Jun 15, 2023

TJC industrial maintenance students gain on

Published: Wednesday, 2nd August 2023

Students in TJC’s Industrial Maintenance Technology program are putting their classroom knowledge to practical use — and getting paid for it — during summer internships with area businesses.

Leo Velazquez, of Tyler, is spending the summer honing his electrical skills at Tyler Pipe, a local manufacturer of cast iron soil pipe and fittings for the plumbing industry.

“It’s everything from A to Z,” he said. “If it’s electrical, you’re doing it. It’s everything from just a small plug or light bulb all the way to troubleshooting huge machinery, working on computers, programming the machines, and everything else that comes with it.”

Velazquez’s classmate Luke Cote is interning at Cardinal Health in Jacksonville. Cardinal Health is a global manufacturer and distributor of medical and laboratory products for healthcare facilities.

“I’m generally helping anyone on maintenance,” Cote said. “I’m getting lots of experience in several aspects of the industrial maintenance field. It’s not repetitive, that’s for sure.”

Although they’re only one year into their two-year degree program at TJC, Velazquez and Cote agree that they felt prepared for their summer work environment.

“I wasn’t really huge on going to school at first,” Velazquez said. “It was a different challenge, and you’ve got to really study and take it more seriously because there’s more at stake. It was a good first year.”

Cote said, “The internship really ties in the fundamentals we learn in class. It’s one thing to read about it in a book and seeing it on paper vs. applying it to the real world and using the things we’ve learned in the classroom in our everyday world. Plus, in this internship, I’m making more money than in any other summer I’ve ever worked, whether it was in construction, plumbing or whatever. Just going to school for a year, look where I am now.”

Reece Clark, of Troup, has been working at Cardinal for about three years. Through an apprentice program with TJC, Clark is gaining new skills that will help him advance in his career.

“I started at the very bottom at the operator level here and worked my way up to lead operator, but that’s as far as I could go unless I wanted to wait 15 years to be a mold tech,” Clark said. “I didn’t want to wait that long to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. TJC really opened the door for me to move up in just a year instead, of 15 years. I’ve learned a trade. I had used tools and done odd jobs my whole life, but TJC helped me get my foot in the door in maintenance.”

At Tyler Pipe, Velazquez was paired with a mentor and former TJC apprentice, Justin Session, of Tyler, who recently graduated from the TJC electrical program.

“I’ve been employed at Tyler Pipe since 2018,” Session said. “I was in the production department first, but then I heard about their apprenticeship program in which Tyler Pipe pays for you to go to school at TJC. The electrical part of it is four years. I did that from 2019 and just finished my apprenticeship in May. Electricians are few and far between, so I feel like it’s a good trade that can take you far. If you learn it and master it, you’re an asset out in the world.”

Whether it’s a new student looking for a starting point or an experienced worker seeking to build on their skills for career advancement, TJC industrial maintenance program has a pathway to success.

Clark said, “If you’re mechanically inclined, like tools and want to learn and work with your hands, TJC will get you a job in a year as a maintenance guy. This is the best job I’ve ever had. In one year, you can be in a good maintenance job somewhere. You could be 19 years old and working with 50-year-olds who worked their whole lives to get there.”

Cote agrees, “The great thing is that, with the experience you get in the internship and through the industrial maintenance program, you can go anywhere from coast to coast. I don’t have definite plans for after TJC; but I’ll have a degree and experience, and that could take me anywhere.”

For more on the TJC Industrial Maintenance Technology program, go to

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