A lesson to be learned from the most recent Fort Nelson Energy Expo is that no trade show is the same to all its participants.
Energy Services BC (ESBC), the organizer of the oil and gas industry event that took place at the Northern Rockies Regional Recreation Centre on September 14-15, had very clear goals for the expo, but they didn’t match the goals of all the guests and exhibitors.
“My goals for this expo and every expo we put on is to ensure that there’s a seamless communication opportunity between the service sector and the producers,” said Art Jarvis, executive director south with ESBC.
The purpose is to show the natural gas producers operating in the region what they can expect to find in the Fort Nelson area as far as services and equipment.
“And, of course, from the service sector side, the type of jobs that they can expect to see in the near future or that are currently going on,” Jarvis added.
In those terms, the show was a modest success, which isn’t entirely surprising considering the low natural gas prices that have slowed activity in the nearby Horn River Basin shale gas play of northeast British Columbia.
“There’s uncertainty about what’s going to happen this winter,” said Jarvis.
Still, ESBC isn’t satisfied.
“I’m quite sure that we’ll be going to the Horn River [Basin] Producers Group – going to their next meeting – and requesting an improved attendance, for them to take a more serious look at the investment that all of our service people have getting into this, and the fact that they need to be viewed by the right people from Calgary,” said Jarvis.
The Energy Expo was a different story for Rachael D’Silvia, who was attending on behalf of Employment Connections in Fort St. John to promote the Targeted Skills Shortage Program.
“Which is aimed for small employers, small organizations or entrepreneurs in the North Peace region,” said D’Silva.
The program focuses on five sectors: natural gas, transportation, manufacturing, health care and social services, and clean technology and green economy.
“There was a pilot program last year, but it didn’t cover all these sectors,” D’Silva continued. “This year it’s been expanded to include the oil and gas and the clean technology and green economy sector.”
The program offers as much as $1,500 per employee and $7,500 per employer to pay for tuition and other materials associated with training and education.
“Basically, if an employee does not possess a high school diploma, or he has a high school diploma but doesn’t have any recognized certification, than he could be eligible” said D’Silva.
“Fund any kind of safety tickets he needs, any kind of training he requires,” she added.
The program has expanded to include the oil and gas industry largely because of the number of people gravitating toward that sector in the region, including those new to the area.
D’Silva feels that participating in the program could be a smart move for employers.
“By training your employees, you’re really demonstrating your interest in your employee’s professional development and enhancing their skills,” she explained. “It’s also a way of retaining your employees and reducing employee turnover.”
D’Silva met with a number of companies during the trade show.
“They’re very, very interested in the program,” she said.
“Though I’ve tried to market this program and sent out tons of emails to quite a few of them, it really helps to meet them face to face, because I get a much better feedback from them,” she added.
However, D’Silva had other reasons for attending the Energy Expo as well.
“For me, it’s a learning in the oil and gas industry, because I don’t know enough,” she admitted.
Enbridge is a company that knows plenty about the oil and gas industry. They were attending the Energy Expo to make sure that the Fort Nelson community knows a thing or two about them.
“January 1, we’re taking over ownership from Encana of the Cabin Gas Plant,” said community relations advisor Craig Matwick.
“This is the first time that we wanted to come out to the Expo and just start to meet people and shake hands and explain a bit about Enbridge and who we are and where we come from, what our core business is, and then what we’re planning to do as far as the transition to take over on January 1.”
Enbridge is a big player in the natural gas midstream business in other regions such as Texas, but taking over the natural gas processing plant is their first foray into that sector in northeast B.C.
“We’ve been doing it for years down there,” said Matwick. “We’re going to try it in Canada. We got into the Cabin Gas Plant here and there’s a lot of opportunity for growth and expansion in the area.”
Matwick remarked that Enbridge was hoping to “get an idea of what makes the community tick” and address local concerns about their activities out in the remote part of the Horn River Basin where the Cabin Gas Plant is located.
“There’s nothing worse than not knowing what’s going on,” he said.
“It’s definitely always best to just be open and transparent about what is going on, what our plans are, and this is our first opportunity in town to really get that message out there and start answering questions and making contacts and building a long term relationship.
“If anybody has questions, they know who to contact.”