Grand Forks, MN, established this type of program at his school two years ago. According to Reak,

the program has been a success, and it works quite simply.

A contractor can participate by sending company letterhead to the college along with information about the company. The students can then choose the company they want to send résumés to, and an interview is scheduled. If the student exhibits the qualities the contractor is looking for, the company can agree to pay the student’s second year of tuition in return for two years of employment after graduation.

Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and stay with their sponsoring employers for the full two years. If this falls through, the student must pay the company back the tuition money.

“The goal is for long-term employment,” Reak said. “By the time the students are done, they have four years in the field.”

Contractors’ Opinions

Terry Grundysen of Midwest Refrig-eration, Grand Forks, ND, entered into a contractual agreement with one of Reak’s students, Jason Aaker, who had completed his first year at NTC and was looking for part-time employment.

Grundysen hired Aaker last May, and eventually the two entered into the agreement. When all is said and done, Midwest Refrigeration will have paid Aaker’s second-year tuition in full, including any grants. The company will also have secured a technician for at least the next two years.

By already working part time for Midwest Refrigeration, Grundysen said he had the opportunity to see what kind of worker Aaker would be, and therefore had no reservations about sponsoring him.

“We like the idea of helping out a young man who doesn’t have a lot of funds,” Grundysen said. “And we are always looking for qualified technicians.”

Mike Fitch, ceo of St. Cloud Refrigeration, St. Cloud, MN, has been sponsoring students from St. Cloud Technical College and North Dakota College of Science. He started this practice five years ago and said he has found several benefits.

“We didn’t want to get involved in bidding wars for students when they graduated.” In addition, students can work part time while they take classes.

So far, St. Cloud Refrigeration has had eight employees complete the program. Fitch is currently sponsoring four students and is looking to sponsor three or four more.

Some Students Hesitate

Mark Nicholson, instructor at St. Cloud Technical College, said that six students in St. Cloud’s Hvac Department are taking part in the program.

Nicholson said that the program is helpful, but a majority of students are staying away from a commitment. “There is a hesitation, because some students don’t want to be tied down.”

Part of the hesitation is from the fear of being restricted to working in a certain geographic area.

For students who do not mind staying in the area after graduation, Nicholson said the program is perfect. Also, many students enjoy the idea of having a job lined up after graduation.

Nicholson added that students who enter into the agreement are usually invited to work for their company on a part-time basis or to intern during school breaks.

One such student is Craig Backstrand, who graduated from Dunwoody Institute in Minne-apolis, MN, but worked for Fitch while taking courses.

Backstrand said he initially was wary about committing to a contractor, and only entered into a one-year agreement, which paid one-fourth of his tuition.

“You knew that you had security getting a job right out of college,” Backstrand said when asked about the program’s benefits. He also appreciated gaining extra experience and getting familiar with an employer and with the industry.

The program has helped out both Backstrand and Fitch. Backstrand has stayed with St. Cloud Refrigeration after his mandatory year.

For more information on these programs, contact Chris Reak, Northwest Technical College at 218-773-3441, ext. 424; St. Cloud Technical College Hvac Department at 320-654-5915; and Dunwoody Institute at 800-292-4125.

Publication date: 10/02/2000