Northwest Technical College has received a $185,000 grant from Bemidji’s George W. Neilson Foundation to fund equipment, faculty support and professional development for the college’s new Commercial Refrigeration/HVAC program, which begins this fall.
The grant will provide a $150,000 match for equipment purchases, which the college will receive before June 30, and $35,000 for faculty support and professional development after July 1 — and after the college hires faculty to teach the program.
“We are excited about the support from the Neilson Foundation,” said Darrin Strosahl, the college’s vice president for academic and student affairs. “The foundation’s generous contributions will be crucial in helping Northwest Technical College serve this region with a Commercial Refrigeration program.”
The $150,000 designated for equipment has an additional benefit: it opens a possibility for matching funds through the Minnesota State system’s Leveraged Equipment Fund.
“The leveraged equipment program requires a donation or contribution to be obtained by the college and then those dollars are matched through that program,” Strosahl said. “So the $150,000 from the Neilson Foundation for equipment will be matched with $150,000 from that state leveraged equipment funding program.
“That means we’ll have $300,000 of new equipment to ensure our technical instruction in commercial refrigeration is up to date and technically sound.”
Strosahl said the college will first purchase technical training platforms which will teach students how to monitor processes in and performance of commercial refrigeration systems, while also offering opportunities for troubleshooting.
Strosahl said the training platforms are just the beginning of the college’s long-term plans to equip the program.
“Next year we will make another round of leveraged equipment purchases,” he said. “So between this summer and the next school year, there will be a significant amount of equipment coming in to ensure our students can gain the technical skills they need.”
Commercial Refrigeration/HVAC at NTC
NTC created its Commercial Refrigeration/HVAC program in direct response to feedback from north-central Minnesota commercial refrigeration employers. They reported a shortage of skilled employees in the field during a December listening session at the college.
“We listened to business and industry in December, and by March we’ve got approval for a new program,” Strosahl said at an April 2 event to announce the program. “This is a quick turnaround and something we’re really proud of.”
The program will offer a 60-credit diploma combining courses from the college’s current Plumbing/HVAC and Electrical Construction & Maintenance programs with a 15-credit block of new Commercial Refrigeration courses, along with general education requirements.
Strosahl said the program will provide training and coursework that directly correlates to business and industry requests. Initially, about 60 percent of its instruction will be in classrooms with the rest occurring in hands-on training and field experience. Students will take courses in electrical theory and advanced electronics and motor controls along with specialized coursework exploring commercial refrigeration systems and equipment.
About the George W. Neilson Foundation
The George W. Neilson Foundation follows the wishes of contributor Katharine Neilson Cram and concentrates its giving programs on the city of Bemidji and the surrounding area — where Cram spent summers as a child and lived later in her life. The foundation supports community development projects by making grants to programs and projects that improve the lives of the area’s children, adults and senior citizens.
George W. Neilson established the foundation in 1962 as an irrevocable trust with an endowment of 1,500 shares of stock in 3M worth approximately $100,000. This trust was named the George W. Neilson Foundation, which Cram — Neilson’s daughter — directed until her death in 2000.
- Darren Strosahl, vice president for academic and student affairs, Northwest Technical College, (218) 333-6611, Darrin.Strosahl@ntcmn.edu