Northlands College in Air Ronge held its powerline technician program graduation on Tuesday.

A total of 12 students are in this spring’s graduating class.

This is the first year all entrants graduated the course.

Bruce Skilliter is the head instructor for the program.

He also serves as operations manager for Ptarmigan Consulting Inc., which oversees the powerline technician program at the college.

Skilliter said having the program in northern Saskatchewan is a great way to give residents in the area opportunities in the local industry while retaining a workforce there.

“We’re able to get northerners into the job force and they actually become linemen,” he said. “We’re actually about a year away from having fellows who went through our course who will come back here and work for SaskPower here, where they struggle to get people to stay.”

Reece Carriere is one of the 12 graduates.

He said the program was fun, yet challenging, especially once learning went online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was definitely stressful being out of the routine (because of the pandemic),” Carriere said. “It was different being out of a routine and not keeping busy.”

Amongst the keynote speakers at the event was Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty who is also a Lac La Ronge Indian Band member.

“Education’s always been important to me,” he said. “And the fact that students can access it here in the north is so important.”

This program is the first at the college to restart in-person instruction following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The graduation ceremony was held outdoors in open tents

Each person’s temperature was scanned upon arrival and social distancing was maintained by placing chairs and tables six feet apart.

(PHOTO: Jeanathan Ross receives his certificate in Northlands College’s powerline technician program as Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty, left, looks on. Photo by Brandon White.)