Pete Thul, instructor of electrical construction at Northwest Technical College, considers himself a perpetual student and is always looking to better his understanding of the field.
In 2021, Thul accepted a part-time position at PotlatchDeltic, a lumber manufacturing company in Bemidji, to bring real-world experiences into the classroom.
“I needed the experience because I want to take my classes and make them as applicable as possible,” he said. “I wanted to spend more time doing the work because this stuff is changing all the time. It’s important for me to stay up-to-date. If I don’t it will outpace me very rapidly.”
Additionally, Thul said he’s also using the work experience to develop new labs and course work at Northwest Tech so students will be better prepared for their careers.
“I think there is a universal perception of what it means to be an electrician,” Thul said. “Being in this profession challenges you to go beyond this perception because there is always something new to learn.”
Thul joined the NTC faculty in 2013 as an adjunct instructor. At the time he was working at Itasca State Park as a master electrician. He was only teaching one class at Northwest Tech, but when a full-time position opened, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I found that I liked it. It was challenging and rewarding,” Thul said. “I thought it was something I could become very good at.”
Hired to teach courses on industrial and commercial electrical construction, Thul organized a student tour of Potlatch before he started work for the company. He wanted his students to witness the industrial side of electrical construction in real time.
The partnership between NTC and Potlach quickly grew when Thul coordinated an internship opportunity for a first-year student in the program. In the process he joked that if Potlatch needs another intern, he’s their guy. Little did he know the joke would develop into one of his most fulfilling career experiences.
Potlatch followed up and offered him a position as a part-time electrician. The job gives him more experience in the field, he said, which in turn helps him be a better teacher for his students.
“The experience gave me validity in my labs and makes me that much more confident,” he said. “I have real-world stories behind what I’m teaching and the more I can make it relevant to my students the better.”
About Electrical Construction at Northwest Tech
At NTC, students can obtain a variety of credentials in electrical construction, including certificates in commercial wiring, residential wiring or electrical instrumentation, a diploma in electrical construction and maintenance or an associate of applied science degree in electrical construction and maintenance. Each credential builds on the one before it, and all offer job opportunities in the Bemidji region.