An Independent Well Servicing crew working new Stoughton in 2020. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

There seems to be a common theme, not only in the energy industry, but nearly every type of business. This includes service, retail, trades, health care and pretty much everything in between. But of course, this being “Pipeline Online” we will discuss the hurdles needed to overcome the lack of qualified applicants starting out in our beloved “patch.” All the people I talk to have the same story; “We wish we had a few more good hands.”

Level of Difficulty

The oilpatch life is not easy. Like we always used to say, “Yesterday was rough, today is hard, and tomorrow isn’t looking good.” The work is mostly outdoors, cold in the winter, hot in the summer and don’t forget the wind, rain, snow, ice, dust and dirt. The days are long, the lifting is heavy, and you will quickly learn about muscles you never knew you had. A lot is expected of you not only when you are a “green” roughneck, but each time you move up to the next position your responsibility and knowledge increase exponentially. (This is true of any job, but on the rigs, its like its on steroids when the “boom is on.”) There is a very steep learning curve.

Lack of Continuity

As noted in the previous paragraph, sometimes the “boom is on.” But this also means that the opposite can happen. Anyone with any time in the industry knows that the “boom is off” is also a phrase you will hear sometimes. The industry activity hinges on things that are typically beyond the control of us mere mortals. Spring break-up for starters will shut the equipment down for six weeks or more. A wet spring can extend road bans a whole bunch more. But the most influential factor in the oil patch is commodity prices. These are caused by several different circumstances, but mostly by OPEC. This group of oil-producing nations can have a meeting and either cut production to increase oil prices, or increase production to drop prices, either of which will affect industry activity on the other side of the planet. Note: An “unfriendly” federal government can have a very adverse effect on the industry as well.

  • 0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
    0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
  • 0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
    0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
  • 0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
    0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
  • 0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
    0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
    0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

Bad Press

The fossil fuel industry has been fighting a public relations war for the past couple of decades, on multiple fronts. Supposed “eco-activists” aligned with the media and some politicians are continually demonizing the industry, despite the fact they use fossil fuels and its derivatives every single day. They cling to unrealistic solutions that do not solve their perceived problems. School teachers and university professors tend to be anti-fossil fuel as well. Hollywood tends to pile on as well. With all this, is it any wonder that young people shy away from a career in fossil fuels? A smart person told me the other day, “the media only reports the accidents and spills, they never report all the good work that happens.” Talk about a true statement.

An Independent Well Servicing crew working new Stoughton in 2020. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

Safety Concerns

Historically, the oil patch has been a dangerous place to work. Fast moving iron, pinch-points everywhere, flammable liquids and gas can create an “explosive” atmosphere. It has however, changed dramatically for the better over the years. Training, equipment and regulations have been a big part of why there has been such a huge improvement. More people are injured in health care than in the oil industry in Saskatchewan these days. Injuries in the energy industry have dropped dramatically in the past five years. This is due in large part to the excellent efforts of everyone in the industry.

Culture Shift

We can’t treat new hires like its 1974 anymore, nor 1984, 1994, or 2004. It is 2024, and times have changed, and so have the people. Young workers have different expectations than we did back in the olden days. They want security, they want time with family and friends. They don’t want to be bullied, belittled or yelled at to be motivated. I truly believe that they don’t want to be coddled however, the young people want to be treated fairly, educated and encouraged to do things the right way.

  • 0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
    0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
  • 0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
    0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
  • 0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
    0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
  • 0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
    0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
    0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

 

What Can We Do About It?

This is the million-dollar question. How does the energy industry attract young people to give it a try? The work will always be difficult, but technology is changing this over time to take some of the physical stress away from the tasks. The equipment is better, safer and properly inspected with correct documentation. Better education through partnerships between Energy Safety Canada, Occupational Health & Safety, Worker’s Compensation, service companies, various associations and oil producers has been beneficial as well. Most companies are excellent corporate citizens, donating time and money to local causes that benefit the communities in which they operate. The use of social media to showcase how the industry (in Canada anyway) is the most ethical, safe and clean happens already, but this could be expanded on.

This brings us to the young people. The future. New hires are trained better, treated better and better compensated than ever. The service companies use every tool at their disposal with top wages, benefits, supplied PPE, and various other incentives. Most companies provide regular days off to prevent burnout, and many oil companies have a schedule that provides regular days off. (Ten on and four off is a common one) The industry is learning that the new generation of workers have different expectations than the previous young people had.

The latest group of potential employees want more time with family and friends. Money is always important, but it doesn’t seem to be the primary motivator. It is up to us to get the word out. A good friend of mine suggested billboards in places like Toronto, Hamilton and large cities outside of the oil & gas centers. They would list the advantages of living in the West such as lower cost of living, the potential to make a good living in the energy industry and the freedom that could bring. I agreed with him, and added maybe television, radio and social media would be other ways to accomplish this. (Don’t tell Charlie Angus about this, as there will be jail time and fines if he has his way.) As an industry, we need to collaborate on a national level about how great we are and what a young person with some drive and energy can accomplish. Its time to shout it from the rooftops to anyone who will listen. Maybe there is an “inner roughneck” waiting to come out from inside some good people in Ontario and other parts of Canada.

 

Brian Crossman is a partner at Independent Well Servicing based in Estevan. He is pretty sure that for the industry to move forward, it will have to adapt to the wants and needs of the next generation coming up.

 

  • 0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
    0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
  • 0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
    0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
  • 0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
    0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
  • 0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
    0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
    0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

Editor’s note: a related column, below, is one of the best I’ve ever seen regarding getting into the workforce. I frequently quote it for my own kids, one in the trades, one going into the trades. It should be required reading for all kids when they hit 18. 

Brian Crossman: Now hiring!