Young trades people attending the Skills Canada National Competition in Edmonton, Alberta this May were given a glimpse into a possible future in the oil and gas industry courtesy of Cenovus Energy.
As presenting sponsor for the event – which ran from May 13 to 16 – the Canadian oil company was invited to host a National Youth Forum, a gathering of past medal winners from each province and territory.
“Our HR folks went and chatted with them for the afternoon,” said Rita Erven, senior advisor of Community Investment with Cenovus, adding that the discussion included their reasons for pursuing their chosen professions, the barriers to success that they have experienced and how Cenovus could help them achieve their goals from their position as a “fairly significant employer.”
The company also offered a tour of their Nisku Module Yard, the site where they assemble the pipe rack and equipment modules that they use in their oil exploration and production operations in Northern Alberta.
“Our module yard employs numerous skilled trades people,” said Erven. “It just seemed like a great opportunity to bring them out and let them have a look at it.
It was an eye-opener for many of the young men and women.
“Some who were not from Alberta or Saskatchewan just didn’t really fathom the depth and scope of the oil and gas industry,” she added.
Erven suggested that that exposure could have as much value for the energy sector as for the National Youth Forum participants.
“We, as an oil and gas company, rely very heavily on skilled trades people, if not directly, then indirectly,” she said.
“Our company and our industry couldn’t really function without the skilled trades people we need. For example, we wouldn’t hire a culinary arts student, but we have camps that require cooks.
“Alberta, I think, has one of the highest needs when it comes to skilled trades people.”
Skills Canada CEO Shaun Thorson heard plenty of positive feedback about the National Youth Forum conversations.
“The young people that participated in that discussion [said] that it was excellent,” he said.
“They brought some really good points and information to the table. So, definitely a worthwhile activity and something that we’re going to try to do more of with some more formalized discussion.”
Thorson also noted that the interaction between the Cenovus representatives and the young trades people was a good way to demonstrate the transferability of skills to a variety of industries.
“Something that did reinforce that there are countless careers involved in those occupations,” he said.
The individuals who will be representing Canada at the WorldSkills Competition in Leipzig, Germany next year were chosen from the competitors at the Skills Canada National Competition.
“They’re selected in a couple different ways, depending on the contest area and depending on the types of projects that are done,” Thorson explained.
“In some instances, we only have post-secondary level contest areas,” he continued. “And [the] highest scoring, age-eligible postsecondary person is selected to participate.
“And, in general, that’s sort of the theme throughout, is we look at the highest scoring, age-eligible person. Most of those people do come from the postsecondary level. But, in some instances, you may have someone that is successful from the secondary level.”
Although the event was a success, Skills Canada is considering a few tweaks for next year, mostly to connect with the educators who attend the competition as coaches to the participants.
“Most of them will sit for each of the two days and watch their competitor and the contest,” said Thorson.
“But one thing that we’re looking at,” he continued, “is to build a parallel education program that runs along with the competition, where we could bring in some more organizations and companies to present information and talk about some of the trends in their industry. And have educators participate in that process, trying to provide them more information as to what industry’s looking for and the direction that industry’s moving in.”