Texas Border Business
HARLINGEN, Texas – The Texas State Technical College Wind Energy Technology program is welcoming back one of its own.
David Wheelock worked on wind farms since 2014 — shortly after he graduated from the program at TSTC. This semester, he returned to TSTC to start teaching as the program’s newest instructor.
“It’s a good experience,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with people and trying to teach them how to do something. It’s an interesting dynamic, coming back and teaching what I’ve learned in the field.”
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology and a Wind Energy Technician certificate of completion at its campuses in Harlingen and Sweetwater.
Wheelock joins a team of three other instructors on the Harlingen campus with experience in the wind industry. It is not the first time he and TSTC Wind Energy Technology lead instructor Patrick Zoerner have crossed paths — they attended TSTC together.
“He’s a wonderful guy, great attitude, has a positive outlook on everything,” Zoerner said. “It’s nice, and that’s what we have: My entire team is like that.”
Wheelock looks forward to sharing his knowledge with students and getting them ready for their future careers.
“Hopefully I can prepare them because I’ve actually been out there — I’ve spent almost a decade out there, working, doing exactly what they plan on doing after they graduate TSTC,” he said.
Wheelock’s biggest piece of advice to prospective students is that they have a good work ethic, especially in an industry that can include 4 a.m. start times, brutal heat and dangerous conditions.
For students who can master the demands, a career in the wind industry can be transformational.
“This is how you can change your life and your family’s lives, by working in an industry that’s in high demand and pays very well,” Wheelock said. “TSTC is very well-equipped to teach you the things that you need to learn in order to be a success out there in the field.”
In Texas, wind turbine service technicians can make an average of $52,420 per year, and wind energy development managers can earn an average annual salary of $121,240, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Onetonline.org forecasts 83% growth for wind turbine service technicians and 17% growth for wind energy development managers through 2028 in the state.
Wheelock is not the only new component of TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology program on the Harlingen campus.
The program is taking advantage of its expanded space, adding more trainer equipment for the 82 students training this semester.
“They help prepare students for the workforce, out in the field,” Zoerner said. “It helps them learn electrical troubleshooting, motor controls, fluid power for the hydraulics, and generator maintenance and troubleshooting.”
The climbing cage, where students learn self-rescues and tandem rescues, has also been expanded.
“I’m looking forward to having these guys get out into the workforce and get hired with the knowledge and experience that the industry is wanting,” Zoerner said.