Northwest Tech Retains Hands-on Student Experience by Modernizing Trades and Industry Labs

Northwest Technical College has constructed and modernized several labs on campus to safely provide on-site training opportunities for students.

Combining internal funds with donations from the George W. Neilson Foundation and Lueken’s Village Foods, NTC updated the commercial refrigeration and automotive labs while adding a new programmable logic controller lab to give students an enhanced learning experience.

Monty Johnson, NTC’s dean of skilled trades, business and industry emphasized the importance of retaining as many interactive experiences for students as possible amidst a pandemic.

“Northwest Technical College is doing everything we can to acknowledge that students come here for a hands-on experience and we will give them as much of that as possible given the circumstances,” he said.

The auto lab received new light fixtures, lifts, an overhead crane, an updated alignment machine and an updated wheel balancer. Meanwhile, the commercial refrigeration lab received $4,800 worth of refrigeration equipment from Lueken’s to replicate the field environment.

Previously, NTC’s commercial refrigeration program shared lab space with plumbing students in the Sustainable Energy Technologies center near campus. The construction of a new auto lab made way for the commercial refrigeration program to repurpose the old auto lab into a training space equipped with walk-in, reach-in and stand-up coolers, a display case for meat and the appropriate modules that accompany them.

“We are very excited that Lueken’s is able to help Northwest Technical College,” Leon Merck, chief executive officer of Luekens Food Stores Inc., said. “It’s nice to be able to repurpose the equipment.”

Johnson said the new programmable logic controller lab will allow future electricians access to cutting edge technology that achieves optimal mechanical functions.

“This is the most advanced programmable logic controller lab a student will find in the area,” Johnson said. “Any electrical work that is completed using a computer can be done within this lab. Up until now, electrical students at NTC didn’t have their own space and worked with trainers in NTC’s Sustainable Energies Technology building. Now, we have all the major components that a student would experience on an actual work site.”

The labs became available for students throughout the fall semester with the programmable logic controller lab opening at the start of the semester, the automotive lab opening in October and the commercial refrigeration lab opening in mid-November.

“Students will be working on modernized equipment that represents the real world,” Johnson said. “Upholding the hands-on components of our programs was of the utmost importance throughout this process. Our students have the chance to easily make the transition from college to the workplace. This will give them an edge when they are going into a job.”



MN State logoNorthwest Technical College, located in northern Minnesota’s lake district, has prepared students for fulfilling careers in high-demand fields for more than 50 years. The college’s accessible, affordable, hands-on programs also help the region’s employers meet their ever-growing need for a highly skilled workforce. NTC serves more than 1,000 students with an excellent education, an open-enrollment policy and affordable tuition. Students may pursue nearly 40 degree, diploma and certificate programs in six distinct career paths. Classes are offered on campus, online, or as a combination of both. NTC is a member of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities. For more, visit