BEMIDJI -- With the flicker of a lightbulb, Brittney Rohloff knew working with electricity was the right path for her.
After changing her life’s direction on a dime just a couple of years ago, the now electrical construction student at Northwest Technical College will receive her diploma on Friday as a member of the graduating class of 2021.
Originally from New Prague, Minn., Rohloff moved to Bemidji to pursue a degree in applied psychology from Bemidji State University back in 2004.
Though she earned a bachelor’s degree, she had a tough time securing work in her degree field, and soon found herself tired of data entry, customer service and bartending.
She described a lot of her work at that time as “pretty mindless” and felt as though she wasn’t using her brain or her skills to their fullest potential.
Thus, Rohloff decided to go back to school.
She wanted to get a better job and be more employable, so she embarked down a new path at trade school.
On a whim, she picked electrical construction, because, "wires generally aren't as heavy," she said with a laugh. "That's pretty much it. Of the programs offered at NTC, electrical construction seemed like the best fit for me.”
Though she started with limited knowledge of the field, she quickly gained her footing, excelling in her course work.
“Coming into the program, all I knew about electricity was that wires connected to devices somehow made them run. That's it,” Rohloff said. “I knew nothing coming in. Now, I feel fairly confident.”
It wasn’t long before she was learning hands-on skills in the classroom. She recalled the first time she wired up a project in residential wiring and the thrilling moment of plugging in the wires connected to a lightbulb and hoping it worked, because sure enough, it lit right up.
“That's just really fun,” she said. “To wire something up, and then it works the way you thought it would, it’s really cool.”
And her excitement about electricity didn’t fade.
“Anytime I wire something up, like draw up the schematic, ‘If I switch, then this will turn on and that light will turn off,’ and when it all works together, every time it's exciting,” she said. “I really like working with control circuits, motor controls and (programmable logic controllers).”
Rohloff credits her success in the program to her instructors at NTC.
“The electrical instructors are super smart and they really care about passing on the knowledge of the trade. Seriously. They are the best,” she said. “They all honestly care about my education and future as an electrician.”
During her time at NTC, Rohloff has consistently been one of the only women in her program, but she said it hasn’t diminished her enthusiasm in the slightest.
“The first semester there was another girl named Brittney, but (since) the first semester it's been just me,” she said.
While in the program, Rohloff was also selected to receive a scholarship from Ottertail Power Company. Rohloff said she is primarily motivated by her desire to keep improving herself.
“I really like school. I like learning new things. No matter what I do, I want to be the best,” she said.
Her advice to other people in her position, burnt out at their current jobs and looking for a change is to, “just give it a shot and go for it,” adding that the instructors at NTC have students’ best interests at heart.
After graduation Rohloff is headed to TEAM Industries where she has accepted a position as an automation technician. She said her first day of work is set for May 17.
“I'll be working a lot with their automation process and troubleshooting their breakdowns or adding components and assembling robots,” she said. “I'm excited to start my job. It sounds like it's gonna be really interesting.”
Rohloff and the rest of NTC’s class of 2021 will be celebrated during a commencement ceremony at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 7, at the Sanford Center in Bemidji.