Power Play: Cole Rawson’s Portage from High School RAP to Control Room Operator
May 9, 2023

Cole Rawson knew from a fairly early age that he wanted to work in the trades and technology sector.

Originally from Saskatchewan, Rawson moved to Alberta with his family when he was two years old. Growing up in Athabasca he found an interest in the trades through the high school’s Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) where he took electrical and instrumentation training. This gave him a solid foundation in the trades and led to him exploring a career in power engineering.

After researching his options, Rawson chose Portage College’s Power Engineering program at the Lac La Biche campus over programs in larger centres, since it was close to home and offered small class sizes.

Cole Rawson in 2010/11
Cole Rawson and fellow third class power engineering student in 2010.

Although Rawson initially had trouble focusing in class, the supportive atmosphere at Portage College helped him overcome the challenge.

"The smaller class sizes definitely helped. And also getting to know the teachers. They were always available for one-on-one time to help you through difficult chapters,” said Rawson. “We had a pretty good class and had a study group going on, which helped.”

He worked closely with his instructors and his fellow students.

“I remember Cole as a very upbeat person who liked working in the lab,” said Tom Lea, Power Engineering Instructor at Portage College.

Rawson excelled in his studies and was able to secure a practicum placement with one of Portage’s local industry partners.

“One thing I noticed with doing the Lac La Biche program is that they have good relationships with the companies in that area. It made it a lot easier for classrooms to find practicums for the students,” he says. “I know from guys (not from Portage), who’ve said that it’s hard to get out in the field to get experience.”

After graduation, Rawson started working in the field, and quickly proved to be a valuable asset. Over the years, he worked his way up to become a control room operator. He has been with Canadian Natural (CNRL) for over a decade now and is currently working in Conklin while living in the Lac La Biche region with his wife and kids.

Cole Rawson working for CNRL
Cole Rawson, Control Room Operator at Canadian Natural 

CNRL continues to support Portage College Power Engineering students with their practicums.

“I’d say most of our students get hired on,” says Rawson. “And they’re from Portage.”

Rawson is proud of what he has accomplished, and knows that he wouldn't be where he is today without the education and support he received from Portage College.

“Everyone was super helpful and kind. It definitely helped me start a successful career and it was all because of them,” he says.

Rawson remains grateful for the opportunities that were presented to him, and is encouraging other students to consider a career in power engineering. Thanks to his hard work and determination and support from the College, he knows that his future is bright. “I’m excited to see where my career will take me next,” he says.

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  • A previous student
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