As lead instructor for Southside Virginia Community College’s Power Line Worker Program, he has helped guide more than 375 students on the path to successful “powerful careers.”
The SVCC Power Line Worker Program was the first of its kind in Virginia. The program was founded as a partnership between Southside Virginia Community College and electric cooperatives. The program welcomed the first class, in March of 2016, to the SVCC Occupational/Technical Center at Pickett Park in Blackstone.
Robertson found his way to the PLWP after retiring from a 32-year career with Southside Electric Cooperative as line tech supervisor. “I came here because I believed in the program, and because I love leading young people in the right direction,” the Burkeville native says. “I do what I do because I love it.”
The lineworker industry is one that young people have traditionally overlooked. “But that’s becoming less and less of an issue — because of programs like ours. Young men and women are signing up. They know the linework industry involves good benefits, good pay and good people,” he says.
Good people, like the “brothers and sisters” he left behind at SEC. “Once you start a career with an electric cooperative, it’s like joining a family.”
He notes that while the pay may lure young people into the field of electric linework; it ultimately, is not about the pay. “It’s about how happy it makes people when you get their lights back on. It might start off being about the pay, but it ends up — more often than not — about doing something that benefits others. And that is a powerful feeling.”
In 2020, Robertson was awarded the 2019 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in the area of Outstanding Achievement by a College Faculty/Staff Member from the Virginia Community College System.
He says, “I was honored but I’m not any better than anybody else in the program. I’m one of three instructors, and just one little piece of the puzzle.”
However, finding out that he’s made a lasting impression on his students is one of the most profound rewards of all. “They’re an inspiration to me and I’m just trying to be a little bit of an inspiration to them as well,” he says. “I love watching them leave our program and go out and do great things in the linework industry.”
Being a former lineworker, Robertson says, “It’s not a dream life sometimes, but I would not trade one minute of the last 42 years I’ve been doing this.”