HARLINGEN – Mercedes’ Melissa Castro became interested in the automotive industry thanks to the motivation of her uncle, who was a mechanic. His approach to solving automotive problems impressed her.
After the death of her uncle, the hardworking mother of four wanted more for her family. Now, she’s pursuing an associate’s degree in applied science in automotive technology at the Harlingen campus of Texas State Technical College.
“I remember my uncle working on my aunt’s vehicle alternator,” she said. “I found it very interesting when I was a teenager. Now that I’m older, not only do I want to continue his memory, but I also want to graduate from TSTC.”
Castro is one of two women enrolled in the traditionally male-dominated program, and she feels empowered.
She said any woman can do a man’s job.
“All you have to do is put your heart and soul into the work,” she said.
As Castro’s automotive knowledge grew, she said her uncle’s spirit was there with her every step of the way.
“He always told me to keep going and never give up,” she said.
Miguel Zoleta, a TSTC automotive technology instructor at the Harlingen campus, said Castro shows strong initiative and performs class assignments exceptionally well.
“His work ethic is incredible,” he said.
Castro’s favorite program experiences have been rotating and changing tires and removing the brakes. She remembers a class assignment in which each student had to perform a tire removal.
“I allowed some of my classmates to do the tire removal before it was my turn,” she said. “A lot of male students were surprised that I finished it faster than them.”
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology and an Automotive Technician Certificate of Completion at campuses in Harlingen, Sweetwater, and Waco. Several other certificates, including the Chrysler Specialization, Tesla START Technician, and Toyota T-TEN Specialization, as well as an Automotive Basic Vocational Skills Award, are also available, depending on campus location.
The need for qualified automotive technicians and mechanics is expected to increase in Texas over the next few years. According to onetonline.org, Texas has more than 60,000 technicians employed across the state, and that number is expected to reach 65,000 by 2028. The average annual salary for a technician in the state is $45,520.
To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.