large pieces of construction machinery.

“There are companies out there that want to help students become interns and get better training when they go into the field,” Garcia said. “They’re going to be working with vehicles and heavy construction equipment.

“It would help the students a lot, because for a fact they’re going to be getting the experience; and they’re going to be pushed to learn more and not get nervous when they’re actually working with these big pieces of equipment.”

Villanueva spoke about being a woman in the field that is male-majority but is slowly changing over time.

“There’s not a lot of females that pursue this career,” she said. “If you like it, do it. Don’t be afraid to try it. If you have a passion for it, just pursue it. It doesn’t matter if you might be afraid of what people will say.”

She also talked about the longevity of the position and the constant need for people to enter the field.

“Automotive techs are very important,” Villanueva said. “I feel like there’s never going to be enough of us. There are a lot of cars — everyone needs a car. There are not enough people that know about it.”

South Texas College provides services to special needs students, such as ASL interpreters in class, to help learners.

The program offers different levels of education including Occupational Skills Awards, certificates and associate degrees. Prospective students can visit southtexascollege.edu/academics/automotive/ or call 1-855-Go-To-STC. Supported with THECB Perkins Basic funding.

Nathaniel Mata