Oilpatch partners with high schools
The president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors says his industry needs to look to high schools for its next generation of workers.
Mark Scholz, who was in Red Deer on Wednesday for the CAODC’s fall conference, said his trade association is looking to partner with the Northern Lights School Division to promote work on the rigs as an attractive career option for young people. It would be part of a pilot project that introduces students to the trades.
“Before, it was very difficult to have that opportunity with high school students where they’re in that position to start to think about, ‘Ok, I’m going to be graduating soon; what are the opportunities out there for me?’”
Scholz said the oilpatch offers a safe, secure and lucrative option for young people, including those who aspire to corporate boardrooms. CAODC’s own board consists of CEOs, presidents and other senior executives from major companies, both private and publicly traded.
“I would say 99 per cent of those people on my board have had some sort of rig experience, and these guys are running multimillion-dollar drilling rig corporations. They worked their way right up from a floor hand level, to driller to maybe a rig manager, and then worked their way up the corporate ladder.”
Scholz said it’s critical that young people be encouraged to consider employment with drilling and service rig companies if the industry is to overcome a worsening skilled labour shortage.
“It’s a huge issue because we have members that were in a position where they had to set aside equipment — not because they didn’t have work, but because they didn’t have crews.
“It’s a multi-million dollar operation with the various rig components, but unless you have competent and quality crews working on those rigs . . . you’re not going to be successful.”
Scholz doesn’t think temporary foreign workers can help, because they only bring short-term relief.
“There isn’t a real clear understanding of how to fix this,” he said, “but it involves a lot of building relationships with the federal government and getting them to understand the concerns of where the gaps lie.”
In the meantime, he thinks it’s important that the energy sector be presented to young people as a good career alternative.
“There is a really interesting and engaging type of career that is available through our business, and that’s what we’re trying is to introduce into the high school curriculum.
“If we can make it work and we can export that into other school districts, I think you’re going to see some really neat things coming out of it.”
Scholz said he’s pleased the Red Deer Oil & Gas Expo, which opened on Wednesday and continues today, has attracted interest. It’s important that area residents have the opportunity to learn about the industry, especially since it plays such a prominent role in the local economy, he said.
“Having these types of shows and bringing the public in so they can actually touch, see and feel the industry and what it’s all about is so important.”
Scholz spoke at the Oil & Gas Expo on Wednesday afternoon, providing an overview of the CAODC and the role it plays. Despite being based in Calgary, as are most of Canada’s oil and gas companies, the association recognizes the importance of cities like Red Deer — as is illustrated by the fact CAODC conducts monthly service rig executive meetings here.
“Generally, the leaders and the senior management of service rig companies are here in Red Deer.”