Growing up on 5 acres near Eustace, Tanner Nolen learned from a young age about the value of working with his hands and learning to fix things.
“I was homeschooled from fourth grade through high school, and my schedule was flexible so that I could also work on the ranch — fixing fences and working on tractors — when I was finished with my schoolwork,” Nolen said.
After earning his high school diploma in 2020, Nolen knew he wanted to specialize in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), so he enrolled in Tyler Junior College’s HVAC/Refrigeration program at TJC West.
“I started researching the recommended programs nearby, and TJC always showed up in the searches as highly rated,” he said. “The program was well established, and when I came over and spoke with Bill Stiles (department chair/professor) and he showed me around, that pretty well settled it.”
In May, Nolen earned his basic and advanced certificates in HVAC/Refrigeration.
“The program was great from start to finish,” he said. “Everyone at TJC was great, but I would say Bill Stiles and Cory Fowler were my favorite instructors. They taught me what I needed to know to get me where I am now.”
Stiles said, “Tanner is a young man of such quality and ability. Whenever his classmates were stymied by some technical issue during our labs, Tanner would patiently help them work through the problem. He has been a great student — one of the finest we have ever had.”
Nolen said, “I would add that doing the TJC certificate program also gave me enough time to have a job at the same time, which meant I was able to work at a company in the HVAC field while I was in school. That was one of the best choices for me, being able to apply the textbook info that I was learning in class to what I was doing with my hands at work on a day-to-day basis.”
Today, Nolen is an HVAC service technician at TD Industries, a Richardson-based facilities services and mechanical construction company.
His days are spent working on rooftops and mechanical rooms all over the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, braving the heat so companies and their employees can stay cool.
“It’s hot, for sure, but I really enjoy what I’m doing,” he said.
Nolen said he plans to take online classes to complete his Associate of Applied Science degree, but for now, he’s focused on his new job.
“For the moment, I just want to continue building my knowledge and being the best tech I can be.”
Asked if he had any advice for aspiring HVAC/Refrigeration techs, Nolen said, “I would recommend to students going through the program to get a job doing the things you’re learning. It gives you a better understanding of how it all works and enables you to visualize it.”
For more information on the TJC HVAC/Refrigeration program and other professional and technical programs, go to TJC.edu/ProfTech.