TIMMINS -- Students from Northern College's underground mining and millwright pre-apprenticeship certificate programs had the chance to graduate together Friday — through physically-distanced outdoor ceremony.

Six mining and two millwright graduates gathered with friends, family, program reps and placement mentors to give them a proper send-off into the workforce.

"I'm never going to regret taking this course, it's pretty amazing," said underground mining student Theodore Van Tassel, who decided to venture into the industry after being laid off from his previous job in the forestry sector.

"It's a big change for sure, but I'm glad I got the proper training to do it," Van Tassel said.

"Hopefully I'll find a job close to home in Timmins. If not, we'll see where this mining career takes me."

Program assistant at the mining program, Emily Disley, said safety was one of the core elements of the students' training — and they got to learn it hands-on in the field.

"They're working with experienced trainers underground, who can guide them through the motions to be able to best perform the duties that they're going to be doing in the mines," Disley said, "people who have been in the industry for many, many years."

As is often one of the perks of these kinds of programs, Disley said, all of the mining of the graduates have already received job offers at mines in northern Ontario.

Students in the college's pre-apprenticeship programs can be more mature learners who hadn't yet completed their high-school education, said program assistant Marjolaine Cadieux.

Being able to complete their Grade 12 equivalency and obtaining their 'Level 1' millwright certificate is a source of pride for them, she said, and now allows them to pursue jobs in areas like the mining industry and with municipalities.

The pre-apprenticeship programs tend to be demanding, Cadieux said, leaving only the most committed students.

"I mean just putting in the time, it's 40 weeks, so it's quite a long program," said Cadieux.

"That's definitely something that you have to be dedicated to and ready to work as hard as you can to finish it."