Enbridge providing $1.5 million for pipeline training

Education, training and skills development are now the focus of Enbridge Northern Gateway.

Education, training and skills development are now the focus of Enbridge Northern Gateway.

Enbridge representatives, Kevin Brown and Catherine Pennington were guest speakers at a special meeting of council recently.

Representatives from the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) were also invited to attend the meeting.

Pennington and Brown said that while they were in town they had the opportunity to meet with an undisclosed local First Nation group as well as the College of New Caledonia (CNC) about the program.

Brown said the First Nation group wished to remain anonymous. He said that the group and Enbridge are in discussions regarding training and employment opportunities surrounding the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project, should it be approved.

According to Brown, Enbridge has set aside $1.5 million in an education and training fund to address the current and looming labour shortage in the pipeline construction sector. The funding is available, upon application to the Northern Gateway Education and Training Fund and any educational or training institutions along the proposed pipeline route can apply.

The funding has been offered to support training initiatives that focus on pipeline skills.

“There is 9,000 people working currently in the sector and of that, upwards of 30 per cent will be retiring by 2020. The pipeline sector has the oldest demographic of workers however pipeline construction will be increasing,” Pennington said.

She said the pipeline sector is steadily growing, with $85 billion set to be invested in Canada over the next 15 years. “Most of it will be in Canada’s North and West.”

Because of this, Enbridge has developed an education and training strategy that they hope will fill the predicted labour shortage gaps.

“There is a lot of opportunity and we want to develop training and skills that will be potentially transferrable to the mining and forestry sector and of course the oil and gas sector. We are focussed on transferrable skills,” she added.

Enbridge is working with colleges and local communities to determine individual needs of each community.

“We don’t have a one size fits all program,” she said adding that it is up to each community to get together and work with Enbridge on developing an education and training program that will benefit the community.

“Pipeline construction is an exciting career for many people. We need to support our youth and make sure they understand that so we are also working with schools.”

According to Pennington, a worker doing an entry level job in the pipeline sector works for just eight months of the year and is paid $80,000. “This is an important thing to communicate to schools.”

Job titles that fall under pipeline construction include heavy equipment operators, pipeline monitoring, tunnel maintenance, pump station maintenance, first responders, welders and fitters, office personnel, caterers and supervisors as well as entry level positions such as general labourers.

“We know $1.5 million is not a lot of money, but if we work in partnership with pre existing programs we can expand the opportunities and make this work,” Pennington said.

She said communities can access a portion of the money through and application process which will be open during the first quarter of 2012.

“It is our goal to increase the amount of money in the fund. Making investments into communities benefits everyone. We hope this is going to get going relatively quickly, we want to assist people and get them working,” she said.

Pennington went on to say that more money will be invested into the education and training fund by Enbridge if the Northern Gateway Pipeline project receives final approval.

Bill Miller, RDBN director of area B, Burns Lake rural said he applauds any industry that puts dollars into training.

“I do have a couple of concerns though,” he said, adding that industry is traditionally territorial about spending.

“If the pipeline takes away local employees it is a downside to local industry and the local economy. If people are trained for the pipeline they will eventually wander off into the foothills. If people are trained for the mining industry they will also wander off into the foothills. Our local economy needs them here.”

Brown replied, “The pipeline sector is at a point where we really have to put money in. Building skills in the North is most important. First Nations and Metis groups are the future for many sectors and training will put them on a career path. Enbridge is committed to 15 per cent Aboriginal involvement [in the Northern Gateway Pipeline project] as a base. It is great the local government has such a great relationship with First Nations.”

Pennington said they are looking at CNC as a potential local training provider, however the college would also have to choose to apply to receive a portion of the funding.

Burns Lake’s former Mayor Bernice Magee [who was still in municipal office at the time] said to council, “I see this as positive. It is something that we have talked about for many years with Enbridge and I am glad to see it going ahead.”

Sheryl Worthing, village chief administrative officer later said to Lakes District News, “Enbridge had asked for an opportunity to update council on their education and training initiatives. Council received the information and no further action is required at this point.”

Lynn Synotte marketing and recruitment representative from CNC’s Lakes District campus said, “CNC has offered an essential skills for pipeline program locally in partnership with Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment Training Association and the Pacific Trails Pipeline.  The course offered skills and certifications that were aimed at the requirements of the pipeline industry but were transferable to other industries. Consequently, the students were very successful in obtaining employment in other industries that are currently hiring. Enbridge did meet with the college to provide an update on their training plans and anticipated workforce needs. The Lakes District campus is well positioned to respond to community training needs when they arise. It is very exciting to hear about all the potential upcoming jobs in the region.”

During the meeting Brown also gave an update on the status of the Northern Gateway Pipeline project. He said there is two big rounds of hearings to be held during 2012. “It’s the year of the hearings for the Northern Gateway project, all eyes will be on Enbrigde.”

The hearings kicked off in Kitimat on Jan. 12, 2012 with 4,000 people registered to make 10 minute oral statements.

“The hearings will take at least 100 days, it is a lot of people to listen to … 2,300 people of the 4,000 might actually show up.” Brown said.

June 26, 2012, is the official start of the formal public hearings. A total of 200 intervenors are registered including the Village of Burns Lake, the RDBN and local group the Lakes District Clean Waters Coalition.

“Enbridge will present information and be cross examined by intervenors. The intervenors will then present their information and be cross examined by Enbridge.”

From there the joint review panel will make a decision. “They will take as much time as they need,” Brown said.

Once a decision by the panel is made, the project will be passed on to the federal cabinet for a final decision.