From the Iron Range to Greater Minnesota, NTC Plumber Joins State-Wide Business

Steven Kemp in the plumbing lab
Steven Kemp ’21

Northwest Technical College senior Steven Kemp has always wanted to be a plumber. Hailing from the small Iron Range town of Eveleth, Minn., Kemp jumped at the opportunity to attend a college in the north woods.

Coming from a small community, with only 58 students in his high school graduating class, Kemp knew he wanted to retain a close-knit learning environment and Northwest Tech was the perfect fit.

“I wanted a school where I could create deep connections with my instructors,” he said. “I saw that class sizes were going to be less than 30 and saw the opportunity to excel with the one-on-one time offered.”

Through a partnership between Northwest Tech and Bemidji State University Kemp was able to live in student housing only a few miles away.

“When I was looking for colleges with plumbing programs around Minnesota, I saw that I could live in the dorm at Bemidji State if I attended Northwest Tech, and that sounded nice,” he said. “I really wanted the college experience while paying for a two-year college, so it was the best of both worlds.”

Kemp enrolled in NTC’s plumbing and HVAC program in Fall 2019 and was soon scouted by St. Cloud Refrigeration, a state-wide leader in the commercial refrigeration and HVAC business.

Kemp began working for the company during the summer of 2020 and is currently an intern at its Brainerd, Minn., branch. With plumbers in high demand, the company offered Kemp a partial-tuition scholarship and at least two years of employment after graduation.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that retirements in the plumbing profession are driving expected openings.

“One of the stats I saw when looking into the profession was that there is one plumber entering the field for every five retiring. This means there is a huge demand for plumbers,” Kemp said. “If I can learn from one of the plumbers going out, I can get a real foot in the door.”

When on campus, Kemp can be found in Northwest Tech’s Sustainable Energy Technologies center, which was recently converted to the plumbing and HVAC lab. The lab serves as the central hub for plumbing and HVAC students to work with state-of-art field technology.

“I really like the SET building and how we’re still a part of the tech, but we have our own building where we can work on projects. We can take apart a bathroom and build our own if we wanted,” he said. “It’s a simulated environment that gives students a taste of the real world while keeping it simple.”

In addition to his admiration for the interactive lab and his classmates, Kemp has also made strong relationships with his teachers Julian Dreher, plumbing and HVAC instructor, Jeff Brower, plumbing faculty, and John Kenny, commercial refrigeration faculty. He is especially grateful to have retained his on-campus, lab experiences with his instructors.

“We are their journeymen. They treat us well and keep us coming back,” he said. “I was very thankful that NTC was all in person this year. We couldn’t have learned nearly what we did if it was hybrid or distant.”

Wasting no time between his education and his career, Kemp will start as a full-time employee at St. Cloud Refrigeration in Brainerd on May 17.

Residential Plumbing / HVAC

At Northwest Technical College in Bemidji, students can obtain a diploma in residential plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Explore traditional and emerging energy solutions in a field offering job opportunities in the Bemidji region.