Northwest Technical College's Paul Schrems makes time for family and career

NTC will hold its graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 5, at the Sanford Center and will also be available via livestream on NTC's social media pages.

Electrical construction and maintenance student Paul Schrems will graduate as part of Northwest Technical College's class of 2023 on Friday, May 5, at the Sanford Center.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — The “how” and the “why” are Paul Schrems’ biggest motivators in life.

Being a father of five, the 41-year-old can expect to be asked tough questions by his children.

Naturally, this curious nature also resides in himself as he seeks to find the answers of life’s many questions.

“Knowledge is a motivator. I like learning new stuff,” Schrems said. “Having five children, I’m always getting ‘Why does this do this, daddy?’ or ‘How does this do this, daddy?’ Just to find the answer (is a motivator).”

Between schooling and the workforce

Initially hired as a delivery driver for Karl’s TV, Appliance and Mattress in Bemidji, Schrems is transitioning to a service technician role as he completes his degree in electrical construction and maintenance from Northwest Technical College on May 5.


Prior to his start at NTC in 2021, Schrems initially entered the workforce before deciding to take some night classes in Michigan, where he lived before moving to Bemidji.

When Schrems’ best friend earned a football scholarship at Bemidji State University, he decided to follow suit and moved to the Bemidji area to complete his general studies.

“And then life kind of happened, and I stopped going to school for a while,” Schrems added. “I always wanted to go back, but I struggled with school.”

Following the passing of his mother, Schrems became motivated to once again pursue schooling in the electrical field while helping others in the process.

Schrems took a computer numerical control, or CNC class, one summer at NTC, which boosted his confidence in his ability to advance in his career. He had a particular interest in building a CNC machine and wanted the schooling to back it up.

“I had tried doing it on my own, but I kept frying things since I didn’t quite understand how electrical quite worked,” he noted lightheartedly.

Schrems grew up around construction and had a particular interest in CNC and computers. Naturally, this led to his decision to attend NTC full-time in 2021.

“I had all this experience, but no paper saying that I have all this knowledge. I just had what I can prove,” Schrems said. “There were a lot of places that wanted a two-year degree, which started the process for me as I didn’t even make it off of HR’s desk (while applying for jobs).


“I had a sit down with the missus on a Friday and by Saturday, we realized that me going to college would be the most beneficial way to help put me above all the younger candidates.”

On the cusp of graduating, Schrems has particularly enjoyed his capstone class from the past semester where he has been building a CNC machine along with fellow NTC student Dustin McDougle.

“Everything runs pretty good, but now we’re finding out there’s a software issue,” Schrems detailed. “If it wasn’t for the software issue, we would have been done about six weeks ago with the project, but that’s causing quite a headache right now.”

Making time

Once he crosses the Sanford Center stage to snag his diploma, Schrems looks forward to a less chaotic schedule where he can put in his usual 40 hours and not have to worry about completing school work well into the evening.

“After spring break, I’ve just been wanting to get back to that normal 8-to-5. Right now, Mondays through Wednesdays I’m working from 4:30 until 9:30 at night,” Schrems detailed. “If I have homework, I’m doing that until 10, 11, 12 at night, then starting the whole day back over again. That takes a very big toll on me and my family.”

Adding to his docket of responsibilities, Schrems has also been involved as an on-call firefighter since 2015.

“Knock on wood, this semester has been pretty light so far,” Schrems said regarding his firefighting duties. “There have been a few times where after I get done with work, we get that 11 o’clock page. Then you’re out until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, and then it’s debating whether I should go to sleep or should I just drink a lot of coffee?”

Despite some late nights, Schrems finds satisfaction in being able to help others through this role.


“I just like helping people and it’s one of those jobs where it’s about more than just yourself,” he said. “That type of work doesn’t really scare me away.”

On the off chance he has spare time, Schrems works on several smaller projects around his house and dabbles a bit in video game programming, something that’s always been one of his passions.

Schrems gives credit to his fiance, Sam, in his attempts to juggle everything and considers her a vital part of his support system along with his children, professors and coworkers.

“Sam has been the biggest rock for me,” Schrems added. “She’s been the one that helps me figure out things or just be there to help support so that I can try to grow things for our family.”

Effectively managing his time allows him to prioritize what’s most important.

“A lot of people say it’s hard to find time. Well, if it’s something important to you, you’re going to find a way to make that time,” Schrems left off. “If you get home late and still have homework to do, that homework still needs to get done. So you just kind of push yourself.”

NTC will hold its graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 5, at the Sanford Center and will also be available via livestream on NTC's social media pages.

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
What To Read Next
Get Local