Daniel Zuñiga has been the Construction Technology instructor at Texas Southmost College since 2013. This fall, along with TSC leadership and administration, he will help introduce the program’s first associate’s degree track.
The Harlingen native’s journey in construction began in middle school when he took his first wood shop class. The interest continued into high school as a building trades student. He eventually decided it was the career he should follow.
“I’m the person who learns by doing. I need to work with my hands,” said Zuñiga. “When I found wood shop and later construction, this was the career that made sense for me.”
Zuñiga later earned an associate degree in drafting and design from a local college. Even so, he continued working in construction remodeling and renovating historical buildings in the Valley.
This gig eventually led to his two-decade career with the facilities department at the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College. Here, he assisted with the renovation of historical buildings on campus.
“In 2013, when UTB/TSC was undergoing its separation, I had an opportunity to teach,” he said. “I honestly never thought about teaching, but looking back throughout my career, I was already teaching by training others in the trade, so I went for it.”
For the past eight years, Zuñiga has trained hundreds of TSC students in construction trades. He teaches skills in numerous areas of the industry such as material budgeting, power tool use, equipment and tool safety, framing, blueprint reading, and carpentry.
However, the construction industry is growing exponentially and skilled workers are in demand. Because of this, TSC made the decision to expand its construction offerings to include not only a certificate, but a new associate degree pathway.
The new two-year, associate degree program will focus on construction management, training the next generation of foremen, estimators and supervisors.
“Our goal is to produce highly skilled, highly trained construction trades men and women that the industry needs,” said Zuñiga. “I already have great students who I can see going far in this profession. In construction there is a lot to look forward to if you work hard and dedicate yourself to the career.”
Zuñiga sees firsthand the value in students interning with construction companies, in addition to the hands-on training already provided at the campus’ construction labs.
“In this field, the more hands-on training you receive, the more prepared you are to enter the field,” he said. “When students work on job sites, they are exposed to real-world scenarios and are able to practice basic skills.”
Zuñiga says there are a number of areas a person can specialize in construction. With the program, students gain experience so they can explore and discover where their skills are strongest.
“You can’t go wrong with this program or deciding on a career in construction,” said Zuñiga. “There is something for everyone interested in this field and here at TSC, they will gain the foundational knowledge and skills they need to build a successful career.”
TSC’s Construction Technology program will begin offering its associate’s degree track in fall 2021.