Healthy and Secure: A glimpse into Northland’s nursing programs

 

            Everyday more and more nurses are reaching retirement age in Minnesota and as they retire, the need for skilled nurses increases dramatically. Well-qualified nurses are in high demand throughout the state but nowhere is this more evident than in northwest Minnesota. The regional employment outlook is calling for over a 20 percent increase of nurses between 2009 and 2019. With the increasing nursing shortage looming in the next ten years, employers are desperately searching for workers to fill their ranks. Northland Community & Technical College is at the forefront of producing highly employable nurses.

 

“Nurses comprise the largest singe component of hospital staff, are the primary providers of hospital patient care, and deliver most of the nation’s long-term care,” mentioned instructor Diane Scott.

 

Northland offers several different nursing education programs from practical to registered nursing. “Northland offers mobility and portability,” said instructor Kari Koenig. “Students can step out and work as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) for awhile before continuing on to the Associates Degree (AD) program. Or, they can articulate directly into the Registered Nursing (RN) program. The Practical Nursing (PN) program offers distance education, and the AD program offers block scheduling, making it easier to adapt their education schedules to their work schedules. Both programs also offer part-time and fulltime options,” she added.

 

Classes focus on individualized education and hands-on training. Students can expect an 11 to 1 student to faculty ratio. These small class sizes are vital as they allow students to have open discussions with their instructors and peers. “Northland’s program does an excellent job to help nurses learn to combine knowledge with practice,” stated a Northland graduate. Caring faculty who are seasoned and experienced that come from diverse backgrounds help students immerse themselves in learning.

 

Students combine lecture and lab in a way that allows for them to practice what they are taught. Students will learn to make judgments in practice, substantiated with evidence, that integrate nursing science in the provision of safe, quality care.

Practical application is crucial when preparing for a job in the nursing field and Northland’s instructors are there to make sure you are on the right track. Northland’s nursing programs focus on quality and safety with the student in mind.

 

“I can’t say thanks enough. All my instructors helped me obtain what I thought was unobtainable at times. I couldn’t have done it without them,” added another graduate. Students can expect to be challenged in their education but faculty strives to prepare you for the real life situations that occur on the job. Simulated environments help the students to gain confidence in their abilities thanks to state-of-the-art labs and equipment.

 

Northland nursing students take two periods of clinicals that are designed for students to apply the skills they have learned in a medical setting under the direction of a medical professional. Each clinical course is an application of the nursing process, documentation, and conceptual and foundational skills along with the role of the practical nurse in a variety of clinical settings with selected clients. The course incorporates health theories as related to the needs of the clients in the role of prevention, promotion, and restoration. “We welcome the students to gain experience and knowledge completing their clinicals in our facility,” said Sanford CEO Christine Harff. There are at least five sites located near the campuses that students take their clinicals at.

 

“Sanford Medical Center in Thief River Falls is dependent on having skilled nurses care for our patients in the many areas of service we offer.  Northland Community & Technical College has been a partner in providing our community with the opportunity to gain the needed skills for nurses,” added Harff. It is no wonder why Northland’s nursing program has a 100 percent placement rate. “Northland doesn’t turn away qualified students,” concluded Scott.

 

Northland’s nursing programs are ripe with opportunity for people of all walks of life. According to indeed.com, the average RN salary in Minnesota is $73,000. Combine this with the nursing shortage that is projected to increase in the next five to 10 years, and you have a recipe for a vibrant and “healthy” career that starts at Northland. 

And The Beat Goes On with Leo Franco

Choosing a college to attend can be one of the most important decisions a person can make. People employ a variety of strategies to locate a school that fits their specific needs. Efforts vary greatly when pinpointing that “one” college and some go to inordinate lengths to make sure they end up in the best location possible. Calling and researching all 29 colleges in the USA that offer an Invasive Cardiovascular Technology program from Hawaii and asking each detailed questions about their college and the program is the way one Northland Community and Technical College student came to East Grand Forks to enroll in the Cardiovascular Technology- Invasive program. 

Leo Franco was born in Cuba before moving to Spain and eventually Hawaii, used this exact approach to find the best Invasive Cardiovascular Technology program in the country for his needs. While living in Hawaii a good friend went into cardiac arrest. He stayed with his friend at the hospital in Honolulu for nearly a week. It was during this time that he was shown a video about the cardio unit his friend was receiving his treatment in and it “just clicked”. 

Franco had been looking to go into a health related field for some time and this was the moment he knew that it was time and that the cardiovascular technology program was where he belonged. The only question that remained was where to go to get the best education for the program. He began researching colleges and found 29 schools that offered the program. He personally called every school and gathered as much information as possible to make an informed decision. After the calls and Internet research, he narrowed it down to a school in Kentucky and Northland Community & Technical College. With tuition much more reasonable and pre-requisite classes included in the program, Franco decided to make Northland his college of choice.

Franco had been working as an interpreter and doing construction work in Hawaii and admits he had been “out of school for a while.” He studied diligently for three weeks and did very well on his entrance tests. “April 2011 was an important month for me. Everything happened in such a short time!” mentioned Franco. He packed all of his belongings in his SUV and had it shipped from Hawaii to Seattle, WA. He flew there and waited for his vehicle with all of his possessions inside of it to arrive. Once it arrived he punched his destination in his smart phone and started driving. Franco drove for four days to reach East Grand Forks, MN just days before his classes started. “The landscape and climate changed drastically! I have never been anywhere so flat,” added Franco. 

He arrived on May 13, 2011 and classes were set to start on May 16. Franco had never been in the area before, knew no one when he arrived, and didn’t have living arrangements. He checked into a motel for a few days but had a place to live and a roommate with similar interests within two days. The night before classes were scheduled to begin, Franco had never seen campus so he plugged the address into his phone and decided he better see where it was before classes started the next morning.

“I prefer to make arrangements as I go, meet the locals and make decisions based on what I am seeing rather than make reservations in advance,” said Franco. Franco is an avid world traveler having visited 13 countries and 29 states, visiting some countries up to seven times. From China to Egypt to Central America and New Zealand, Franco has traveled this way and has the stories to prove that he knows what he is doing. His interests include traveling, hunting, fishing, and cooking; the Grand Forks area proved to offer much of what he was looking for. As he put it, “although much colder, it’s been a good fit for me.” 

“I really like the smaller class sizes. It’s been great, I am really thankful for the one-on-one time and I like being in the lab,” said Franco. The two-year program that includes a five-month clinical period, prepares students through the use of specific high-technology equipment at the direction of qualified physicians, to assist in the performance of procedures on patients leading to the diagnosis and treatment of congenital and acquired heart disease. “English is my second language so I need to hear the technical jargon several times and the instructor is great about giving us a lot of time. They want us to succeed; they let us know the key points and what we will be tested on so we can really focus on those points. They are always willing to go out of their way to answer questions anytime,” said Franco. He added, “We are like a small family (referring to the students in the program), you get to know everyone in the program. It’s great.”

“We can do our clinicals anywhere if the hospital and college can make an agreement. It is up to us to start the process and I have been in contact with several hospitals across the country,” stated Franco. The five-month clinical period is performed at multiple locations so students see different scenarios and get a wide scope of how things are done in different hospitals. Upon completion of the program the student will be prepared to enter a rapidly growing workforce. “There is a projected 26 percent increase in jobs for this,” stressed Franco. Franco hopes to move to Utah or possibly Alaska to get a job upon graduation. 

Franco exemplifies how Northland is not simply a school with a local reach. Northland’s cutting-edge technology and well-educated instructors that teach innovative programs prove that Northland can compete with any school in the country; just ask the other 28 schools that missed out on Leo Franco.

Turning it up with Britt Duffey

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” This desire to be successful can lead people to places they wouldn’t expect to go. This was the case for Northland Community & Technical College student Britt Duffey. Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, she has challenged herself to be successful in all that she does. In true entrepreneurial spirit, she made a move from Phoenix to Thief River Falls two weeks before the fall semester began to jumpstart her education. And when you don’t know a soul in the area besides family, what do you do to immerse yourself in the community? If you are Northland student Britt Duffey, you become a DJ for Pioneer 90.1.

Music has always been an important part of her life and she appreciates all kinds of music, especially alternative stuff people don’t hear all the time. “I really enjoy broadening people’s horizons when it comes to music,” mentioned Duffey. “I had no radio background whatsoever. I heard an ad about becoming a DJ and wrote the name down, I pondered it for like two weeks before I went there to see if they needed any help of any kind. I had no idea I was going to become a DJ but within the week they had me on the air,” said Duffey. She has been with Pioneer 90.1 for nearly three months and is enjoying the freedom to share different music that is coming to the area with the community. “The station allows me so much freedom to play what I think is important, I might play a YouTube clip from Family Guy, a lesser known artist, or Rage Against the Machine. It’s up to you what gets played when you are working and I really enjoy that.”

ImageDuffey, who is originally from Bismarck, moved around quite a bit when she was younger living in locales as far away as South Africa and attending high school in Phoenix. Before attending Northland, Duffey along with several family members opened up a chain of boutique stores. She was working 50 to 60 hours per week keeping up with the demands of being a business owner in several different locations. After this, she moved back to Phoenix and her mom and sister were living in Thief River Falls. After a period of time in Phoenix she decided she needed to be back in school. After careful deliberation, she decided to make the move to attend Northland’s Thief River Falls campus.

“It’s just a nice town with nice people. Plus I love the water.” added Duffey. “It was a bit of culture shock moving from Phoenix to Thief River but I enjoy the town and what it has to offer. One of my favorite parts is the great farmers markets,” she said. The town isn’t the only thing she likes; she has found Northland to be a great fit for her educational needs. 

“It’s the smallest school I have ever been to but that has its advantages too. The teachers are very personable and willing to help with anything. Plus, this school made it easier for me to get back into the swing of things since I took some time off from school and it would’ve been tougher going to a bigger college. I also really like the advantage of having multiple campuses,” said Duffey. She plans to complete her studies at Northland and transfer to UND for the Entrepreneurship program. After completing her education she has visions of starting up an Ecommerce business as well as a medical equipment sales business. 

“I’d like to stay at Pioneer 90.1 throughout college, both at Northland and while at UND,” mentioned Duffey. “I would encourage anyone to give it (Pioneer 90.1) a try because you don’t need any experience, I am proof of that. They are so flexible and it’s a lot of fun. You could do a show or you and a friend could do a show together, there is just so much freedom. Plus it looks really good on your resume,” stated Duffey. “All you have to do is go into the station and talk to Mark and he’ll help you with the rest,” she concluded.

“Action may speak louder than words but not nearly as often,” according to Mark Twain however Britt Duffey shows that actions combined with words can be a pretty powerful combination for success. She is an exemplary of the entrepreneurial spirit that is strong at Northland Community & Technical College.

Northland Brings VEX 360° Robotics Competition To Minnesota

On Feb. 24, 2012 high school students from across the region will participate in the VEX Robotics Competition (VRC) at Northland Community & Technical College’s Thief River Falls campus. The Vex Robotics Competition has 3500 teams participating in over 250 tournaments worldwide. This will mark the first year Minnesota will have held a qualifying VRC event. “We want to expose students to the world of Electronics Technology, and this event is a great way to reach out to high school students,” said Electronics Technology instructor Andrew Dahlen.

 

In 2010 there was not a single VRC team in Minnesota. Last year, the Electronics Technology and Automated Systems Program at Northland in a joint effort with The 360° Center for Applied Engineering and Manufacturing established eight VEX Robotics Teams in northwest Minnesota. 360° provided $15,000 to fund this initiative that purchased a $1500 robotics kit for each participating school. From December to May high school teams from Ada to Lancaster met once a month at Northland to prepare and practice for the first tournament held on May 15. The event was not a qualifying event because a tournament must have at least 16 teams. “Although it wasn’t a qualifying event, it was a great experience and showed us how to build the competition into a qualifying event,” added Dahlen.

 

Based upon the results of the 2010/2011 pilot project, 360° Center for Applied Engineering and Manufacturing have budgeted to create and support 44 teams for this year’s events in Minnesota. “This event will give great exposure not only to Northland but to topics including mechanical systems, programming, sensors, motion control, and problem solving. These are things students don’t have a lot of exposure to but really should. The aim of this entire VRC initiative is to grow student interest in technology,” mentioned Dahlen.

 

44 teams have been created in Minnesota. Northland and the ETAS program directly support 16 of those. The state has been divided into northern and southern regions. The northern competition will be held at Northland and the southern competition will be held at St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

 

This year’s northern competition will host 20 schools and approximately 120 students. This will be the first VEX Robotics Competition qualifying event held in Minnesota. The event will be held in the Northland gym. Digi-Key is a major sponsor of the event and will provide lunch, give each student a Digi-Key thumb drive, and will send employees to act as officials for the event.

 

The actual event is played out on a 12’ by 12’ mat. The mat has different obstacles students have to maneuver their vehicles around to do various tasks such as pick up oddly shaped objects and place them in small containers. Teams receive a robotics kit at the beginning of the year and it is up to them to design their vehicle based on their knowledge of robotic principles. The vehicles are set to function either on a set program or by use of a remote control and the competition tests both in timed rounds. Several practices are held at Northland for all teams to work collaboratively to see what is and isn’t working. They are given instruction and are allowed to practice on a mock field. “These practices really help out a lot, this way no one comes in blind,” added Dahlen, “It has a great degree of difficulty, but it isn’t too hard to get into it. We have teams with no prior knowledge and they do just fine.”

 

The winner of the Excellence Award at the Northland and SCTCC tournaments will go to the World Championship in Anaheim, California to compete. 360° will be taking care of the students travel costs to attend the championship. “It is a win, win situation for everyone. We show students what Northland has to offer and students get the chance to learn about cutting-edge technology at no cost to them,” said Dahlen.

 

The event is scheduled for Friday, Feb.24 2012 in the gym at Northland Community and Technical College’s Thief River Falls campus. Check-in time is at 8 a.m. and the opening ceremony is at 10 a.m. The event will end at 4:30 p.m. “The public is welcome to attend the event and we encourage any interested schools to bring students over for the day to see the event,” concluded Dahlen.

 

A MnSCU Center of Excellence, 360° is a consortium of 10 MnSCU institutions led by Bemidji State University. 360° has nine two-year community and technical college members: Central Lakes College, Lake Superior College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Northland Community and Technical College, Northwest Technical College, Pine Technical College, Riverland Community College, St. Paul College, and St. Cloud Technical and Community College. 360° is building a pipeline of talented individuals for the advanced manufacturing industry by promoting the industry and providing accurate and enticing career information to individuals at all levels; from middle school age and adult workers. 360° is a partnership of MnSCU education institutions, K-12 education, manufacturing businesses and industries, and workforce and economic development organizations.

 

Northland Community and Technical College (northlandcollege.edu) is a comprehensive college with campuses in Thief River Falls, MN and East Grand Forks, MN. It also has a separate aviation campus in Thief River Falls, MN and a satellite site in Roseau, MN. It offers certificates, diplomas, transfer-courses, two-year AAS degrees in more than 60 areas of study, workforce training and education programs.

THE DETROIT PISTONS DONATE SECOND GENERATION ROUNDBALL ONE (DC-9) TO NORTHLAND COMMUNITY & TECHNICAL COLLEGE FOUNDATION

 

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn.- The Detroit Pistons announced today the donation of their second generation Roundball One DC-9 aircraft to the Northland Community & Technical College Foundation to support Northland Community & Technical College’s (Northland) aerospace programs. Northland’s aviation campus is located in Thief River Falls, MN.  The DC-9 aircraft served as the Pistons’ team plane from 1998-2010.  The club’s latest generation of Roundball One, a MD-20 aircraft, debuted during the 2010-11 season.

 

“We are pleased to donate this aircraft to the aviation program at Northland Community & Technical College knowing that it will benefit a tremendous program and provide students the opportunity for future careers in the aviation field,” said Dennis Mannion, President of Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Pistons.

 

The Roundball DC-9 serviced Pistons’ teams that made six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals (2002-2008) and two NBA Finals appearances (2004, 2005), including the 2004 NBA Championship.  Other key flights included two “Flight of Champions” missions where the Pistons delivered relief items to survivors and relief workers affected by Hurricane Mitch in Central America in 1998 and Hurricane Katrina in the gulf coast in 2005.   

 

“We are honored and thankful to the Detroit Pistons for making such a generous donation,” said Dr. Anne Temte, Northland Community & Technical College president.”  She shared, “This aircraft donation will allow our students to have the important hands-on experience that is vital to professional success in the workforce.”

 

Northland Community & Technical College, home of Northland Aerospace, is one of the nation’s premiere aviation maintenance training schools.  Northland Aerospace features the aviation maintenance technology (AMT) and the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) maintenance training programs.  The AMT program is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) part 147 approved program. The UAS maintenance training program is the first of its kind in the nation.  Northland’s campus features 86,000 square feet of training area with cutting edge equipment.

 

The Roundball DC-9 aircraft will make its last voyage from Detroit Metro Airport on Friday, February 10 at 9:00 a.m. and will arrive at the Thief River Falls Airport on Friday, February 10 at 10:40 a.m. Media opportunities will exist immediately following the Roundball DC-9’s landing. Please contact Biggi Haraldsson at Northland Community & Technical College at 218-683-8825 for more information or to schedule any media requests.

 

For in-depth analysis by website editor Keith Langlois and special video content, visit www.pistons.com, the official source for news and features on the Detroit Pistons.

 

Northland Community and Technical College (northlandcollege.edu) is a comprehensive college with campuses in Thief River Falls, MN and East Grand Forks, MN. It also has a separate aviation campus in Thief River Falls, MN and a satellite site in Roseau, MN. It offers certificates, diplomas, transfer courses, two-year AAS degrees in more than 60 areas of study, workforce training and education programs.

Northland Community and Technical College is a member of the Minnesota State College and Universities system and is an Equal Opportunity educator and employer.

 

IGNITE Scholarship Benefits Entire Community by Making College More Affordable

 

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn.- Northland Community and Technical College Foundation (NCTC Foundation) awarded the very first IGNITE scholarships to 17 Lincoln High School students valued at $5100 in the fall of 2011. These scholarships were awarded to students who participated in the Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program at Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls, Minn. The PSEO IGNITE scholarship is designed to reward students who participate in PSEO through Northland Community and Technical College (Northland) during their junior and senior year. A qualified student may earn $50 scholarship dollars for every successful Northland credit completed. Students can earn up to $1500 scholarship dollars to be used at the Thief River Falls campus the summer or fall semester following their graduation. “We just started it, the school and community want to thank the NCTC Foundation for creating it and the community for supporting it,” stated Lincoln High School Counselor Bill Stock.

The goal of this program is to increase the number of local high school students taking college courses at Northland. The program also hopes to see area students stay in the area longer; this provides a tremendous financial and social benefit to the community. “It really is a win, win situation for everyone. Students receive good incentive from Northland and Northland receives good students,” said Stock.

Northland is a vibrant college with over a $60 million impact in the region; the scholarship provides an added incentive to students to stay in the area an additional year or two. “We are all concerned with student debt, this gives students a chance to see how good of a deal Northland is,” stated Northland President Anne Temte. The IGNITE scholarship hopes to empower the areas juniors and seniors with a head start by taking college classes while still in high school. PSEO classes from Northland are a springboard to success as they enter college. “This scholarship evens out the playing field, it makes Northland competitive,” added Temte. The program desires to reach out to other area communities to provide this great resource to their juniors and seniors. The only limitation the IGNITE scholarship faces is financial resources.

With the first IGNITE scholarship, Lincoln High School saw the most graduates ever decide to attend Northland. According to IGNITE recipient Kayla Kuznia, “The IGNITE scholarship helped me because I wanted my school paid off. I was able to work less and focus more on school because of getting the scholarship.”

Northland is a comprehensive college, offering many state-of-the-art, nationally-renowned technical programs for those looking to quickly build a strong foundation of education and enter the workforce. Northland also offers students a liberal arts program that offers students the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at a cost lower than that of a four-year institution. The Thief River Falls campus alone offers 13 programs and majors for students to choose from. Kuznia, who plans to major in clinical psychology after completing her A.A. in Liberal Arts at Northland, mentioned that it helped her gain a feel for the college before she went there, “making it easier.”

5712 students are learning invaluable skills at Northland that will help them prepare to successfully enter the workforce. Students at Northland are valuable assets to the community as they work, live and continue their education in the area. They bring a unique demographic to the area that helps fuel the local economy. “The business I owned relied heavily on seasonal help. Getting good high school student employees was a treat, and those that stayed for another year or two because they were going to Northland was a godsend,” said Odette Bendickson. Odette and husband Orren gave the initial donation that made the IGNITE scholarship possible.

This is a great opportunity for students because not only do they receive free college credits through the PSEO program while in high school but they also earn a college scholarship along the way. According to Lincoln High School principal Shane Zutz, “The students really get an extra incentive from the IGNITE scholarship to stay local. This helps small businesses in the community and it also lowers the student’s debt load.”

This program is unique as it allows the students to be the determining factor in the scholarship amount. “The cost of college is rising and student debt is a concern in this economy so financially this is a good situation for students and their families,” added Stock. Students who receive the IGNITE scholarship must follow by several guidelines. The PSEO credits must be completed at Lincoln High School, and students must achieve at least a 2.0 grade-point-average (GPA). A student must register and attend Northland the immediate summer or fall semester following graduation. The student also must register for at least 12 credits to qualify for the IGNITE scholarships (online credits do not count toward this number). The IGNITE scholarship is added to the students complete financial aid package. If the complete IGNITE scholarship does not need to be used in the fall semester, the remaining amount can be used towards consecutive semesters. IGNITE scholarships are not guaranteed and are dependent upon funding.

The IGNITE program cannot continue without financial underwriting. “It boils down to the fact that those who gave to the program made it what it is,” stressed Stock. Few things in life are as rewarding as empowering an individual to achieve success.
“Orren and I have both lived in Thief River for many years, feel very fortunate for being able to do so and wanted to contribute in a meaningful way. I graduated from Lincoln High, as did our two sons and one of our daughters-in-law. Orren taught at NCC for several years. And, it is a great high to be able to give to a town, school or project one feels strongly about. It is fun,” stated Bendickson.

There are many ways to help assure this program is available to future Lincoln High School students. “There is a good partnership between us (Lincoln and Northland), we need to continue to move forward with the IGNITE scholarship,” concluded Zutz. “We need to have more people invest in the IGNITE scholarship to ensure its sustainability” shared Dan Klug, executive director of the NCTC Foundation. Klug continued, “We would love to duplicate this program at other area high schools which are involved with PSEO through Northland.”

There are numerous ways in which someone can support this program. Cash gifts, asset contributions, estate and retirement planning and life insurance are all excellent ways to offer support and may provide significant tax benefits to you. If you would like to learn more about the IGNITE program, you may contact Dan Klug by phone at 218.686.0069 or by email at dan.klug@northlandcollege.edu.

 

Driving to a Better Future

                  Two recent graduates of Northland Community and Technical College’s commercial vehicle operator program, Michelle Slominski and Melinda Tweet, used to have low-wage jobs they found unsatisfying. Slominski has been a phone company sales representative and answered inbound customer service calls, and Tweet has done factory work, bartending and construction. But once they entered Northland’s program, it didn’t take long for either graduate to get their wheel’s spinning in the trucking industry.

After graduating from the program in January 2010, Tweet applied for trucking jobs at three companies in Grand Forks, N.D. and was offered positions at all of them. She worked briefly for one of the companies before accepting a position as a semi driver at Strata Company, a Grand Forks construction supplier. Describing a typical day, Tweet says that she and her colleagues “go to one gravel quarry, pick up materials, drive to another site, and dump. We do that three or four times and that’s the day.”

Slominski completed Northland’s program in May 2010, passed her license exam on the first try, and moved to Dickinson, N.D. to drive tractor-trailers for Power Fuels. She transports fresh water to rigs for the oil companies, who use the water to drill.

Northland’s commercial vehicle operator certificate program, consisting of 18 credits over five courses, prepares students to acquire a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Federal law requires a CDL for the operation of vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds or carrying hazardous materials or oversized loads. Classes meet in the evening to accommodate students with daytime employment.

Tweet and Slominski praise the program’s content and the amount of practice it includes. “We did a lot of practicing. If I wouldn’t have learned how to do all that stuff, there’s no way I could’ve made it out here,” asserts Slominski. She singles out backing up a truck as one of the most helpful techniques they developed in class. In her current job, she says, “we back up into tight spaces a lot every day.”

“A lot doesn’t come into play until you’re out there,” Tweet adds. She describes Northland’s instructor’s coverage of driving skills and concepts as comprehensive and clear. “When you took the test, you knew what to expect. And the equipment we used was great.” The student–faculty ratio is 10 to one.

Both Tweet and Slominski cite salary as one of the chief reasons they entered the field of commercial vehicle operation. “What I took home in a month in my previous job I make in a week now,” says Tweet. She was also pleasantly surprised to discover that benefits come along with her wages. “I only have to work one job now.” Slominski agrees, “The money is obviously a plus.”

Although they appreciate the financial rewards of truck driving, both women enjoy the work for its own sake, too. “I’m almost mad at myself that I didn’t do something like this before,” Slominski says. “I’m 25 and this is the first job where I actually like coming to work.” Her job does include driving challenges such as hilly topography and complications from winter weather, but she finds them manageable. When asked about boredom, a difficulty many truck drivers face, Slominski says it is rare for her. “Sometimes we have to go from Dickinson up to Watford City or Williston,” a longer than usual trip for drivers at her company, “but it’s something that’s enjoyable so I don’t get bored. I only really get bored if I get to a rig and have to sit around and wait for the paperwork to get signed.” Monotony is not much of a problem for Tweet, either. “There’s such a variety in the construction field of trucking,” she observes.

Slominski and Tweet’s experiences as women in the industry have been positive. Referring to the way she and her coworkers work as a team, Tweet says, “It’s great to be a woman in a man’s world. It’s like a big family—everyone here is so helpful.” At Slominski’s location, there are only two other women beside her out of around 60 drivers, but she hasn’t felt like an outsider. “You never know what people are saying behind your back,” she points out, “but I’ve had a few guys come up to me and say I have a lot of guts.”

Slominski was one of two women in her Northland class, while Tweet didn’t have any female classmates. “As the only woman in the class,” says Tweet, “at first I worried about screwing up, but everyone did.” Slominski feels that even though she’s fresh out of school, with the level of training she received at Northland she can match up to men who have many years of experience. “It’s actually kind of easier than I expected it to be.”

Both Tweet and Slominski are open to owning their own trucks someday, with the increased independence and earning potential that would entail. “I would hold off for now, though,” Tweet says, in reference to the continued uncertainty of the economy. Thinking about the future, Slominski declares, “If I had the funds or the means to get one I certainly would. Even if I didn’t drive it myself, I could lease it out.”

In the meantime, Tweet and Slominski enjoy using the skills they learned at Northland to support themselves in jobs they find gratifying and secure. Their stories are a testament to the value of career training programs and the people and institutions that make them possible.

Northland Community and Technical College (northlandcollege.edu) is a comprehensive college with campuses in Thief River Falls, MN and East Grand Forks, MN. It also has a separate aviation campus in Thief River Falls, MN and a satellite site in Roseau, MN. It offers certificates, diplomas, transfer courses, two-year AAS degrees in more than 60 areas of study, workforce training and education programs.

 

 

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