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Energy companies recruiting in skilled trades; Demand heavy in several fields

The Leader Post - By Barry Horeczy

January 19,2013

Energy companies recruiting in skilled trades; Demand heavy in several fields
Source: For Postmedia News

Dominic Yague wasted little time putting his education to good use in one of Canada's hottest employment sectors.
Yague completed his electrical-engineering degree at Edmonton's University of Alberta in April of 2012. The following month he joined Suncor Energy's reliability engineering group at the Fort Hills oilsands project, north of Fort McMurray, Alta.
Yague, 30, who also attained a biomedical engineering-technologist diploma from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in 2007, is happy he leaped at the chance to become an electrical engineer in training with the Calgary-based energy company.
"I felt I had the unique chance of joining a project from the early stages," says Yague. "This would allow me to see the project develop from a design basis stage through to detailed design, construction, commissioning and start up, and then right through to the full operation of the entire site. Not many people get a chance to join something so big so early on, and I didn't want to pass it up."
Yague instead passed up the opportunity to pursue his master of science in electrical engineering at the U of A, at least for the time being, to accept one of Suncor's hottest jobs.
Other employees in heavy demand at the energy company are heavy equipment operators, process and mining engineers; millwrights, heavy equipment technicians, welders and other skilled trades; and maintenance planners, project managers and supply chain management professionals.
"These positions can be difficult to fill because of the high volumes of roles we require or because of the unique skill background we're looking for," says Stephanie Ryan, Suncor's manager of talent acquisition marketing and stake-holder relations.
"We use a variety of tactics to attract talented people including social media, traditional media and events. At Suncor, we offer opportunities to be a part of interesting projects and career planning and development which makes us a company many employees would find appealing."
Yague was also able to take advantage of Suncor's new grad program to find employment in his chosen field.
"We have a great campus-recruitment program to attract early talent to our organization," says Ryan. "Suncor offers co-op job opportunities three times each year and when our co-op students graduate they are eligible for our new graduate opportunities in areas such as engineering, finance, supply chain management and major projects.
"We also provide new graduate rotation programs in a number of professional disciplines ... as a way to learn the business and help them to map their career at Suncor."
NAIT also assumes a role in providing career advice to prospective employees.
"Generally speaking, what we pride ourselves on is producing graduates that are job-ready," says Bruce Rein-ders, chair of petroleum engineering technology at NAIT. "If they graduate from petroleum engineering technology and they go to work as a technologist in that field, they can be making money for the company right away because they're trained to do their job and they can start doing their job effectively in a very, very short period of time."
NAIT works with industry to ensure the transition from classroom to workforce is as seamless as possible.
"We have industry reps than sit on an advisory committee for each program. They will look at the program content and say, 'What it is that NAIT can do to prepare those graduates to come to work for us?'" Rein-ders says.
"We just went through a big round of curriculum revisions after asking industry reps what it is that our graduates need to do out there in the workforce so that we can better prepare them here at NAIT, so that when they do hit the workforce they're job-ready?
"We've got two years to prepare our people, so we can't really waste a lot of time teaching them things that they don't absolutely have to know."
Yague has some practical advice for others contemplating a similar career path.
"You need to be aware of what career opportunities are available and where they can lead you," he says. "For those students not in any co-op programs, don't let it deter you from applying for work terms.
"Don't be afraid to apply and take some time off school in order to gain some relevant experience in your chosen field of study.