Charting a path from enthusiasm to employment

L3R Training-to-Employment Program mobilizes again in Saskatchewan

If he could just wedge his steel-toed boot in the door, Mike Bert knew he could put his best foot forward.

While he’d earned a civil engineering technology diploma and a petroleum engineering degree in recent years at SAIT Polytechnic, the Calgary resident hadn’t been able to find work in his chosen field—the upstream oil and gas sector—for more than a year, because of slumping global oil prices.

“I was just looking for a chance to prove myself. I applied for dozens of jobs in the industry . . . everything from drilling to reservoir engineering to pipeline labor,” recalls Bert, 32, who worked in concrete cutting and coring through much of 2015 to support his young family.

“I told some of those companies that I would volunteer my time, to begin with, as an investment—to prove myself,” he adds. “I just wanted the opportunity.”

Last November, with prospects looking bleak, Bert finally got his break.

Through his wife Tracey, a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation, he learned that Enbridge was about to launch its Line 3 Replacement Training-to-Employment Program. A month after he successfully completed the Pipeline 101 training course, Bert was hired by SITE, an Edmonton-based energy services company—and is now working as a laborer on Enbridge’s Regina Bypass Project.

In all, 69 job seekers completed that inaugural offering of Enbridge’s L3R Training-to-Employment Program in late 2015, between Pipeline 101 and heavy equipment operator training pilot programs.

And now, we’re ready to mobilize our 2016 offerings in communities across Saskatchewan.

Training and employment opportunities for Aboriginal communities are a key focus of our proposed Line 3 Replacement Program,” says Lyle Neis, director of stakeholder and Aboriginal engagement on the Canadian portion of the L3R project. “But at the same time, the Enbridge’s L3R Training-to-Employment Program isn’t limited to the future of a single pipeline project—it’s designed to teach transferable skills that support future employment opportunities for Aboriginal workers across the pipeline industry, as well as related sectors."

This year’s first of three Pipeline 101 training courses begins today on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, near Saskatoon, with two more sessions planned later this spring for Regina and Fort Qu’Appelle.

This comprehensive 15-day offering, led by the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and Strive Energy, includes training for 24 students in:

  • Health and safety requirements, including H2S and standard first aid;
  • Pipeline-specific instruction, such as ground disturbance, cribbing and fencing;
  • Basic theory and practical fundamentals of pipeline construction; and
  • Specialty skills training, including ATV operation, chain saw safety, surveying, and oxy-acetylene cutting and burning.

“We’re really pleased to see the response from the First Nation and Metis communities Enbridge has been engaged with over the past few years—as well as the construction and services companies who know the value of an available skilled workforce that they can tap into,” says Jason Houncaren, acting director of the Line 3 Replacement Program.

Bert, a member of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes near Oklahoma City, OK, who has permanent residency status in Canada, says the L3R Training-to-Employment Program gave him a well-adjusted mix of pipeline construction theory and practical knowledge.

“It gave us the inside track on theory, approach, method, terminology. We know about welding and coating identification numbers. We know our way around excavations—which slopes are required, based on the type of soil. That sort of thing,” he says.

“I’m so thankful for the chance, because it opened the door for me—and I’m going to keep working my way up.”