Pipeline construction trade show speaks up employment potential

A tradeshow about pipeline construction in Kitimat showed people the opportunities in construction.

On October 2 the Canadian Pipeline Advisory Council hosted an “Interactive Pipeline Tradeshow” in the cafeteria at Mount Elizabeth Middle Secondary School.

The event brought students and the public together to check out the opportunities available to people interested in joining the trades ahead of a number of pipeline proposals for the area.

Heading up the event was Lyall Nash, the chairman of the Canadian Pipeline Advisory Council.

“We represent the workers. We have four unions that supply our workers: Labourers, operating engineers, welders and teamsters. We represent the contractors that install the pipe, do all the construction. We’ve been around for 60 years and built all the major pipelines in Canada,” he said.

He said students in particular were interested in what specific jobs pipeline construction could offer.

To that he pointed to skilled workers like welders, who can get work in many fields, not just pipeline construction.

The trades are actively seeking new students into training programs because demand is currently so high.

And this is before any pipelines have received an official go-ahead for this region.

“I would think if one of these pipelines were to go, whether it’s  one of the gas lines or even the Northern Gateway, yes there would be a bit of a problem,” said Nash about finding enough workers. “Right now in Alberta we have five major projects underway and employing probably in the neighbourhood of 5,000 people. People are there. We expect in B.C., because there hasn’t been any major pipelines here for a number of years, all the trades are going to do some training.”

It’s no suprise to add that Nash has no question about the ability to safely build pipelines.

“We know they can [be built safely],” he said. “The technology nowadays, the pipe is very good, the pipe is all coated in a factory and the welding is all done automatically so there’s no imperfections in the welding and with the inspection nowadays you’ve got to do a good job. Once it’s buried underground it’ll last forever.”

He said some of the pipelines they’ve constructed over the years are 60 years old and still running fine.

Among others representing their unions, Randy Grisewood was on hand, the training coordinator for the operating engineers.

A majority of pipeline jobs come under that banner, and he said jobs are being offered as fast as people can be trained.

“Crane operators, heavy duty mechanics are highest demand. We can’t keep up,” he said.

“In our training courses for heavy equipment operator, we put ten people through the class, we get more than half of them out to work right away, right at the end of the class.”

Crane operators even have a 100 per cent success rate in finding employment, he said.

Meanwhile though the demographics are changing and work demands are also pulling in far more female students than before.

Nash said that a welding course in Terrace is seeing half their enrolment from women.

“There is a shortage of workers out there so no reason the different demographics can’t take training and become part of the workforce,” he said.