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Publication number: PM40069240


NORTHERN STARS

President & CEO Westbrier Communications Philip M. Enarson Design, Layout & Production, Westbrier Communications Rian Vandepolder SALES & MARKETING Dennis McCormack, Calgary William Clarke, Fort McMurray

Published by: EDITORIAL Editor Darrell Stonehouse Contributors Joseph Caouette, Deb Jaremko, Pat Roche, Elsie Ross, R.P. Stastny Photography Joey Podlubny Greg Halinda Creative Services Christina Borowiecki, Jeremy Seeman OFFICES Calgary 2nd Flr-816 55 Avenue NE Calgary, Alberta T2E 6Y4 Tel: 403.209.3500 | Toll-free: 1.800.387.2446 Edmonton 220-9303 34 Avenue NW Edmonton, Alberta T6E 5W8 Tel: 780.944.9333 | Toll-free: 1.800.563.2946 ISSN 1200-9059 (Print) ISSN 2369-7601 (Online)© 2017 JWN All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without prior consent from the publisher. Publications Mail Agreement Number 40069240 If undeliverable, return to: Circulation Department, 2nd Flr-816 55 Avenue NE, Calgary, Alberta T2E 6Y4. Made in Canada. NORTHERN STARS is the annual publication of the Oilsands Banquet celebrating corporate and community leadership in Wood Buffalo. NORTHERN STARS is published through a collaboration between JWN and Westbrier Communications. The 2017 honouree is CAREERS: the Next Generation on the occassion of their 20th Anniversary which coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the Amazing Alberta Oil Sands.

To be placed on a list to receive more information about NORTHERN STARS, the Oilsands Banquet and the organizations it supports email: westbrier@shaw.ca

For more information visit oilsandsbanquet.com

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Darrell Stonehouse

After 50 years of production, the struggle continues

Nothing about the oilsands has ever been easy and that includes the recruiting and training of skilled workers

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rom the first experiments in extracting the bitumen trapped in sand and water in the 1920s that led Dr. Karl Clarke to patent the hot water separation technology still use in the oilsands today, it took over 40 years before the Great Canadian Oilsands Company produced first oil from the massive resource surrounding Fort McMurray in 1967. It took another seven years before GCOS, led by Howard Pew, reported its first profitable quarter. It took another decade before Syncrude started mining operations, and then another 25 years before the third mine, The Athabasca Oil Sands Project, started producing. Dr. Roger Butler came up with the concept for Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) in 1978.The first commercial SAGD operation,Alberta Energy Company’s Foster Creek development, produced first bitumen 23 years later in 2001. It’s been a long struggle, but the success of the oilsands speaks for itself. In 2016, crude bitumen production averaged 2.53 million barrels per day, with in situ production averaging nearly 1.4 million barrels per day and mining production averaging 1.15 million barrels per day. Over $300 billion has been invested in the oilsands in the last 50 years. In 2014, IHS CERA estimated that the oilsands resulted in around 480,000 jobs in Canada and $91 billion in gross domestic product, or around three per cent of total Canadian employment and five per cent of GDP. Royalties and taxes collected from the oilsands and related activities in 2012 topped $28 billion, or about $812 per Canadian. And there is more to come. According to the Canadian Energy Research Institute, nearly $4 trillion could be contributed to the Canadian economy in the next 20 years. During the same time period, oilsands operators, including their suppliers and employees, are projected to pay $285 billion in provincial and personal income taxes, $464 billion in federal and personal income taxes, and $490 billion in royalties paid to provincial governments. But that’s only if the oilsands can meet its current challenges of costcompetitiveness, climate change, market access and labour availability. Like in the past, it is going to take risk-takers like Sun Oil’s Howard Pew to get the ball rolling. And it’s going to take inventors like Dr. Clarke and Dr. Butler to come up with new technologies and processes to cut costs, cut emissions, and move product to market. And it’s going to take hundreds of thousands of workers in Alberta and across Canada to make it happen. CAREERS: The Next Generation is working to prepare that workforce now and for tomorrow. n

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WELCOME In this the Golden Anniversary year of our Oil Sands, we invite you to celebrate with us as CAREERS: the Next Generation reaches a new milestone: 20 years of working with parents, schools and employers to give Alberta youth a path to a career and build a skilled Alberta workforce for tomorrow.

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AREERS began in the Fort McMurray region in the mid 1990s, a call to action to prepare the next generation of skilled Oil Sands workers to replace those that were retiring . 20 years later CAREERS is active in over 500 schools in almost 300 communities across Alberta, working with more than 1,000 employers each year to place 1,500 youth as interns in the workplace. Working closely with students, parents, schools and employers, we are able to help connect the dots between learning and earning. CAREERS has expanded its program offerings to align with projected gaps in skilled worker opportunities. Our Indigenous Youth Career Pathways program is a key delivery model. It is a diverse illustration of future career path opportunities. Included are trades, technologies like Power Engineering, Water, Waste Water operator, Oil and Gas operator, health care, recreation, human services, business administration, finance and information technology, media design, arts, communications, and natural resources. We partner

with employers, several First Nation communities and schools, and Metis Settlements, to provide for career awareness, exploration and experiential worksite placements for Indigenous youth. We continue to promote the three WINS at CAREERS. The first WIN is with young Albertans who follow a CAREERS career pathway and gain valuable experience as an intern in a workplace with supporting mentors; the second WIN is with employers who grow local young and dynamic employees with excellent skills and talents; and, the third WIN is with the community that grows and retains their own as engaged and productive citizens. As Alberta grows, despite temporary setbacks, such as the wildfire in Fort McMurray, our key limiting factor in reaching our potential is availability of a skilled workforce. CAREERS commitment is to continue to be the catalyst to bring partners together. Let’s take advantage of the situation to grow our own workforce. We invite you to join us as we pledge ourselves anew to a future worth working for.

Andy Neigel, President & CEO

Eric Newell, Chair, Board of Directors

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Contents CAREERS: Celebrates Oil Sands 50 Then/50 Next Pioneers of the oilsands Innovators through the years

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Great Canadian Oil Sands Corporation marks first oil Remembering the early days Hot and cold

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The Long and winding road Milestones in the Alberta oilsands

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The first cut 40th anniversary of Syncrude’s groundbreaking

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The next oilsands New technologies in the future oilsands

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Cheaper and greener Cutting costs and emissions

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Getting product to market New technologies promise novel ways shipping bitumen

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CAREERS: Celebrates 20 years training the next generation Putting youth to work For 20 years, CAREERS: the Next Generation has been partnering with industry and government to create jobs

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A steadfast resource Aboriginal business partnerships continue to strengthen

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BUILDERS OF WOOD BUFFALO Building aboriginal partnerships – Inaugural inductees

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CAREERS: Ashes to opportunity Local youth find new career paths after The Beast

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Pioneers of the oilsands Nine early innovators who helped make Wood Buffalo Canada’s economic engine Oil is found in the minds of men, goes the old industry saying. But the oilsands were a little different. The bitumen was easy to find. The challenge was finding ways to separate it from the sand and turn it into useable products. These nine innovators played key roles in making the oilsands the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. Adapted from Alberta’s Energy Resources Heritage, Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame and Oilweek

Sidney Clarke Ells

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n 1913, Sidney Clarke Ells undertook a detailed survey of the oilsands along the Athabasca River, the beginning of a 30-year effort to make something of the vast resource. In 1915, Sidney shipped tons of oilsands by scow and dog to Edmonton and began to experiment with their use as paving material, with some success. The practice never really took off, but the oilsands pavement was not entirely replaced in Edmonton until the 1950s, and Sidney went on to pave roads with oilsands in Jasper, Alta., and Ottawa and sidewalks in Camrose, Alta., in the 1920s. Between paving experiments and military service, Sidney conducted experiments on hot-water separation processes with oilsands samples he had sent from Alberta to the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, Pa. In 1926, with Colorado oilman Max Ball’s support, he drilled and cored oilsands in the Mildred Lake-Ruth Lake area, the Horse River area and east of the Steepbank area. In 1929, Sidney counseled Ball on the idea of developing production in the oilsands. Ball secured the last federal leases for oilsands properties and founded Abasand Oils Ltd., which launched, in 1941, one of the earliest attempts at commercializing the oilsands. Sidney also extensively documented the region, writing 26 official reports and preparing 15 maps, including topographical maps showing visible outcrops of bitumen formation. He compiled a comprehensive list of early wells that were drilled in the Athabasca region in search of oil, which has utility even today. Sidney retired the same year the Abasand project was shut down, in 1945, but he was fortunate to live long enough to see commercial success in the oilsands with the 1967 opening of the Great Canadian Oil Sands plant. Photo courtesy: University of Alberta

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Dr. Karl A. Clark

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n 1915, Dr. Karl Clark began working with the Geological Survey of Canada, but it was as a mines division employee that he first learned of the oilsands of Athabasca. In 1921 he joined the Scientific and Industrial Research Council of Alberta. He began experimenting with ways of separating and recovering the oil from the oilsands using hot water and a chemical reagent. Dr. Clark continued his research with two pilot plants sponsored by the Alberta Government, one at Clearwater in 1930, the second at Bitumount in 1949. The successful operation at Bitumount marked a milestone in oilsands history. It proved conclusively that the hot water process he perfected yielded clean, dry oil and was capable of being upgraded to commercial requirements. The oilsands were accepted as a legitimate part of the petroleum industry and Dr. Clark became the father of oilsands extraction as it is known today. Dr. Clark passed away in 1966, nine months before completion of the first major oilsands plant, Great Canadian Oil Sands (now Suncor).

Photo courtesy: Alberta Archives

Ernest Manning

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rnest Manning was the premier of Alberta from 1943 to 1968, taking the oilsands from a dream to reality during his tenure in office. When Manning assumed the premiership in 1943, commercial attempts to develop the oilsands at Bitumount and Abasand were in trouble. The International Bitumen Company Ltd. project at Bitumount was under-capitalized and struggling to survive. The Abasand plant had been rebuilt after a fire in 1941 and was in the hands of the federal government as a possible source of petroleum products during wartime. In 1944, when the federal government efforts at Abasand stalled, Manning announced the financing of an experimental oilsands separation project at Bitumount, using Karl Clark’s hot water process.The Abasand plant burned down again in 1945 and was not rebuilt. The entire Alberta legislature visited the Bitumount plant in 1949 to witness its success in separating the oilsands. Manning’s government commissioned petroleum engineer Sidney Blair to prepare a report on the economic viability of the process, and supported the Athabasca Oil Sands Conference in 1951. Manning was on hand to officially open the Great Canadian Oil Sands plant—the first full-scale oil sands separation facility—in 1967. Photo courtesy: Alberta Archives

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Dr. Roger M. Butler

C Photo courtesy: Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame

onsidered the father of steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), Dr. Roger Butler-while employed with Imperial Oil in the 1970s-first developed the concept of using horizontal pairs of wells and injected steam to develop certain deposits of bitumen considered too deep for mining. His conceptualization and refinement of SAGD technology paved the way for scores of in situ projects that now produce over 1 million barrels per day. “Roger’s invention of the SAGD concept stands with Karl Clark’s invention of the hot water process as the critical technical innovations that have allowed the oilsands of Alberta to emerge as a key energy source for the world, on the scale of Saudi Arabia,” writes Doug Lillico, manager of heavy oil and oilsands, for the Alberta Research Council. Butler developed not just the SAGD technology that has become so important to the Canadian unconventional oil industry, but also a related technology, called VAPEX, which uses vapourized solvents instead of steam to recover heavy oil and bitumen.

J. Howard Pew

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ithout J. Howard Pew, an American oil executive, there would likely be no oilsands development today. Pew became interested in the oilsands in the 1940s while hunting for crude oil sources during the Second World War. He believed that the Athabasca deposit might be large enough to supply his company, Sun Oil’s refinery needs. According to Pew, “Something had to be done to ensure the continuity of North America’s petroleum supply and prevent the continent from becoming increasingly reliant on crude imported from Venezuela or the Persian Gulf.” But Pew’s plans to develop Alberta’s oilsands didn’t begin until 1949. At that time when he made his interests known to the newly-appointed manager of Sun’s Canadian operations, George Dunlap, Pew was adamant that the oilsands was a vital petroleum reserve for all of North America and assigned Dunlap the single mission of insuring that Sun Oil Company always had a “significant position’” in the Athabasca Oil Sands area. During the 1950s, Sun Oil Company Ltd. invested almost half a million dollars in oilsands research on bitumen extraction and separation. Then, in 1958, Pew’s company signed an agreement with Great Canadian Oil Sands. GCOS would use its technology to produce an integrated oilsands project on its Ruth Lake lease near Fort McMurray, and Sun agreed to buy 75 per cent of the oil produced at the site at a pre-established price. Pew and his company later financed development of the Great Canadian Oil Sands plant Photo courtesy: LibraryofCongressWashington_PublicDomain

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Franklin K. Spragins

James Carter

JWN file photo

Photo courtesy: Syncrude Canada

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ranklin K. Spragins was the founding president of Syncrude Canada Ltd. Spragins dedicated himself to the oilsands effort beginning in 1949, when his employer, Imperial Oil, established a special department with respect to oilsands development and named Spragins its first manager. In this capacity, he led Imperial’s interest in a joint venture oilsands project with three other companies. It started as Athabasca Tar Sands Mildred Lake Project and was eventually renamed as the Syncrude Project. On January 1st, 1965, Syncrude Canada Ltd. was founded to provide a management vehicle, and Frank Spragins was named as its first president. He spent years researching technical and economic viability of the oil sands and presented hundreds of papers on these topics as Canada’s and Syncrude’s representative at international oil industry meetings. Indeed his deep convictions about the importance of research and development established Syncrude as an early leader in oilsands technology, mining technology, research and development, and operations. Under his influence, draglines and bucketwheels were designed that dwarfed those in use elsewhere in soft soil conditions. But perhaps his most significant contribution to Syncrude and the mining industry was his focus on mining research and development. Mr. Spragins recognized that oilsands - which is highly abrasive, sticky and mined under extreme weather conditions - required know-how and advancements that are different from those developed to extract more conventional mine minerals. Spragins believed the oil sands could help Canada achieve self-sufficiency for its oil energy needs. Indeed, as early as 1962, he correctly predicted a decline in the producing ability of the western Canadian sedimentary basin and stressed the need to develop alternative sources.

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im Carter joined Syncrude as manager of overburden operations in 1979, revolutionizing the industry before being named president and chief operating officer in 1997. With a background in the mining industry, he entered the industry when the biggest truck was 85 tonnes. He said, “we’ve got to go bigger and get economies of scale,” recalls Eric Newell, former chairman and chief executive officer at Syncrude. “There were a lot of naysayers,” but he worked with Caterpillar Inc. to form the North American Truck Steering Committee, which resulted in the 400-tonne trucks in use today. His reign also saw the introduction of “hydrotransport technology that allowed development of remote mines, and design changes to improve fluid coker nozzle performance,” explains Gordon Ball, a former vice-president of Syncrude under Jim. Jim’s commitment to mining and technological progress has extended beyond the confines of Syncrude’s own operations. He led the rescue of the University of Alberta’s mining engineering program in 1991 and is a consistent advocate of sustainable, responsible development. As chairman of the Mining Association of Canada, he developed the Towards Sustainable Mining initiative, aimed at improving environmental and social performance, with a focus on tailings and energy management and stakeholder outreach. As a director of the Alberta Chamber of Resources, Jim created the Oil Sands Technology Roadmap, which envisions a third wave of oilsands development. He helped establish several industrial research chairs of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. He chaired the Alberta Carbon Capture and Storage Development Council, which resulted in a $2-billion government investment in a commercialsized project and sits on the board of CAREERS: The Next Generation. Jim’s vision also manifests itself in the relationships he has built with the aboriginal community. Under Jim’s leadership, Syncrude established its Aboriginal Development Program, which has made the consortium one of Canada’s largest employers of aboriginal people, and has yielded more than $1.5 billion worth of business with aboriginal organizations.

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Rick George

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ick George helped pioneer Canada’s oilsands industry during two decades at the helm of Suncor Energy. George served as Suncor’s chief executive officer from 1991 to 2012, following stints at Texaco Inc. and Sunoco LP. At Suncor, he helped transform the company into Canada’s largest integrated energy company and oversaw the 2009 takeover of Petro-Canada. “Rick’s impact on the oilsands industry, the Canadian business community, and the broader community has been immeasurable,” Steve Williams, Suncor’s current CEO, said. A self-described “oilsands guy,” George helped transform Suncor over his 21 years at the helm from an oilsands pioneer to the country’s largest integrated energy company. Joining Suncor in 1991 as chief executive officer, he guided the company in adopting game-changing technologies to improve environmental performance, profitability and competitiveness. George encouraged the company to adopt a seven-point climate action plan in the 1990s, well before many companies had begun to address the environmental impacts of their operations. Active in the community, he championed the creation of the Suncor Energy Foundation in 1999. JWN file photo

Eric Newell

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n 1989, Eric Newell resigned from Imperial Oil to become chief executive officer of Syncrude; marking the beginning of his 14-year legacy with the company. From the moment he began at Syncrude, Eric tirelessly promoted the benefits of the oilsands both for business and for local communities. Charles Ruigrok, Eric’s co-worker and Syncrude successor, says Eric had the ability to see what others did not. “He recognized the untapped economic potential that the oilsands represented,” Ruigrok writes. Under Eric’s leadership, Syncrude’s production capacity grew from 200,000 barrels per day to more than 350,000 barrels per day today. Eric’s strong leadership of Syncrude in a time of rapid growth and change is exemplified by such projects as the 1995 National Oil Sands Task Force report, the driving force behind the rapid industry expansion of the late 1990s. Eric placed particular emphasis on the aboriginal communities, making Syncrude the largest industrial employer of Aboriginals in Canada. In addition, he created training and entrepreneurial programs for aboriginals and youth to later have their companies bid for Syncrude contracts.

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JWN file photo

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Hot and cold: From frozen pipes to sticky bitumen, Suncor retiree recalls early days

Photo courtesy: Suncor

Great Canadian Oil Sands Corporation marks first oil

By Elsie Ross 

If it wasn’t one thing, it was another 50 years ago as the first Great Canadian Oil Sands employees laboured to do what no one had ever done — build a greenfield oilsands mine in northern Alberta.

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mong them was Peter Biel, a young German born engineer who had come to Fort McMurray in 1966 after designing the layout for the GCOS tailings pump house and the primary extraction plant while working for Bechtel in Edmonton. “I thought it might be a good idea to see what the things I put on paper looked at in real life,” he said. In an interview, the Suncor Energy Inc. retiree recalled the challenges the company faced in both summer and winter in moving 1,300 tonnes an hour of oilsands into upgraded bitumen. In winter, it was frozen pipelines when temperatures dropped as low as -45F and sand froze so hard that the excavator teeth on the bucket wheel glowed from the friction of digging it up and then shattered. In the summer, with temperatures of 30F in the mine pit, warm bitumen stuck to the buckets and natural rubber conveyer belts softened and swelled in the heat. The first winter of operation, 1967/68, the steam plant quit and was down all winter. “So consequently everything froze up; it doesn’t take long,” said Biel, who joined GCOS in 1966. “We had icicles all over the place.” In addition to the upgrader, steam was used extensively to heat the pipelines which had steam-filled tubes wrapped around them to keep them warm. The biggest problem was with the frozen tailings lines that pushed the tailings into the tailings ponds, he said. “The pipes contained the slurry about 65 per cent solids and the rest water and as long as it’s moving you can pump it,” said Biel. “Once the steam plant was again operating, we had to break these lines up, haul them into the extraction plant and thaw them out,” he said. “It just took days to thaw a 16-inch pipeline.” Not satisfied with the time that would take, the extraction plant superintendent demanded a better solution. The lines were put back together and hot water was pumped through with the use of big pumps and gearages. “Sixteen-inch lines take a tremendous force to push that very heavy slurry through there,” said Biel. “So with hot water and slow speeds we managed to clear that frozen material out of these pipes. Again, a very arduous process but it worked.” One of the first challenges Biel encountered at the mine was with the design of the teeth on the massive crawler-mounted bucket wheel excavators that had been imported from Germany. The teeth, tips armoured 16

The grand opening of the Great Canadian Oil Sands in 1967 with extremely hard carbide steel, were bolted on to the buckets so the teeth could be replaced when they wore out. The bucket wheels were designed to mine ‘round’ lignite coal found in the sandy German soil that had few rocks. While the Fort McMurray oilsands also had sand, it was saturated with bitumen and was the consistency of asphalt, said Biel. “Teeth wore out fairly quickly so had to be replaced fairly often.” In winter, the sand was like concrete as workers dug it out, he said. “It was so bad that at night you could see the teeth glow literally as they heated up scraping on the frozen sand and they typically shattered.” Something had to be done so GCOS workers looked at how they could insulate the sand so it wouldn’t freeze as hard. “There were some pretty wild ideas,” said Biel. The first was spreading a four foot layer of straw in late fall over vast area. “It helped a little but the people in the extraction plant started screaming quickly because the straw plugged up the systems through which the material had to pass,” he said. Another idea was using snowmaking equipment to make snow but it didn’t work very well as insulation. Finally, it was decided to blast the oilsands before freeze up to fluff up the sand. “That sort of worked but it produced large lumps, big rocks,” said Biel. “We had to thaw those lumps out before they were placed on the conveyer.” Some of the lumps, though, were rather sharp edged and penetrated the belt, necessitating repairs to the conveyer belt. There was still a need to find a way to quickly switch out broken teeth on the bucket wheel. “They were bolted on with eight bolts and in the winter when it was frozen we had to chip the bolts.” The solution from a San Francisco company was a pin and socket design. The teeth had a pin shank on one end that could be driven into the shank in the redesigned lip of the bucket. The teeth were still armoured with abrasive steel that was welded on. “They operated similar to the original but they could replace them quite quickly,” said Biel. In the summer, there was another problem, according to Biel. “The oilsands was 18 per cent bitumen and 30 degrees plus which we encountered quite often in the pit, because it was all black.” Due to the heat, the oilsands would stick to the bucket. The solution was to OILSANDS BANQUET XI


Photo courtesy: Suncor

Stream of workers leaving the construction site

develop the “Fire Dragon” which shot flames inside the bucket to heat up the steel. “The steel was hot and that worked okay,’” he said. The long rubber conveyer belt presented another challenge, depending upon the season, and because of that it took about 1-½ years to resolve. In the summer, the natural rubber softened and swelled. “Over time the top surface enlarges compared to the underside and it is trying to form a tube and that wants to fall off the roller trough,” said Biel who at the time was in charge of mine maintenance. Assigned to find a type of belting with different compound of rubber, he found a Japanese company that was manufacturing conveyer belting for the food industry. “They were willing to work with us [to come up with a solution].” When a 500-foot section was inserted into the belting, it worked beautifully, until January when he got a call that there were problems with the belt. Biel found that instead of forming a trough to carry the oilsands, the belt was remaining flat. “We put back on original belting which worked fine in winter.” It was back to the drawing board and to the Japanese who were willing to work in their labs and tried different materials, eventually coming up with a natural rubber blend that solved the problem and is still used today wherever necessary. CAREERS 20@50

There were hundreds of millions of dollars of losses as GCOS continued to work out the operational bugs, said Biel. “But J.H. Pew [president of majority owner Sun Oil Company] had the tenacity to keep pumping money into the plant because he truly believed we could make this place work, and look at it today.” n

Construction in the 1960s

Photo courtesy: Suncor

J.H. Pew…truly believed we could make this place work, and look at it today.

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From first cut to award-winning wetland Syncrude marks 40-year anniversary of groundbreaking By Deborah Jaremko |

Every day as he approaches his office at Syncrude, Lorne Shearing drives past an area of increasingly rich green rolling hills—a wetland called Sandfill Fen that, since being established in 2012, has received awards from the Mining Association of Canada and the Alberta Emerald Foundation for its encouraging reclamation results.

The Syncrude first cut

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he land has come a long way since 40 years ago, when on June 23, 1977 miners made the first cut into the earth for the Syncrude project. The cut was made south of the Syncrude main site, approximately at a spot on Highway 63 next to where Sandhill Fen is today. On the other side of the highway is Base Mine Lake, a test of tailings water capping that is intended to be part of Syncrude’s final reclaimed landscape. Shearing, who is now Mildred Lake Mine manager but started as a heavy equipment operator at the project almost 30 years ago, was part of the team that designed the wetland. He says it is nothing short of amazing. “It’s starting to grow its own peat now and they’re seeing animals there. I flash back to when we just started to build it, and I remember people telling us how they envisioned it. When I drive by it now I can see their vision come to life, that’s the cool part,” he said.

The award winning Sandhill fen

Syncrude Canada

Merv and Amanda Loder

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“I look at how far that’s advanced even in those few years, and I can’t help but think imagine 1520 years down the road how those areas are going to progress.” It took about one year following the first cut for Syncrude to start producing synthetic crude oil, joining its neighbours down the road at the Great Canadian Oil Sands Project, now Suncor, which had started operating in 1967. The first cut is a big deal, notes Amanda Loder, a second generation Syncrude employee who works as a front line supervisor in the mine. “First cut is like cutting that ribbon to a brand new store. You dig that bucket into the ground for the first time and that’s officially your groundbreaking,” she says. In the 1970s, the first cut process would have incorporated the massive dragline shovels and bucketwheel reclaimers that dominated OILSANDS BANQUET XI


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oil capacity of about 350,000 bbls/d and has produced more than 2.4 billion barrels since 1978. The first cut process has been repeated numerous times as operations progress through the lease. Indeed, when you’re in the business of moving earth, the operating landscape can change quickly, Loder says. “As each shovel progresses in its cut, shovels will move to different areas. You can come in after 24 hours off, 12 hours off or your six days off and it is a whole new world.” Loder has worked at Syncrude for the last seven years alongside her father, whose time with Syncrude dates back to that original first cut. Being able to work with him and his fellow long-time coworkers makes her realize how much the project has changed and gets her excited for the future. “We’re going to keep getting bigger and better,” she says. “You see what we have done throughout the past 40 years, what the people are capable of and what the company is capable of, and it really excites me to see what we’re going to put forth the next 40 years ahead of us.” n

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All photo courtesy: Syncrude

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oilsands mining operations until being fully replaced by trucks and shovels in the 1990s. Shearing explains that trucks and shovels would have started the first cut process, digging in to remove the overburden at the spot where project planners would have identified its thinnest layer above the oilsands ore. That equipment would have been followed by a dragline and then a bucketwheel. “It was quite a process to see, especially if I think back to those days,” he says. “Everything was awe inspiring I would say, for a person that didn’t have experience in the mining industry. Those opening cuts back then for a dragline bench would have been several kilometers long, and it would have taken us an entire year to strip a bench wide enough to move the dragline and bucketwheel. From there it became more of a sequential process of overburden staying ahead as the draglines and bucketwheels would have followed.” Syncrude has been following a sequential process of mining out its asset areas for nearly 40 years, as technology has advanced in mining, extraction and reclamation. The project currently has synthetic crude

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The next oilsands Automation, modularization, standardization, replication keys to future oilsands growth

Fort Hills, Suncor Truck and Shovel

The oilsands have always been a technology story

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ut with a major shift in global oil supply and demand fundamentals creating a long-term surplus of oil, the rate of technology and innovation is going to have to increase if oilsands operators hope to prosper in the future. Efforts to bring oilsands supply costs in line with global competitors are changing how the industry builds and operates both mining and in situ projects, with the goal of continuing to grow the industry for the next fifty years. Automation is one area where the oilsands industry is investing in the hopes of driving down costs. “We’ve only just started to scratch the surface in terms of big data, digitization and automation,” Brian Ferguson, Cenovus Energy’s president and chief executive officer said last April. Efforts are already under way at Cenovus to automate SAGD facilities, similar to what has happened in the offshore industry. “If we can put production systems on the seabed, we can de-man the oilsands,” said Kieron McFadyen, Cenovus’s executive vice-president and 22

Photo courtesy: Suncor

By Pat Roche & Deb Jaremko

president of upstream oil and gas. “For new next-generation SAGD projects, it’s a longer-term vision to move towards zero manning in the field during production operations.” In fact, something similarly futuristic is already occurring, although not in production operations. Rather than build everything in the field where costs are higher and schedules are less reliable, Cenovus builds ready-to-assemble modules at metal fabricating shops. But who ensures those modules will all fit together when they arrive in the field? “A robot that we leave alone at night in the Nisku module yard,” said Harbir Chhina, chief technology officer and executive vice-president. “This robot basically goes around the module yard and figures out how much work got done on each module. It also takes the 3-D drawings and compares it to the module. And so it will figure out, ‘Once we send this module to the field, will it fit together or won’t it?’ And so we’d rather do the rework at Nisku rather than do the rework in the field.” Mining giant Suncor Energy is also looking at automation to cut costs, this time by commercializing driverless haulers at its mines. Suncor is currently operating a test fleet of autonomous haulers at its base mine and has been testing the technology since 2013. OILSANDS BANQUET XI


The company said it might proceed with progressive implementation this year, which is also the timing for the start-up of the new Fort Hills mining facility. CIBC analysts noted in an oilsands technology update issued earlier this year that, already, every truck that Suncor is adding or replacing in its fleet has the ability to go fully autonomous. “Suncor currently has about 100 trucks and could add about 10–20 more with contractors. With Fort Hills, it could add about 50 more trucks, bringing the total fleet to about 150,” they wrote. While deploying autonomous hauling has some hard costs including wireless networks and GPS systems, the main benefits come from efficiency gains by improving safety, minimizing downtime, lowering maintenance work and ultimately lowering the kilometres driven per tonne of material, CIBC noted. According to Alberta Energy Regulator data, in 2016 Suncor hauled 128.3 million tonnes of oilsands ore at its Base Operations. “Rio Tinto operates the largest autonomous hauling fleet in the world and reported in its 2015 annual report that, through the introduction of 71 autonomous hauling trucks, it has cut its load and haul operating costs by

CAREERS 20@50

Photo courtesy: Cenovus

Foster Creek, Cenovus SAGD facility

about 13 per cent and increased utilization by about 14 per cent,” CIBC says. “Suncor expects to start seeing some efficiency gains from the autonomous fleet with the goal of about five to ten percent cost improvement. In our view, there is upside to this estimate based on comments by Rio Tinto.”

Modularization, standardization, replication cutting insitu capital costs

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n situ operators are also rethinking how they develop thermal oilsands operations with an eye on drastically cutting costs. “While SAGD is still relatively immature, the industry has made great strides in improving its understanding of reservoir performance. As such, new SAGD project designs will likely be more streamlined and require fewer ‘bells and whistles,’” CIBC analysts Arthur Grayfer, Mark Zalucky and Trevor Bryan wrote in a research report. “New developments will have smaller central processing facilities, sustaining pads with less metal, fewer valves, less instrumentation and greater automation, which will all serve to lower costs. These new designs will be relatively low risk and will begin to be implemented on the next phase of greenfield developments, likely later this decade. OIL SANDS@50

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SAGD is still a fairly new “ technology, but has now matured to the point that design and specification of its component parts can be effectively standardized.

Suncor also says its greatest well pad cost reductions have been realized in surface facilities. Before its new pad design program, facilities accounted for 47 per cent of cost. Using its new design, which has been developed with Wood Group, Suncor says overall well pad costs are expected to drop by up to 50 per cent. This includes dramatic reductions in engineering hours, field construction hours and manual valves. “SAGD is still a fairly new technology, but has now matured to the point that design and specification of its component parts can be effectively standardized,” says Dean Piquette, well pad program director in Wood Group’s Calgary office. “Prior to 2014, a large part of the industry still believed that one of the keys to success was in ‘build-to-suit’ design, with all of the associated costs. Wood Group is proving that the benefits do not outweigh the costs and that a simpler, standardized design is the key.” Ongoing sustaining well pad development is estimated to account for two-thirds of a SAGD project’s overall costs. The 2017 model of the approach, which has been implemented at Suncor’s Firebag facility, offers significant cost and operability improvements over previously installed pad infrastructure, Piquette says. Previously producers might have spent $100 million on a large well pad. Wood Group believes it can slash that down to between $25 million and $30 million for a 10 well pair pad. And it has found a way to reduce the direct facility module costs of each well pair to around $1.5 million. One key is that it has reduced the footprint of the well pads by substantially reducing the module count. Cost savings are realized as less earthwork needs to be prepared, the regulatory process is streamlined, and many other costs are stripped away. Piquette says the previous approach used by owner companies to well pad development essentially involved an “over-engineered” design. For instance, previous well pads were designed to operate for 30 or more years instead of the more common 12–15 year life cycle. Previous pad designs required 27 modules to make a pad, but with the Wood Group approach, that has been reduced to six modules per pad. Piping and instrumentation has been cut substantially as well. Suncor Energy plans on leveraging its new learnings to advance its plan for multiple new in situ oilsands projects through the 2020s. This fall, the company filed the regulatory application for Meadow Creek West, a single-phase 40,000 bbls/d SAGD project located south of Fort McMurray. In March 2017 Suncor received approval for two 40,000 bbls/d phases at the adjacent property it calls Meadow Creek East. The Meadow Creeks will see Suncor deploy its in situ replication strategy, designed to significantly reduce costs. “As the first energy company to receive the approval for multiple in situ developments, we’re looking at ways we can most profitably grow production, leveraging those learnings from previous projects,” CEO Steve CAREERS 20@50

Williams said. “Replication will be a central focus of the next phase of oilsands growth, with 10 locations identified which is expected to add approximately 360,000 bbls/d in production.”

actual work these days “is The much simpler…that’s created tremendous reduction in the number of contractors (and) in the complexity of our business, hence we are able to drive that efficiency really hard.

Solvents, infill drilling, make brownfield growth possible in future

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hile driving down capital costs is key to the future of the in situ oilsands, efforts to drive production through brownfield growth are also gaining momentum. MEG Energy has had so much success turning untapped resources at existing developments it is rethinking its future growth plans. ME is using a technology called eMSAGP, which involves noncondensable gas co-injection, infill well drilling, new well pairs and facility debottlenecking, which enables steam redeployment, to increase production while lowering costs and greenhouse gas emissions. It is also rethinking its pad design like other operators. “The actual work these days is much simpler than we would have done before. We’re basically drilling and tying-in wells, so that’s created tremendous reduction in the number of contractors, a tremendous reduction in the complexity of our business, and hence we are able to drive that efficiency really hard,” says president and chief executive Bill McCaffery. “The other piece is that we have improved the pad design and that’s saving large dollars as well. That’s a very important component because going forward much of our costs are those pad designs, so if we can reduce those costs and then multiply it by the number of pads, that’s a big deal for continued reduction in our capital requirements going forward.” McCaffery said that MEG is in the midst of a shift in the way it views growth based on the success of eMSAGP and even the “very encouraging” early results of its eMVAPEX pilot, which uses solvent vapours to dilute bitumen downhole. “We think of eMSAGP and really eMVAPEX these days as really highly economic energy processes as opposed to defined projects. We’re actually starting to think of our business a little differently, where we could have a continuous, highly economic growth plan that just implements the process along the way,” he said. “It’s because the energy efficiencies are so good on this that it causes us to think through the development plan; if we can free up steam using a process, we can redeploy it to new wells temporarily and then get those in position to put that eMSAGP or eMVAPEX technology into play, and then reuse that steam somewhere else. What that does is it tears down large amounts of capital that we would have needed before for our growth, and that’s quite exciting.” n OIL SANDS@50

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Jackfish SAGD, Devon

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Cheaper and greener Operators look at technologies that can cut costs and emissions By Pat Roche

JWN File photo

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s they plan for long-term growth, oilsands producers face two challenges. One is to cut costs to better compete with the flood of light crude from the U.S. shale plays. The other is to cut greenhouse gas emissions so production can continue to grow amid climate mitigation constraints. The industry believes technology can help solve both the economic and climate challenges. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates that if steam to oil ratios could be cut by five per cent at in situ operations, the province could add 140,000 bbls/d of bitumen production within the emissions cap of 100 million tonnes instituted by the provincial government late last year. One such technology promising both costs and emissions savings is the solvent-aided process (SAP), which adds a small amount of a solvent such as butane or propane to the steam injected into SAGD wells. The light hydrocarbon solvent goes into the semisolid bitumen, thinning it so less steam is needed to get it to flow to production wells. The less steam needed, the less natural gas burned to boil water—hence the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Burning less gas also improves a project’s economic performance, as does the increased bitumen recovery expected to be achieved with SAP. So far, no one has built a large-scale project using solvents. Imperial Oil uses solvents with its liquid addition to steam for enhancing recovery (LASER) process at Cold Lake. But while LASER is used extensively there, Cold Lake wasn’t developed as a solvent project. Rather, the solvent—in this case, diluent—is added to mature cyclic-steam wells. Separately, Imperial has sought regulatory approval for commercial-scale use of solvent-assisted SAGD (SA-SAGD). Imperial, a pioneer in steam-assisted bitumen recovery, hopes to use SA-SAGD at its Aspen oilsands property, northeast of Fort McMurray, and in the Grand Rapids Formation at Cold Lake. Cenovus expects its proposed Narrows Lake SAP project will be the industry’s first commercial implementation of solvents at a greenfield project. Narrows Lake was deferred after oil prices crashed. The company hasn’t decided when to build Phase A, which is expected to produce up to 65,000 bbls/d of oil. Meanwhile, Cenovus will begin converting an existing SAGD well pad at Foster Creek to SAP before year’s end. While Cenovus Energy is not planning to sanction its first full scale commercial solvent-assisted SAGD project until at least 2019, the company continues to advance milestones along the way. Cenovus has targeted next year to hit the milestone of deploying the technology across a full well pad. The company is targeting a 33 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2026, with up to 80 per cent of the decrease coming from full implementation of solvents. Cenovus initiated its first solvent test at Senlac in Saskatchewan in 2001. In 2004 the company initiated testing at its Christina Lake oilsands project, ongoing between 2009-2017. This year and next Cenovus says it plans three solvent-driven process tests at its Foster Creek project, followed by commercializing the technology on a pad level. Eventually, the company says it plans to convert both Foster Creek and Christina Lake, which together currently produce about 360,000 bbls/d, to SAP. While mining operators have less of a greenhouse gas impact than thermal operations, they are also working on limiting emissions. “We don’t see environment and economic performance competing with each other, we see them complementing each other,” Joy Romero, vice-president of technology and innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited, told the Low Carbon Innovation Forum at the Global Petroleum Show. For example, CNRL adds carbon dioxide to the tailings at its Horizon oilsands project because CO2 changes the pH balance of the tailings water and actually helps settle the clays. This practice lowers the company’s overall operating costs, as well as reducing by half the amount of freshwater required for operations. Further, it reduces the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of operations by 16 per cent. “We have been using CO2 as a tailings treatment since we started the operations in 2009, which in essence changed the legacy assets that we have,” said Romero. “We have continued to develop that technology, and we now have a CO2 capture plant on our site and so we are using our own captured CO2 in our tailings to advance our reclamation. With the process we have now, we are confident we can meet all the regulatory requirements.” n

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Getting product to market New technologies promise novel ways shipping bitumen Alberta oilsands producers have always faced the challenge of shipping to distant markets. Do you spend billions of dollars to convert the semi-solid bitumen into light crude that can flow through pipelines? Or do you spend a fortune on diluent—which itself costs more than light crude—to make the bitumen flow? Each has its downsides.

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Harbir Chhina, Executive VP, Oilsands, Cenovus Energy Inc.

JWN File photo

pgrading bitumen to light crude oil lightens carbon-heavy bitumen molecules by adding hydrogen. But manufacturing hydrogen on such a massive scale is so expensive that many producers have concluded if you’re going to convert bitumen to light crude, you might as well go all the way and produce premium products, such as gasoline and jet fuel. But letting refineries do the upgrading means pipelining non-upgraded bitumen to those distant plants, which takes a lot of high-priced diluent. Cenovus executive vice-president for oilsands Harbir Chhina said his company expects to spend about $2 billion on diluent in 2017. That’s because it takes roughly one barrel of high-priced diluent to pipeline two barrels of low-priced bitumen. Surely there’s a better way? Cenovus thinks so. The company has been evaluating ways to cheaply upgrade bitumen just enough to be pipelined with no diluent—or at least a lot less than is used now. At a 1,000-bbl/d pilot plant run by Fractal Systems, Cenovus has extensively tested a partial upgrading method called Enhanced JetShear with Acid Reduction Process. In a nutshell, Fractal’s process heats up the bitumen to about 400 degrees Celsius and 3,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. It is then instantly depressurized, which helps break the heavy molecules, reducing viscosities. Like most proposed partial upgrading processes, Fractal’s process uses hydrogen—but only to remove olefins, so hydrogen consumption is on a much smaller scale and at a much lower pressure than for full upgrading. Cenovus estimates the process would reduce diluent requirements by 40– 50 per cent and cut costs by $3–$5/bbl. It would reduce the total volume being transported by about 15 per cent since there would be less diluent per barrel of bitumen shipped. In a world where it’s increasingly hard to get new pipelines built, this would free up capacity on existing pipelines. Fractal’s process would also raise the value of the oil by reducing the total acid number to 0.5. “Most of the blends that we produce today are closer to one,” Chhina said. “This technology is scalable—anywhere from 5,000–10,000 bbls/d to 100,000 bbls/d.” Husky Energy has been developing its own diluent reduction process and is moving closer to a pilot at its Sunrise SAGD project, where output is still ramping up. Dubbed Husky Diluent Reduction (HDR), the technology has the potential to reduce condensate diluent requirements by 50 per cent, the company says. Synthetic crude oil is heated, mixed with raw bitumen and reacted, resulting in a pipeline-ready stable crude blend. “HDR has the potential to significantly increase the quality and the value of the Sunrise bitumen,” Andrew Dahlin, Husky’s senior vice-president of heavy oil said. “It will reduce the amount of diluent required for blending, and as such, it will increase the effective capacity of our pipelines.”

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However, the company says the technology is still at an early stage. “A 500-bbl/d pilot has received both federal and provincial funding and is expected to be up and running in the next couple of years,” Dahlin said. Assuming it works as researchers at the University of Calgary have demonstrated in the laboratory, self-sealing bitumen ball technology could provide another alternative to shipping by pipeline. “This started in our lab as basically an accident that grew into a meaningful thing,” said Ian Gates, a Schulich School of Engineering professor. “We now have several companies we are talking to about moving this forward.” By November, Gates said the patented and fullyautomated technology will produce “pebbles of bitumen” in large quantities, hopefully providing a pipeline-free solution for Alberta crude to reach markets in a cheap and sustainable manner. “In terms of the manufacturing of the pellets, we are now at a point where the technology from a fundamental point of view and what we do at the university is mature and where, reproducibly, when we do our process, we produce day in and day out a pellet-like product,” he said. “We are going to build a one-barrel-per-day unit, going from our supersmall scale to that. That will resolve a lot of the scale-up issues we are probably going to face...By one year the goal is a several-hundred-barrelper-day unit to produce this.” Researchers developed the process to make pellets of varying sizes at the wellhead, using roughly the same energy as it takes to dilute bitumen for liquid transport. While this is not the first attempt to create a solid form of bitumen, Gates said his technology means pellets can be rapidly produced without polymers or other additives, and without the need for complex equipment like microwaves. “The wonderful thing about bitumen and heavy oil is you can polymerize it. You can cause asphaltenes to polymerize it. It is the feedstock for doing

CAREERS 20@50

exactly that, being hydrocarbon based. In doing so, we can essentially produce the skin or the coating with no polymers.” He added: “We would like to supply a product that together with the light end and the solid is exactly what you had originally. That is what we want to provide.” Although he would not divulge many details as to the process itself, Gates said that a lot of the equipment used for the process is based on kitchenware re-engineered and redesigned from an industrial perspective. The process makes two products, including the solid material that can be transported easily in a standard railcar, as well as a 40 degree API oil that makes for good feedstock for lubricants or even as a solvent for bitumen. “We can’t tell you everything, but what we will say is that essentially the process does not require any additives in serious quantity, and so it doesn’t rely on polymers or huge amounts of solvent. It basically uses heat, which causes it to create a coating on the pellets. This is then the seal that holds the bitumen or heavy oil within. We build them deliberately rough, which helps keep them from sticking to each other.” Each unit is designed for mobility and minimal physical footprint. As an example, Gates envisions small producers using the technology to essentially produce both a solid and light oil product, one of which could be trucked away in a typical tank, while the other could be moved on a standard open truck with a cover — a useful option for producers lacking easy, plentiful transport options for their bitumen or heavy crude. “If the product you desire is dilbit, then this is not for you. If you want to use pipeline, then you would not put this into a pipeline. If you have your established supply chain, then you wouldn’t use this. However, for those small heavy oil producers who don’t have a pipeline near their plant and they want easy transport, they could see these units sitting on the wellhead, basically producing solid product they would then essentially put into a truck or railcar and safely transport anywhere on the planet.” n

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Putting youth to work For 20 years, CAREERS: the Next Generation has been partnering with industry and government to create jobs By Joseph Caouette

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JWN File photo

o understand the origins of CAREERS: the Next Generation, you need to go back to 1989. Eric Newell, one of the organization’s founders and its current chair, was on an education committee at the Alberta Chamber of Resources. They believed that the economy would be heating up soon, and so the group commissioned a study of the province’s supply of skilled labour. The results? Not good. The average age of a skilled tradesperson in Alberta at the time was 47, Newell recalls. Ages crept up into the 50s for some of the skills most critical to oilsands development. But the biggest clue that there was a lack of young blood coming into the trades was the fact that first-year apprentices at the time were an average age of 27. “Young people didn’t view the trades as a good option at all,” Newell says. “It was considered a career of last resort. After you’ve tried everything else, try the trades.” The low stature of the trades particularly worried Newell, who was preparing to begin his tenure as chief executive officer of Syncrude Canada in 1989. He was about to take on a key position in a young industry on the cusp of a major growth spurt. Where would the workers come from to build it? “It suddenly become apparent if we didn’t solve this problem we could kiss oilsands development goodbye,” Newell says. “We needed to make this a business issue and get more young people pursuing skilled trades.” OIL SANDS@50

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The first step came in the form of a co-op apprenticeship program developed by Keyano College in Fort McMurray. Youth looking to enter the trades at the time faced a difficult bind: apprentices were usually expected to be indentured with an employer, but many employers were hesitant to take on the challenge of developing unskilled workers. The coop program allowed apprentices to work at a variety of employers throughout their training, rather than being taken under the wing of a single company. There was little doubt that these apprentices would find full-time employment once they received a journeyman ticket, given the value of the skills they were bringing to the workforce, Newell says. By 1995, Syncrude agreed to develop a two-year pilot version of CAREERS to prove the organization’s potential. At the end of the pilot, it 32

was already operating in 13 communities around the province despite its small staff. Clearly, there was some demand for the organization’s services. CAREERS was officially founded in 1997, and since then it has expanded its mandate from skilled trades to include fields like health and technology. It has developed programs to support young women in the trades and helped build new career pathways for Aboriginal youth. According to its 2016 annual report, it has helped 24,976 student interns since 1997. Between apprenticeships, career fairs, and other initiatives, the organization has likely reached 500,000 young people over the years, Newell estimates. It is now active in over 500 schools in nearly 300 communities. Newell also takes some pride in knowing that 10 per cent of the apprentices are Aboriginal, although he believes that number could be even OILSANDS BANQUET XI


The numbers ince its founding in 1997, CAREERS: the Next Generation has placed over 25,000 student interns. Starting with a handful of narrowly focused key trades, the industry-driven community partnership continues to expand the number of skilled-trade streams in Alberta. The organization’s Aboriginal Youth Career Pathways is a key program. This partnership with the Government of Alberta provides career awareness to Aboriginal youth, starting in middle school. It shows the way to great jobs in trades and technology; health, recreation and human services; business, administration, finance and information technology; media, design and communications; and natural resources.

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Photo: Aaron Parker

higher. To help boost Aboriginal employment opportunities, CAREERS works closely with community leaders to identify potential educational and employment hurdles for local youth. Each success story is a hard-won battle, but it always begins by working closely with each community to discover its own unique challenges, Newell says. “It’s really encouraging today to see how many of our apprentices are Aboriginal, but it won’t happen on its own,” he says. “You have to get in there and work on it.” Those successes have been tempered by a number of challenges, such as the recent downturn in oil prices. With the industry facing layoffs, there has been a decrease in the number of positions available for interns over the past couple of years. CAREERS 20@50

Working through job fairs, expos and school workshops, in 2016 alone, CAREERS reached 42,000 students. Its health camps, power engineering, welding camps and Young Women in Trades workshops and lunch-and-learns reached over 300 students that year. And over 1200 interns have gained work experience through the Registered Apprenticeship Program & Co-Op, Dual Credit (earning part of a college degree while still in high school) and organization’s Health and Career Pathways programs. “One of the important things we do at CAREERS is we go right into the classrooms,” Newell says. “We have a staff of about 40 people and we’re in over 500 high schools in 300-plus communities across Alberta. We run career awareness workshops for kids in Grades 10 and 11 to start thinking about what they want to do and try to convince them to kick the tires on trades. We don’t stream them—I’m dead set against streaming—but we want to find out what their passions are.” In Aboriginal communities, career awareness outreach starts at the elementary school level. In this sense, CAREERS is partly a stayin-school program that encourages Indigenous youth to stick it out. “Our message is that there’s a lot of great careers out there. Yes some of them require a university education. We’re not against that—I’m a former chancellor of the University of Alberta. But not all great careers require a university education. They all do, however, involve getting a good education,” Newell says. Another part of its multifaceted approach is to reach parents. CAREERS runs parent workshops in the evenings and tries to convince parents to reconsider telling their kids that a good education always means going to university. More important is to find out what their children are passionate about and then chart a path forward from there.

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The Great Equalizer

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ere’s why CAREERS: the Next Generation is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago: Alberta has a 12 per cent youth unemployment rate. “Yes we’ve had a lot of success and we’re proud of what we’ve done, but here we are in the wonderful province of Alberta, and we still have youth unemployment of 12 per cent. That goes up and down with the economy, but that’s too high. So we’re still not doing a very good job of matching up student strengths with what is available in the job market,” Newell says. Businesses can help improve the situation by identifying where the key opportunities are and what CAREERS: The Next Generation needs to do to get young people ready for these opportunities. But the CAREERS board isn’t sitting on its hands either. It’s currently looking to the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence, robotics, drones and autonomous vehicles for future opportunities. “What quickly dawns on you is that the nature of work is going to be changing quite dramatically for the next generation. In particular, you’ll need a lot of digital skills. Trades are not dirty jobs these days. Just try to fix your car someday without hooking it up to a computer-analysis machine,” Newell says. The goal now is to get the next generation of skilled workers able to design and build automation. This year, CAREERS ran its first digital skills academy. Digital skills will represent a much bigger work component in many fields, whether its in oilsands, forestry or agriculture. So building those skills now will give students a leg up in the future. “That’s what Calgary did, for example, with the whole IT sector. It was built by the expertise stemming from seismic activity in oil and gas,” Newell notes. CAREERS is also looking for opportunities in other growth areas, such as in clean energy. “I’ve never viewed renewable energy or even nuclear as a competitor. With the world population and the demand for energy growing, I believe we’re going to need everything that we’ve got. So yes, we want to develop our valuable resource industries that are already there, but we also want to be on the leading edge of new sources of energy. So new career pathways will come out of there,” Newell says. There are also promising trades in niches areas, such as ceiling and wallboard installation. CAREERS are currently working with these to create a viable trade pathway. Last year, after the fire that ravaged Fort McMurray was put out, CAREERS made a point of turning the tragedy into something positive for Alberta’s youth. The organization’s foundation launched a $1 million campaign to rebuild Fort McMurray and create promising futures in trades and technologies for youth and young apprentices and Indigenous people in the region. So CAREERS: The Next Generation is a busy organization with a vital role to play in Alberta’s future. As its board chair, Newell remains busy in his retirement. But for Newell, whose parents were staunch supporters of education and whose two sisters are also connected to education, this work is a labour of love. Promoting education benefits everyone but particularly those of limited means. As he puts it, “Education is the great equalizer.”

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However, a skilled tradesperson takes years to develop. Part of the job of CAREERS is to remind industry that it cannot simply turn on the taps and find skilled workers flooding into the job market whenever they are needed, explains Jim Carter, the organization’s vice-chair. Even during a downturn, industry needs to invest in training. “You’ve got to be looking five years ahead at least, but it can be hard to do that sometimes when you’re up to your knees in alligators,” he says. Carter acknowledges that some younger workers may be disillusioned about oilsands career prospects as they watch others lose their jobs to cutbacks. Still, he is confident CAREERS can counter that skepticism through its own outreach efforts, which includes bringing in youth who have found success to speak about the opportunities available in the industry. “We need to make sure that young people aren’t just ignoring it and avoiding an opportunity for themselves,” he says. “We will have to put more effort into attraction into the industry, but we’re prepared to do that, and we have the venues where we can have an audience with young people as they’re making those decisions and encourage them.” The nature of those opportunities will likely evolve in the coming years, however. The pace of new development may slow down, but $200 billion has been invested in the industry over the past 20 years, Carter says. Workers will still be needed to maintain and operate the existing oilsands projects for many years to come. Last year’s Fort McMurray wildfire was also challenging, but the organization has found fresh opportunities amid the crisis. Its Rebuilding Fort McMurray campaign generated over $1.5 million in donations, which will go toward creating programs that allow youth to take part in rebuilding their city. Working with Keyano College, CAREERS puts youth through a special safety orientation program and connects them with job opportunities on home building projects throughout the city. To date, the program has placed about 50 people and the organization expects more to come as the rebuild continues. Both Newell and Carter believe that CAREERS has played a role in changing attitudes toward the skilled trades in Alberta. They also agree that it likely played a significant part in developing the workforce that helped build the oilsands over the past 20 years. Still, the organization’s work is far from finished.

…the potential for further improvement and advancement is still there.

“If any criticism could be levelled at us, it would be that while the whole idea [of CAREERS] was great, we should have figured out some way to do more,” Carter says. “We still ended up having to bring in temporary foreign workers while we had people unemployed in the Aboriginal communities, for example.” The sense that there is still untapped potential to be found among young Albertans remains a major motivator for the organization. In September 2017, the province’s youth unemployment rate was 11.9 per cent—four per cent above the provincial average. There are still many younger workers out there searching for a career pathway that will work for them. As long as there remains a gap between the aspirations of youth and the opportunities available to them, CAREERS will be needed, Newell believes. “We’re just as relevant as we ever were, and the potential for further improvement and advancement is still there,” he says. “We need more people to invest in our youth not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s an investment with a very high payback.” n OILSANDS BANQUET XI


Changing perceptions

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t was the dire need to expand skilled trades in the oilsands that launched the organization in the mid-1990s, but CAREERS: The Next Generation is as relevant today as it was back then. The battle hasn’t been won. An important front in ensuring that Alberta’s industry has sufficient skilled workers in the future is the work it does to change attitudes towards trades among employers, teachers, parents and students. The sheer variety of career pathways is helping in this effort. “We work very proactively because we know the demands of the industry,” Newell says. “So we’ve created 200 career pathways. We have health internship programs. We worked with SAIT to create gas field and production field operator paths. We worked with NAIT to develop an accelerated power-engineering course, which is where we have big shortages. And we currently are developing a water/wastewater trade, which is really big with Aboriginal communities.” Work/study programs such as the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) is also helping to change perceptions of the trades. “In the early days, work experience had a bad reputation,” Newell says. “Schools would dump their problem kids out there. But that’s not what we’re doing. We screen these kids for attitude, attendance, behaviour and things like that. So they’re good kids, even though, generally speaking, they’re not setting the world on fire academically.”

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…their marks go up. “And the marks go up dramatically. ”

CAREERS 20@50

Newell says that three things typically happen when a student returns to school after a work term (the RAP Program allows for six months of work in the field in the first term before returning to complete their Grade 12 studies). “One is that their marks go up. And the marks go up dramatically,” Newell says. “We give out up to 500 government scholarships of $1000 per student each year with the government. Last year, 57 per cent of our RAP students ended up being Rutherford scholars, which meant they got first class or better in all their core subjects. Some of them end up going to universities.” The second thing that typically happens after working with adults for six months is that the students become more focused when they return to school. “Now they understand why they’re studying math,” Newell says. And thirdly, everybody suddenly notices these students. “Since they’ve been earning money, they invariably buy a car and, all of a sudden, when they come back, these kids are seen as winners,” Newell says.

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Pastries or power circuits? It was a tough call, but Kelsey Munn believes she made the right choice

I

n her final year at Fort McMurray Composite High School, Munn was struggling to decide what to do with her life. She had begun an apprenticeship as a pastry chef at the Sawridge Inn, but she was not sure if she wanted to make it her career, no matter how much she enjoyed baking. However, her step-father was an electrician, and she had always been intrigued by his work. When she saw that her school was offering an introductory course on electrical circuits, she decided to give it a chance. She was given the honours award in the course that year, and her guidance counsellor pointed her toward the CAREERS: The Next Generation co-op apprenticeship program. Munn’s career path was set. In 2011, she entered the co-op program at 17, fresh out of school. Her first placement was at Suncor’s MacKay River in situ plant. She moved on to a haul truck shop at Syncrude Canada in her second year. In her third year, she worked at Shell Canada’s Albian project in the extraction and ore preparation plant, where she continues to work to this day. (Canadian Natural Resources Limited acquired the facility from Shell earlier this year.) Some men on these traditionally testosterone-heavy jobsites still seem to struggle with the idea of a young woman working in the trades. Early in her apprenticeship, Munn even faced a few who would directly tell her that she should not be working there. Those kind of comments only drove her to work even harder, however. “You just have to keep proving yourself to let people know that you belong here. You aren’t just hired on because you’re a girl,” she says. “I’ve been told countless times that I work really hard for a girl. Well, how about just saying I work hard?” In her second year of the program, Munn was paired with a journeyperson who was a woman, which helped make her more comfortable about her career decision. “She was my guide and let me know that I’ll eventually be like her. She went through the co-op program as well. She knew everything I would have to face,” Munn recalls. “It made it really easy to have her there beside me.” Her friends and family still get to enjoy her baking talents, but Munn’s livelihood will come from her skills as an electrician now. She plans to continue mastering her trade in the oilsands, and she plans to complete an instrumentation technician apprenticeship as well. Within the next 10 years, she hopes to move to Edmonton or Calgary and find work there. The opportunities her trade affords her seem incredibly diverse, and she is eager to explore them all. “I can basically take this job and go anywhere with it,” she says. “I’ll never have to worry about any jobs closing up, because you’re always moving forward in the electrical industry.” n

36

“ I can basically take this job and go anywhere with it. ”

OILSANDS BANQUET XI


The key to learning is asking questions while working with more senior employees

T

aral Mehta came to the CAREERS: The Next Generation coop apprenticeship program for one simple reason: he was eager to get out into the field and begin his career as soon as he could. Originally, he had been contemplating becoming a pharmacist, but his father, who works at Suncor as an electrical and instrumentation supervisor, encouraged him to consider a career in instrumentation technology. Mehta began a two-year program at NAIT in Edmonton, with plans to pursue additional university studies in electrical engineering. However, some of his friends had been in the CAREERS coop program and recommended it to him. The prospect of getting out into the workforce to start learning firsthand—and earning a living at the same time—was too enticing to resist. “I looked into it and thought it was actually way better than spending my time in university learning through school without really gaining industry experience,” he says. The 26-year-old entered the co-op program in 2013, where he began his training at Syncrude Canada. In his next year, he moved onto Shell Canada’s Albian project and then rounded out his third year at Suncor’s base plant, first at its extraction operations before getting hired on at the energy and utilities department once he had his journeyman’s ticket. Mehta appreciates how the program allowed him to explore a variety of positions in the industry, which helped him gain exposure to more types of equipment while he was apprenticing. “The co-op program does put a lot of effort into getting everyone experience working in different departments,” he says. “Once they’re journeymen, they don’t feel like there’s stuff they haven’t even looked at before. It’s not a shocker for them.” As he begins his career, Mehta says that one of the key takeaways from the program for him was to simply ask questions. He greatly appreciates the knowledge to be gained from working with more senior employees, some of whom have been with the same company for 25 or 30 years. “It’s never too late to learn,” he says. “Nobody knows everything. Always ask questions.” In the future, Mehta may pursue an electrician apprenticeship, or he may move deeper into the world of instrumentation control. However, he knows that there is plenty still to learn in his own trade, which is part of what attracted him to instrumentation in the first place. “Every day is a different story. You’re not working on the same equipment each day,” he says. “Other careers, after a while you might be bored of dealing with the same stuff, but you’re not going to be bored with instrumentation.” Mehta has a hard time imagining being where he is today if it

CAREERS 20@50

hadn’t been for the support of the co-op program. The oil and gas industry can be tough to break into, but the program offered him a clear pathway to follow. “It gave me an opportunity rise and go with my dream—go beyond my dream, actually,” he says. “It helped get me that industry experience.” n

It’s never too late to learn, “ Nobody knows everything. Always ask questions. ”

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If your father-in-law gives you career advice, sometimes it pays to listen

R

yan Pozzi was living in Lethbridge, where he was putting his computer science diploma to use while working as a database administrator. But with a wife and young child to support, he was also eager to find better career opportunities. When his father-in-law started talking to him about the trades, he was intrigued. “We started talking about instrumentation, and I saw it was really technology-based and related to computer systems and controls,” he says. “I’m familiar with technology, so it all made sense and sounded like a really interesting trade to engage in.” He went into the CAREERS: The Next Generation co-op apprenticeship program for instrumentation technician and began his first-year placement in 2002 at the Syncrude Canada utilities department. From there, he moved into the company’s extraction department, and then did his third year at Suncor’s Millennium upgrader. In 2005, he was hired on permanently at Syncrude. He believes the program was crucial to him landing the job.

“You do an interview with somebody and they can tell you they’re the greatest worker in the world, but you have no idea how they’re going to perform,” Pozzi says. “With the co-op program, you see them work for a year straight. You know how they react with the team and how they can complete work. It’s like a year-long interview process.” He has worked with Syncrude since leaving the program, moving through a series of progressively more complex roles. He began as an instrumentation technician, spent seven years as a team leader, worked for a while on instrumentation planning, and is currently a contractor coordinator on the company’s birds and ecology team. When thinking back on his time in the program, Pozzi particularly values the hands-on experience and mentorship he received as a newcomer to the industry. Very early on, he realized the value of the experience of older workers and tried to follow their advice. It inspired him to help younger workers as a mentor himself and pass along as much knowledge as he could. “A lot of these people have retired now since I left the co-op program,” he says. “We’re the generation that has got to do what they were doing.” Not every young worker necessarily realizes the value of the education they’re receiving, Pozzi notes. Both during and after taking the program, he has seen apprentices who are 19 or 20 and don’t fully appreciate just how big an opportunity they are receiving. Because he entered the co-op program as a 25-year-old with a family to support, he did not take it quite so lightly. “I hope those students going into it now take advantage of it and don’t pass up the opportunity,” he says. “Don’t take it for granted.” For Pozzi, the program was not just a career-changer, but a lifechanger. He can’t imagine how he would have got into the trades without the support of CAREERS. “It’s how I got my foot in the door. You can’t walk up to these companies and say give me a job,” he says. “It had a very large impact on my life. I definitely wouldn’t be here without the program.” n

I hope those students “ going into it now take

Photo courtesy: CAREERS:TNG

advantage of it and don’t pass up the opportunity. Don’t take it for granted.

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OILSANDS BANQUET XI


PUTTING YOUNG PEOP PLE

TO WORK

e its founding in 1997, Careers: The Since Next Generation has been helping youth y w˜`>«>̜̅ÀiÜ>À`ˆ˜}V>ÀiiÀð iÀi>Ài̅i˜Õ“LiÀÃŜ܈˜}ˆÌÃ}ÀœÜ̅ ˆ˜̅i>ÃÌÓäÞi>Àð

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HOW CAR REERS WORK KS THE CAREERS: THE NEXT GENERA ATION T PROGRAM OFFERS A STEP-BYY-STEP PROCESS FOR HELPING YOUNG PEOPLE MOVE INTO THE WORKFORCE:

40

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OILSANDS BANQUET XI


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CAREERS 20@50

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41


A steadfast resource Industry commitment to Aboriginal business partnerships continues to strengthen in the Wood Buffalo region despite the economic slowdown. By R.P. Stastny

JP Gladu

CAREERS 20@50

Photo: Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

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W

hen Aboriginal-partnership pioneer Syncrude Canada first turned its attention to contracting with Aboriginal-owned businesses in the 1990s, the company’s leadership thought $30 million a year in contracts would be a good target. “We thought we were visionary at $30 million,” says former Syncrude CEO, Eric Newell. “We thought this would be so far over the top that nobody would ever question our motives. Of course, we were in it for the wrong reasons, thinking it was a philanthropy idea.” Fast-forward to today; Syncrude is doing in the order of $180 million$200 million per year in business with Aboriginal companies. And just before the oil-price drop, the Northeast Alberta Aboriginal Business Association’s (NAABA) 200-plus member companies did over $1.6 billion of business with the oilsands companies. It turned out that working with Indigenous-owned companies simply makes good business sense.

Work in progress Oilsands development has faced numerous challenges over the last decade, but the collapse of oil prices in 2014 landed a heavy hit to capital budgets and, in turn, industry spending with Aboriginal companies. And yet, Suncor Energy, the largest oilsands producer, spent $445 million with Aboriginal businesses in 2016, pushing its total spend on Aboriginal partnerships since 1999 to a remarkable $3.9 billion. For its efforts, Suncor Energy has been certified at a gold-level in the Progressive Aboriginal Relations program from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB). The award was presented at the 15th annual CCAB gala, where Suncor was recognized for its commitment to Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. “Much of the success of the oilsands has grown in tandem with First Nations and Métis communities,” CCAB’s president and CEO, JP Gladu says. “It is here where true partnerships grounded in mutual equitable respect are fully embraced in the procurement process supported by leadership at all levels of corporate engagement.” Gladu adds that the success of the oilsands industry’s work with Aboriginal companies “has valuable lessons to be learned and replicated in boardrooms across the country.” For Suncor’s part, Aboriginal partnerships continue to be an area of expanding horizons. The CCAB award confirmed that Suncor is on the right track, but its president and CEO Steve Williams says, “there is more work to be done.” That work involved the CCAB in developing a long-term company goal of strengthening relationships with Aboriginal Peoples. Some key steps along the way at Suncor are the formation of a 400-employee Aboriginal Employee Network (AEN) to support broader diversity and inclusion within the company and in the community, expanding contracting opportunities with Aboriginal businesses and using Suncor Energy Foundation to also support reconciliation, investment in cultural initiatives, learning and youth.

Down but also up The total spend on Indigenous businesses at Cenovus Energy was down in 2016 as it completed major projects and delayed new project growth, however, Aboriginal companies got a bigger share of the Cenovus investment pie. Last year, 19 per cent of Cenovus’ capital spending was with Aboriginal companies. That’s up from 17.3 percent of its total capital spending in

44

2015, 12.4 percent in 2014 and 9.7 percent in 2012. What these percentages mean in actual revenues is more bittersweet. In 2016, Indigenous companies earned $198 million working for Cenovus, compared to $297 million in 2015 and $384 million in 2014. “We expect that our industry will continue to face economic challenges associated with oil price volatility,” Cenovus said in its annual report. “While this impacts our planned capital expenditure overall, working with local Aboriginal businesses will continue to be a priority for Cenovus.” From 2009 to early 2017, Cenovus surpassed $2 billion in cumulative spending on business with local and Aboriginal companies in its operating areas.

NAABA Since the first indigenous entrepreneurs came together in 1993 to form the non-profit Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association (NAABA), the group has played a central role in advancing Aboriginal/ industry partnerships. Its current membership is 127 full members and 165 associate members. Full members are classified as businesses in the Wood Buffalo region that are at least 51 per cent aboriginally owned and controlled. Membership in NAABA provides these companies numerous benefits, including more visibility as a Certified Aboriginal business. It also provides additional exposure to industry through events, sponsorships and networking. It help members access industry representatives, job bids, procurement policies and regulations, and even has mentoring as part of its offering to help junior companies learn from experienced business owners. Associate members are non-Aboriginal businesses or businesses outside of the Wood Buffalo region that have made a commitment to support Aboriginal business growth. Associate membership provides them visibility for their commitment to Aboriginal-owned businesses and helps to create an environment that nurtures a relationship with the Aboriginal business community. As with any association, NAABA has to be innovative in its service offerings to members to stay relevant. “Some of the ways we are accomplishing this is hosting networking events, providing courses for our members, being more diligent with our policies and collaborating more with other organizations such as CCAB (Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business), industry and First Nation owned businesses, and most importantly our full members,” the former NAABA president, Justin Herman, is quoted saying on the association’s website. Despite the downturn in oil prices, Herman said, at the time, that the future of Aboriginal businesses in the Wood Buffalo region remains bright because “now, more than ever, industry and government recognize how mutually beneficial it is to work collaboratively with Aboriginal businesses.” The companies that are able to survive and thrive through these times will only become stronger once the market rebounds, he said. The current generation of Aboriginal businesses, Herman added, benefit from the proven track record of perseverance and success of past business leaders and trailblazers such as David Tuccaro, Richard Sorge, Eric Newell, Nicole and Dave Bouchier and other First Nation and Metis leaders from our region. “In 2015 Aboriginal businesses performed over $1.5-billion worth of work in the Wood buffalo region,” Herman said. “Even though we are experiencing difficult economic times right now, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will get through this.” n

OILSANDS BANQUET XI


BUILDERS OF WOOD BUFFALO INAUGURAL INDUCTEES

JIM BOUCHER

RITA MARTEN

DAVE TUCCARO

NICOLE BOURQUE BOUCHIER

DOUG GOLOSKY

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (Wood Buffalo) has numerous claims to fame. It is one of the largest municipalities in North America; home to the largest herd of free roaming Wood Bison on the planet. And, as we know, within its boundaries, is the third largest oil reserve in the world. As significant as these claims to fame are, Wood Buffalo’s greatest asset is its people. In this Golden Anniversary year, the selection comittee of “BUILDERS OF WOOD BUFFALO” is pleased to announce the inaugural inductees. In the category of Processing: Chief Jim Boucher, Fort McKay First Nation. In the category of Community Leadership: Rita Marten, Director of Education, Athabasca Tribal Council.

Building Aboriginal Partnerships

CAREERS 20@50

In the category of Service and Supply: Dave Tuccaro, Founder, President & CEO, Tuccaro Inc. Group of Companies Nicole Bourque-Bouchier, CEO and Co-Owner, Bouchier Group. Doug Golosky, Founder and Owner Sunset Recycling & Sales Ltd. OIL SANDS@50

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Builders of Wood Buffalo

“…Only when you know who you are, can you decide on what you want to be.”

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OILSANDS BANQUET XI


Rita Marten, Director of Education, Athabasca Tribal Council In order to be truly educated, you need to know who you are

T

wo things sustained Rita Marten through the residential school system of her youth. One was her father’s words: “Don’t ever forget your roots, your traditional language and culture.” Even today, she says them in her native Cree because those words carry a richer, deeper meaning than the translation. The other lifeline through those nine school years was her connection to the land. Marten’s family didn’t actually live in the community of Fort Chipewyan. Instead, they lived a traditional life on the land, moving from place to place with the seasons. So each summer, she returned to her true home. “The minute I got out of school in June, I went right to living on the land, back into my moccasins, back into my traditional language,” Marten recalls. “Even though my siblings and I knew English, we spoke Cree because Cree was our first language. That language, the culture and the land were intimately tied together for us. And because of that, I knew that I was a First Nations person and I was proud of who I was.” After attending Vocational School in Grouard, Alberta, Marten left for the working world. In those days, if you knew how to type, you could get a job as a secretary, so that’s what she did. But, after few years, she felt the pull of making a bigger contribution, which set her on the path to achieving a post-secondary education and becoming a leader in the promotion and support of First Nation self-determination. Her own experience shaped Marten’s philosophy of education: “In order to be truly educated, you need to know who you are. Only when you know who you are, can you decide on what you want to be.”

We need to start “ mentoring our youth for

Photo: Joey Podlubny

future leadership roles.

CAREERS 20@50

Her early steps into education were in 1970, when she became the first native language instructor for the Bishop Piche School in Fort Chipewyan. “I started teaching the language program, developed lessons plans, had classroom discipline and the kids really listened. Cree and Dene were spoken at home and students were fluent speakers in the 70’s. Those were happy times,” she says. But Marten’s influence was only beginning. Her passion for compiling resources on the history of northern Alberta’s First Nations led her to develop a travelling exhibit that proudly shared the rich legacy of her ancestors’ way of life. Since 1982, she has also offered numerous cultural workshops to students, educators, industry and government in the Wood Buffalo region. Other highlights of her early career include recruiting aboriginals in professional, trades and general positions at Syncrude; initiating and organizing a post-secondary B.Ed. program in Fort Chipewyan with University of Saskatchewan; acting as Councillor of the Mikisew Cree First Nation Leadership for nine years; and serving as Chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation from 1986 to 1988. Squarely focused on education since the 1990s, today, Marten is Director of Education for the Athabasca Tribal Council (ATC), where she advocates for the improvement of education services. The ATC is currently assisting five First Nations in developing Education Services Agreements to improve the quality of education and to revitalize the Cree and Dene languages. This spring, the ATC launched a Cree language app at an education conference and is currently developing a Dene language app. Marten is also passionate about succession planning. “We need to start mentoring our youth for future leadership roles,” she says. “Fifty years from now, our children and grandchildren will aspire to take on the roles as senior managers, presidents, industry executives and key private and Aboriginal management positions in this region. So a concerted effort and commitment from Aboriginal partnerships, stakeholders and the provincial and federal governments working together can make this happen.”

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Dave Tuccaro, president, Neegan Development Corporation and Tuc Contracting It’s the best time in history for Canada’s indigenous people.

A

n “education,” for many people, means going to university. And that’s fine. But a university education doesn’t always pan out in finding good work, says Dave Tuccaro, who took a more direct route to preparing for meaningful work in trades while building up the skills that made him a businessmen leader in the Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Tucccaro was six years old when his father moved the family from Fort Chipewyan to Fort McMurray. His father attended the Alberta Vocational Center to become a carpenter and that example set Tuccaro on a path to become a journeyman crane operator later in life. Playing an integral role in oilsands shutdowns and turnarounds, crane operating was the stepping stone to Tuccaro’s bigger vision: running his own business and creating opportunity for the people of Fort McMurray and the region’s indigenous communities. His earnings and the cyclical schedule of turnarounds allowed Tuccaro to run a parallel business in real estate investing, which ultimately financed his entry into oilsands services. He started in heavy-duty equipment and fuel services to oilsands and that success led to expansion into other services. A potable water and wastewater removal division became the Tuc’s company. Laboratory, geoscience and environmental services became NTS. The supplying bottled water, coffee, ice, vending and other break-time services became WPS. Then TPS and Re-Stock expanded the group into property development and infrastructure, and consumables restocking. At the helm of Canada’s leading private aboriginal group of companies, Tuccaro then went about pursuing the second part of his vision: the support of education, health and social justice. “When I got into business, I always believed that education was a tool that got the indigenous community out of poverty,” Tuccaro says. Tuccaro collaborated on the effort that launched CAREERS, the Next Generation. He sat on its board. He sat on the board of governors for Kenayo College. And his companies fund scholarships through Indspire, an Indigenous-led registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people. Tuccaro was also instrumental in bringing the 2004 Arctic Winter Games to Wood Buffalo (he won gold as a wrestler in the 1976 Arctic Winter Games). He also was on the board of the first health authority. This work holds a special place in his heart. “Health is the foundation for everything,” he says, recalling the painful journey that followed his son’s diagnosis of leukaemia a decade ago. David Tuccaro Jr. received a bone marrow transplant and today continues his brave battle. But another dimension of health for Tuccaro is healing the injustice that Canada’s residential school inflicted on First Nations people. His work helps ensure that aboriginal people will have full opportunity to participate in mainstream society is part of that process.

“It’s our turn to take our place now, to step up,” Tuccaro says. “Education is the key. You have to be educated. The rules that are here are not our rules. So, in order to play according to those rules, we have to understand them.” Each year, indigenous communities see more high school kids graduate, more aboriginal trades journeymen and more professionals, including doctors and lawyers. “There are decisions by courts in favour of indigenous peoples. We’ve had those rights all along but we didn’t even know we had those rights because we didn’t understand them,” Tuccaro says. “Now that we know the rules of the game, we can move forward together. Whether it’s a diamond project up north, or mining project in Ontario, or even in the oilsands here, companies need our support to get a license to operate. I see this still is a huge opportunity for us. This is the best time in the history of Canada for indigenous people and we’re stepping up each year.” 48

Photo: Joey Podlubny

is the key. “YouEducation have to be educated…

OILSANDS BANQUET XI


Builders of Wood Buffalo

“Health is the foundation for everything.”

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“The oilsands has been around for 50 years now. …today it is a cause for celebration”

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OILSANDS BANQUET XI


Jim Boucher, Chief of the Fort McKay First Nation It was a rocky start for the Fort McKay people, but today the oilsands is cause for celebration.

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s a young man, Jim Boucher was a staunch opponent of oilsands development. In 1983, he was one of the first aboriginal activists to block a local road in protest of development. But the world was changing and the old ways of earning a living were coming to an end. “The mainstay of the Fort McKay for generations was the fur trapping industry and that was destroyed by the environmentalists and the animal rights activists. As a result of that, most of our people lived in poverty, so we had to change,” says the Chief of the Fort McKay First Nation. Indigenous peoples’ relationship with the land runs deep and there were many issues the Fort McKay had to resolve before it started working with the oilsands industry. But it ultimately became Canada’s leading model of First Nations/industry collaboration. “When Syncrude and Suncor reduced sulphur missions by 80 and 60 per cent, that was substantial. And when they reduced naphtha emissions into the atmosphere to zero, that was quite an accomplishment. So we dealt with these issues. We dealt with the corporations and, at the end of the day, we all became aligned to benefit from resource development,” Boucher says. The transformation from hunting and trapping to participation in oilsands development also required new skills and trades. CAREERS, Next Generation, Keyano College and its predecessor organization played a pivotal role in the Wood Buffalo region. Without these skills, the Fort McKay wouldn’t have generated the $800 million of revenues it did in 2014.

Photo: Joey Podlubny

We’re seeing more and more of our “people graduate from high school and attend post-secondary institutions. ”

CAREERS 20@50

Under Chief Boucher’s leadership, Fort McKay invests substantial money and resources into education so that its people have the skills and the capability to participate in the economic stream. “We’re seeing more and more of our people graduate from high school and attend post-secondary institutions,” Boucher says. In the evolution towards a fuller participation in the region’s development, Fort McKay’s community members have become tradesmen, independent business people, joint-venture partners and, most recently, part owners in resource infrastructure assets when, last year, Fort McKay signed a participation agreement for the purchase of a 34.3 per cent equity interest in Suncor’s East Tank Farm Development. “This is an opportunity for the Fort McKay to get involved at a different level in how we invest into the oilsands,” Boucher says. “Ownership of a substantial asset will have a long-term benefit for the community and its shareholders. We’ll have 25 years of returns on our investment.” The deal is also pushing the Fort McKay to acquiring new business skills. “We’ll be raising a bond issue. We will be raising capital to pay off our investment, so it’s gotten us into a completely different role with respect to the business that we do. So it’s very exciting for the Fort McKay, as we arrange for the selling of bonds sometime in November,” Boucher says. Yet another step in the direction of full participant in the economic stream is Fort McKay’s plans to, one day, become an oilsands producer. With oil prices hovering at $50 WTI, however, greenfield oilsands projects have fallen off the table. Still, in the long-term, Boucher believes the oilsands will attract investment again because of the sheer size of the resource and the industry’s efforts to deploy new technologies aimed at allowing the oilsands to compete directly with tight oil development and other forms of energy. “The oilsands has been around for 50 years now. It was a rocky start for the Fort McKay people but today it is a cause for celebration,” Boucher says. n OIL SANDS@50

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“Technology will be the most interesting change to see in the oilsands in the next five to 10 years.”

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OILSANDS BANQUET XI


Nicole Bourque-Bouchier, CEO, Bouchier Group Everybody on our management team understands that we can’t stand in one place too long.

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s CEO and co-owner of Bouchier Group, a multifaceted oilsands service company, Nicole BourqueBouchier has landed on a number of recent “Top 50” and “Top 100” lists of most influential and powerful women in the country. She has won industry awards and her community work to advance education, health and the interests of women and indigenous people helps make the Wood Buffalo region a great place to live. But her path hasn’t always been smooth. “In the early day, a lot of people just didn’t believe that an aboriginal female could carry this role, especially one that didn’t have experience in contracting,” says Bourque-Bouchier, who is a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation. Coming from a stakeholder relations background with Shell Canada’s oilsands operations, when she and her husband, Dave Bouchier, founded the Bouchier Group, she had to learn the contracting business from the ground up. She picked up that piece from her husband and her father, both experienced contractors. Then she added her understanding of safety, financial and human resources into the mix. And what started with a road-building contract in 2004 has, today, become one of the largest Aboriginal-owned and operated companies, operating almost 1000 people in earthworks, civil construction and site services and facility maintenance. It’s a good business team. “Dave is phenomenal in working with our clients, getting out to see the VPs and the key directors of oilsands companies, building those relationships,” Bourque-Bouchier says. Her role faces more inwardly, working with the company teams, keeping the operations running smoothly on a day-to-day basis and presenting to the board. “The more I travel and the more I’m able to be involved in conferences, the more I realize how Aboriginal women are taking a leading role in business in Canada. It’s great to be a part of that,” she says.

Photo: Joey Podlubny

me, there’s a huge focus “onFor youth, culture and education because that’s our future. ”

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Change is a pivotal theme in Bourque-Bouchier’s worldview. “Everybody on our management team understands that we can’t stand in one place too long. I think that piece is a big part of our success,” she says. Consequently, the Bouchier Group continually looks at new ways of doing things and new ways of working with oilsands companies as the industry itself changes. “Technology will be the most interesting change to see in the oilsands in the next five to 10 years,” she says. “For us, it’s about building good-neighbour relationships and adapting to that change.” Adding facility maintenance into Bouchier’s service offerings three years ago was an important adaptation. While many services peaked in 2014, the Bouchier Group has continued to grow through the downturn. The addition also allows the company to offer better employee-advancement opportunities. “Our facilities group has carpenters, technicians, electricians, HVAC folks, even a couple engineers on staff, so it’s very diverse. It’s allowed us to close of the loop with education. We can hire entry-level, grade 12 or lower Aboriginal people, start them in basic roles and move them up through different operations, apprenticeships, trades and management,” Bourque-Bouchier says. With the inclusion of facilities maintenance in the Bouchier Group, Aboriginal employment has slipped, but the company is now rebuilding to a target of 60 per cent Aboriginal employees. Change is also a key theme in the Bouchier Group’s philanthropic work. As the community’s needs change, so does the company’s support. If the local health foundation needs resources, Bouchier is there. If Fort McKay wants to build an arena, Bouchier chips in. “For me, there’s a huge focus on youth, culture and education because that’s our future,” she says. “Right now our support of the Catholic School District’s Aboriginal awareness work in training for over 200 teachers in the Fort McMurray area is making a big impact.” OIL SANDS@50

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Doug Golosky, owner, Golosky Group of Companies. An inspiration to Wood Buffalo entrepreneurs

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he original settlers and people of the Wood Buffalo region are a tough breed. You hear the stories of men like Doug Golosky’s father, a carpenter and trapper, whose trap line ran from the Fort McMurray’s Snye all the way to the Saskatchewan border. While tending to its distant reaches with his dog sled team, his father would sleep under the trees in the snow with no tent—just a bed of branches. To this day, Doug Golosky keeps a trap line that harvests wolverine, martin, fisher, weasel, the odd skunk, beaver and bear. “It’s something we’ve always done here,” Golosky says. Golosky’s sense of place runs deep. He’s seen many parts of the world and worked far afield as the owner of a multi-million-dollar business empire, The Golosky Group of Companies. But Fort McMurray is home to five generations of the Golosky family, starting with his Romanian-born grandfather and his Cree grandmother. At 15 years of age, Golosky decided school wasn’t for him and left to work with his father. At the time, Suncor just started the Alberta Vocational Centre (AVC) because Bechtel—its engineering, construction and project management partner—needed welders. So a half year later, Golosky enrolled to become a welder, a trade that served as the foundation for his business career. AVC, which would become Keyano College, became a central fixture in the Golosky family. Golosky’s father formalized his carpentry skills at Keyano College. All of Golosky’s five brothers studied there. So did his daughter and, most recently, his grandson. “My father and then my brother also became the deans of heavy equipment at Keyano College,” Golosky says proudly. After working as a welder all across northern Canada as a young man, Golosky started his first company, Clearwater Welding & Fabricating Ltd., in 1984. His wife, Carol, did the accounting and played a key role in the success of Golosky’s growing group of companies. “I built the companies so that one supports the other,” Golosky says. “I needed to get material for Clearwater so, to be more competitive, I bought a truck and trailer and got my brother to start Golosky Trucking.” A contract with Syncrude in 1986 led to fabrication. In the 1990s, he started Matrix, doing hard surfacing chrome carbide for pipe and elbows. Matrix went on to become one of the biggest companies if its kind in North America. At its height, the Golosky Group of Companies comprised eight firms, employed more than 1,000 tradespeople, and topped $1 billion in annual revenues, with locations stretching across Canada to Montreal. Its diversified offerings extended beyond oil and gas to pulp and paper mills, construction and aviation, with international work in South America and Egypt.

“ I was smart enough to know that I should

For this extraordinary achievement and the difference he has made in his community, Golosky has won many awards, including an honorary Business Administration Degree from NAIT, alongside numerous regional, industry and Aboriginal awards for business and employment. In 2007, the Golosky family sold off about 80 per cent of their holdings. Today, at 68, Golosky keeps his business offices in a cavernous hangar at the Fort McMurray International Airport that once housed his aviation business. With a less demanding business schedule, he has more time to focus on the role of education in the Aboriginal community and the wider region of Wood Buffalo. “I really believe people have to be educated,” he says. “I was smart enough to know that I should have stayed in school, but you make the best of what nature and fate gives you.” Fortunately, nature and fate saw to it that Golosky learned a trade, which he turned into a business and then into group of companies that, ultimately, became a proud source of inspiration to others in the Wood Buffalo region. 54

Photo: Joey Podlubny

have stayed in school, but you make the best of what nature and fate gives you.

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“I really believe people have to be educated.”

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Photo: Joey Podlubny

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: Ashes to opportunity How Fort McMurray’s local youth found new career paths in the aftermath of The Beast. By R.P. Stastny

he trick to getting on in life is to see opportunity even in adversity. So as devastating as the wildfire of 2016 was to Fort McMurray, it didn’t take long before CAREERS: The Next Generation sensed that there was something positive to be salvaged here. Fast forward to this summer of 2017, when Andy Neigel, president and CEO of CAREERS, toured the various home building sites in Fort McMurray where his organization had placed several dozen young apprentices to help rebuild the town, and saw first hand the results of this vision. “I just look at the smiles on the young people’s faces when I go through some of these sites,” he says. “They’re happy to be out there and trying something new and being part of the rebuild.” To get to this place of satisfaction, though, like most things in life, required insight, determination and the cooperation of many people.

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t the end of 2016, apart from ensuring that apprentices displaced from Fort McMurray by the wildfire could continue their trades training in other parts of Alberta, the directors of CAREERS quickly set their sights squarely on the over 2,000 residential homes and commercial buildings that needed to be rebuilt. They asked themselves, “How could the rebuild involve local youth?”

Youth Rebuilding Fort McMurray “After a number of sessions with some of our educational partners, industry, home builders, political types and community leaders, we realized that this was an opportunity we didn’t want to miss,” Neigel says. Those discussions eventually led to a new CAREERS initiative called Youth Rebuilding Fort McMurray. Because CAREERS: The Next Generation got its start and in many ways is still is rooted in Fort McMurray, it’s board of directors include some of the community’s most passionate, influential and wealthy supporters—names that include Eric Newell, Jim Carter, John Wilson, Doug Goloski and others. These luminaries were determined that the local community would benefit from the rebuild and many of them said, “By the way, here’s some money to kick start the process.” In total, CAREERS brought well over $200,000 to the table, a convincing endorsement of the new program, which they then leveraged in the community to raise additional funding.

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But in making their rounds for Youth Rebuilding Fort McMurray, they often heard the comment, “We’ve already given to the Red Cross or the United Way.” Unwilling to concede that they might have started fundraising too late, board members who had connections with the Red Cross and United Way approached these groups to ask if they would consider altering their traditional approach to funding disaster relief. “Usually they provide immediate assistance, so the question became, “How do we create additional benefits for the community over a longer term,” Neigel says.

Photo: CAREERS TNG

…In total, the “ campaign raised well over $1 million. ” The Red Cross quickly recognized the value of CAREERS’ proposition to engage youth and became a “huge funder” of the program, Neigel says. Both non-profits also saw an important opportunity for the aboriginal community and brought United Way into the conversation around its Indigenous Program. “So it turned out to be a really good alliance of the three groups. In total, the campaign raised well over $1 million,” Neigel says.

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Some of the money raised for Youth Rebuilding Fort McMurray was spent marketing the program to find kids interested in building trades. But the bulk of it was directed into two streams. “We launched a First 100 Hours program where CAREERS provides a new young employee a stipend that covers the first 100 hours of employment. So this is really an incentive to get home builders on board with the rebuild program,” Neigel explains. The second stream of spending was on training through the group’s partnership with Keyano College in Fort McMurray. The intent here was to ground new apprentices in strong work-site safety practices and to provide them with basic training on hand tools. “This was important because we don’t have a lot of experience with home builders,” Neigel says. “Most of our experience in apprenticeships is more on the industrial side. But homebuilders and contractors are more mobile and tend to be smaller operations that don’t have big safety programs of their own. And all the work to date has been with zero safety incidents.” To achieve this high standard of safety, CAREERS: The Next Generation went through a rigorous vetting process to identify suitable builders and subcontractors that could take on apprentices. It met with 20 general contractors, out of which it confirmed 10 builders. It also had conversations with 110 of their subtrades and had 25 participants signed on. Initially CAREERS met some resistance on safety from some of the builders that wanted to participate in

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the program. They claimed they couldn’t keep a 16 or 17-year-old safe on a work site because of their lack of maturity. Neigel’s response to this was, “I’ve run young apprentices on industrial sites and, quite frankly, if I can’t keep a 16-year-old safe, I can’t keep 25 or 45-year-old safe either. So it’s more about culture and your approach to safety.” Janis Lawrence-Harper, vice president of operations for CAREERS, says that the selected builders, which range in size from some of the largest companies in the area to very small operations, all recognize that bringing youth onto their sites requires a special awareness of safety protocols. This understanding is two-way street. The program’s youth were also required to sign safety protocols before Photo: CAREERS TNG starting work. Apart from safe work practices, another key push of the Youth Rebuilding Fort McMurray program was to have as many of the youth as possible indentured in a trade. “We were successful in that,” LawrenceHarper says. “We had 14 indentured within the first few months of work in the industry. This is good news, as the home construction industry often postpones indenturing youth.” As the new generation of Millennials carves out its reputation in the workplace, there’s no denying that this cohort is different from past generations. For one thing, most youth entering the workforce today didn’t grow up on farms. So a lot

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of those basic mechanical skills and self-reliance that farm kids are known for are missing. Many youth today don’t even have driver’s licenses and don’t seem to be interested in getting one. “In fact, young people not having drivers licenses is a big challenge,” Neigel says. Homebuilders often work in different neighbourhoods and need their apprentices to show up at different sites on a day-to-day basis. This is a problem for non-drivers in Fort McMurray because buses don’t service many locations and walking isn’t an option. It’s a sprawling town. Over the years, neighbourhoods have expanded along the ridges high above the Athabasca River valley, far from the downtown lowlands and other neighbourhoods. One solution to this challenge for CAREERS was to develop a driver training program for youth allowing them to get learner’s permits and have access to other driving priviledges. Young Albertans new to the city may not have some basic skills that older generations take for granted. They don’t always understand the chain of responsibility on a work sites. And they might not know whom to turn to for information. “One youth phoned us saying that he doesn’t know how to put a ladder up against a house,” Lawrence-Harper recalls. “So it was a matter of just coaching him to ask the question of his boss.”

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Knowing how to put up a ladder up against a house might seem like common sense, but thinking you know how to safely do that and actually knowing how to do that properly aren’t always the same. The opportunity here is that these youth aren’t coming to the work site with engrained and potentially bad habits. With the stronger focus on safety, it’s also not uncommon for some of these youth to say, “I’m not comfortable using a grinder because it’s missing a safety guard,” he noted. So this generation has the potential to move safety to the higher level, which benefits everyone. In Alberta’s cold north, home building is a seasonal affair that sees as much exterior work as possible completed in the short summer months. Ideally, the structure envelopes are closed in before the snow flies. Then the work shifts to interior trades. Neigel says The First 100 Hours incentive was a huge success for both the builders and youth. A number of youth were so eager to get going this spring that, despite initially wanting to pursue an electrical or other trade that wasn't available until later in the building cycle, they were willing to shift into a trade that would get them working right away. “Mostly, these youth are pretty flexible. They see the opportunity in the trades, so they are willing to try new opportunities. With some of the 18 to 25-year-olds, they’re trying to get their foot in the door any way that they can,” Neigel says.

Putting Fort McMurray youth back to work

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The rebuild has also been a gold mine for youth interested in trades that typically aren’t well supported in the Fort McMurray area. “We had one youth in particular who always wanted to be in carpentry and couldn’t get into it,” Lawrence-Harper says. “This youth was in the 18-to-25 apprenticeship program. We’ve been running that stream in Fort McMurray for years but mostly on industrial sites, where carpentry isn’t a big trade. So he was having a hard time breaking into it and this turned out to be fantastic opportunity for him.” That youth, in fact, started in doing exterior work as a plasterer and then went on to begin carpentry with company called CBS Construction. In a report on Youth Rebuilding Fort McMurray, CAREERS says it attracted 75 local Fort McMurray youth into the program through awareness sessions. It then successfully pre-screened and interviewed 51 youth for the trades program. All 51 of these young people successfully completed the mandatory Keyano College Construction Safety Awareness training program. Fortythree were then connected with employers selected for the rebuild. From these interviews came 39 youth internships, amounting to more than 11,000 exposure hours in various trades, including electrical, plumbing, carpentry, sheet metal, HVAC and others. As of this September, there were 31 active internships (eight youth were lost to self-termination, lack of sufficient work provided by employers or poor performance). “Thirty-one internships might not sound like a big number, but it is when you look at all the families that left town and haven’t returned. There’s now 31 local youth that have a pretty good idea of what they want to do for a career path,” Neigel says.

This will probably be a five-year “process…Fort McMurray was wise in soliciting as much information as it could in undertaking this rebuild.

What is clear to everyone is rebuilding Fort McMurray won’t happen overnight. “This will probably be a five-year process,” Neigel says. “Fort McMurray was wise in soliciting as much information as it could in undertaking this rebuild. Comments from the Slave Lake people and the experience after their fire were taken to heart. It’s a long process.” That the rebuild will take some time is actually a good thing for Youth Rebuilding Fort McMurray. While the program doesn’t expect to expand much, it will support its participants right through to full journeyperson status. She would like to see more women in trades. While the rebuild program has been moderately successful in attracting a diverse group— there are three Aboriginals among the current apprentices as well as some recently arrived immigrants to Canada—there are no young women in the program. “The home building field is harder to attract young women into,” Lawrence-Harper says. “The opportunities are there, but it’s still not perceived that way. So we would love to have somebody read this article and say, I know a young gal in high school, or just out of high school, who could excel in these opportunities.”n CAREERS 20@50

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“a future worth working for”

NORTHERN STARS, the publication of the Oilsands Banquet, celebrates community and corporate leadership in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. oilsandsbanquet.com

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CAREERS: The Next Generation – Celebrating 20@50  

Celebrating 20 years on the occassion of the 50th Anniversary of the Alberta Oil Sands.

CAREERS: The Next Generation – Celebrating 20@50  

Celebrating 20 years on the occassion of the 50th Anniversary of the Alberta Oil Sands.

Profile for westbrier