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The Other Side of the Desk: Robert Ornella’s Transition from Student to Instructor  

Robert Ornella

Submitted by
Carley Misanchuk

Carley Misanchuk (Bachelor of Arts – Psychology, 2016) has been working at Red Deer College for almost three years, and currently works in the School of Continuing Education. This lifelong learner is excited to support new students to have the same memorable and high quality experiences she had in her time as an RDC learner. “It is incredibly rewarding to be part of such a collaborative and creative institution,” she says. Here, she connects with fellow alum, Robert Ornella, to learn more about what inspires him to teach the very program he once attended. 

We go through countless phases in our lives and, sometimes, it happens that many of those phases all take place at the same location. At least this is the case for Red Deer College Instructor, Robert Ornella (Electrician, 2003). 

In 2000, Robert began his journey at RDC at the age of 34 with a family, a busy schedule and a goal. Apprehensive about returning to school as an adult, Robert made the bold decision to register for a 12-week Pre-Employment Electrical course. After successfully completing the program, Robert began working right away, maintaining momentum and making his way back to RDC each year for 8 or 12 weeks at a time to complete the second, third and fourth years of  Apprenticeship Technical Training, and achieve his Red Seal Journeyman Certification. After 4 years of working as an Electrician and gaining hands-on industry experience, Robert returned to RDC once again for the Master Electrician Exam Preparation course and achieved his Master Electrician certification. Reflecting back on his education, Robert attributes his success as an Electrician to the Pre-Employment program, “You get your education first and it makes you more employable to get in with that employer.” 

After years of working as an Electrician, Project Manager, Senior Manager, and Entrepreneur, Robert made another bold decision with support and encouragement from his family, and transitioned to instructor. Robert’s return to RDC came with a much deeper meaning this time as the course he returned to teach was none other than Pre-Employment Electrical, the course where he gained the confidence he needed to succeed – a quality he now instills in each of his students, “Rob was a great teacher to have. He took the time to make sure every student involved got the most out of the class as they could. I would recommend taking Pre-Employment Electrical through him to anyone trying to pick a trade,” says former student, Ben Olsen. 

Drawing from his industry knowledge, Robert has successfully guided 11 cohorts of students through the Pre-Employment Electrical program and will begin his 12th cohort this November. “I have so much fun with this, working with different individuals, and I learn just as much as my students do. I would almost do this for free!” he says. Robert currently holds the record for having the highest number of Pre-Employment students return to RDC for Apprenticeship Technical Training and has recently seen his first student through from Pre-Employment to Journeyman certification.  

Robert was instrumental in leading the first online offering of Pre-Employment at RDC earlier this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with his only complaint being, “it’s too bad we can’t do high-fives online!” He remained dedicated to each one of his students, “Robert Ornella was not only an instructor, he was also a friend to me.  Even during the ongoing pandemic, I was able to succeed with his help even at home,” says former student, Tony Wong.  


“Having English as my second language, it made some of the questions that [were] asked difficult to understand, especially during the exams. Robert would try and rephrase the question in a much simpler way or even describe what the question is asking.” – Ben Lombard, former student.  


If you are contemplating beginning a career in the trades, Robert shares this advice: “Just do it. Obviously, you are at a point where you are looking to make a career change or better your life. Take that one extra step. Sign up. You’ll be pleasantly surprised where you are when that course is complete and you are better off because of it.”  

Let’s get started on your success story. To register for Pre-Employment Electrical, Carpentry or Welding, visit the School of Continuing Education online!  Questions? Contact us by ce [at] rdc [dot] ab [dot] ca (subject: Spotlight%20story%20-%20Pre%20Employment%20Trades%20programs) (email )or call 403.356.4900


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