Career opportunities abound in LNG sector

Students being enticed to stay in region
By Arthur Williams, Vancouver Sun June 27, 2014

Presented by Northern Development Initiative Trust, Initiatives Prince George and the University of Northern B.C.

During the past decade, northwest B.C. suffered a series of economic blows that saw thousands of jobs and residents leave the area.

But the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry has the potential to transform northwest B.C.’s economy and create 75,000 long-term jobs in the province — many in the north.

Perhaps nobody knows that better than Lucy Praught. The Terrace native lost her business in 2010 after the closure of West Fraser’s Eurocan paper mill in the neighbouring town of Kitimat.

“I owned a bike shop. When Eurocan closed, that was the nail in the coffin. I had to make the hard decision to let my business go,” Praught said. “(But) the whole energy of northwest B.C. has changed. A ton of work is on its way.”

After closing her business, Praught went to the University of Northern B.C. in Prince George and got a Masters of Business Administration degree. Now she works as the business and community development liaison for construction firm EllisDon.

“My initial thought was to teach people they are able to be successful,” Praught said. “(But) it’s everybody’s responsibility to be engaged. You also have to be a bit aggressive. And being ready with your education is critical.”

In her role with EllisDon, Praught helped organize a trip for 95 Grade 10 students from Hazelton, Terrace, Kitimat and Takla Landing to attend the 2014 International LNG in B.C. Conference in Vancouver in May.

“We need to be really engaging our young people. I think every young person in northwest B.C. can’t wait to get out of here,” Praught said.

Praught said she hoped to inspire the students to see the potential in their own backyard.

“Grade 10 is a pivotal moment,” she said. It’s the time students are beginning to think about what comes after secondary school — whether that is work or post-secondary education — and adjust their course load accordingly.

In addition to attending the LNG conference, Praught said trip organizers spoke to students about how to take advantages of the growth in the north to turn their dreams into reality.

“Our message was ‘what do you love to do?’” she said.

While some may pursue careers directly related to the LNG boom, others may take advantage of the economic opportunities to create businesses, or pursue careers in the arts and other areas, she said. But, she said, you have “invest in yourself and show up.”

“I’ve gotten some feedback from the teachers. Before the plane even landed in Smithers, one student wanted to change his course load,” she said. “We can now try to track that success, and see where they end up.”

While it is almost certain there will be some LNG development in northern B.C., it’s important for people looking at careers in the sector to have the flexibility to work in multiple resource areas, said labour market researcher Michael Furminger.

“In my view, an LNG industry will undoubtedly develop in northwest B.C. The only questions relate to the timing and extent of that development,” Furminger said. “That said, it is important for anyone looking to decide upon a career now to realize that until final investment decisions are made, nothing is certain. Another economic downturn like 2008 or a sudden change in government here could see an end to, or at least a long delay in, the LNG project(s). In my view, no-one should pursue a career solely in LNG.”

Furminger said there will be significant demand in the construction trades including millwrights, welders, steamfitters and pipefitters, as well as in specialized technical fields.

Many of the long-term jobs will be in the gas-producing regions of northeastern B.C., he added.

“I would suggest that the better course for a jobseeker is not to seek a career in LNG as such but to seek work in the industry that will grow dramatically and longterm as a result: gas extraction in the northeast of B.C.,” he said.

For Leroy Michell of Moricetown, the LNG industry has already meant a new, good-paying job.

Michell completed his training as a pipelayer equipment operator in April at O’Brien Training in Prince George. He said he and his classmates were being snapped up by energy companies before they even completed their training.

“From what I hear we’ll be getting jobs pretty fast. The Pacific Trails Pipeline people took our resumes and are already sending them out. Two of our guys already shipped out to Saskatchewan,” he said. “They have a lot of work on the smaller pipelines already out there in northern Alberta, Saskatchewan and some in northeastern B.C. They plan to use us there to get us experience, then move us back to B.C. for things that’ll come up here. By then we won’t have to wear (trainees’) green helmets anymore.”

Top 10 LNG jobs in B.C.

The top 10 in-demand jobs related to LNG development (based on estimated job demand in 2018) are:

Construction trades helpers and labourers (11,800 jobs)

Steamfitters and pipefitters (3,800 jobs)

Welders (2,200 jobs)

Concrete finishers (1,500 jobs)

Transport truck drivers (1,500 jobs)

Carpenters (1,500 jobs)

Heavy equipment operators (1,100 jobs)

Gas fitters (1,100 jobs)

Purchasing agents and officers (875 jobs)

Crane operators (800 jobs)

Source: B.C. Ministry of Natural Gas Development, Work B.C.

These stories were produced by The Prince George Citizen’s editorial department in partnership with The Vancouver Sun as a result of interest in this topic by Northern Development Initiative Trust, Initiatives Prince George and the University of Northern B.C., who were not given the opportunity to put restrictions on the content or review it prior to publication.

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