As Canada’s aging population retires, there is a growing demand for workers with skills in a number trades and allied industries. Most high school students are currently being encouraged to go on to post-secondary institutions to pursue a university or college degree. However, in today’s world and reality, their future may be better served in the trades workforce that can provide a rewarding career and even better financial rewards than many university degrees.
A great example of this new reality, and a great opportunity for graduating students from a trades school or certificate program, is the growing oil rich Bakken region that lies below the surface in the Williston Basin of western North Dakota, eastern Montana, southeastern Saskatchewan and, to a lesser degree, in western Manitoba.
Although the oil reserves were discovered there over 50 years ago, access to these reserves only became popular recently by using a horizontal drilling process commonly called fracking. They inject sand-laden fluid at high pressure to fracture the rock below ground where the oil is trapped. The oil is squeezed out of the shale rock layers and brought to the surface.
Due to this new recovery process, the Bakken region is shaping up to be the largest light oil discovery in the area since 1957. It is expected to produce at least one billion barrels or more of oil a year. It is projected to become the second largest oil producing region in the United States right after Texas.
The Bakken wells currently produce, in Montana alone, about 50,000 barrels a day. North Dakota is also producing the same amount if not more. On the Canadian side, Saskatchewan is producing 4,000 barrels a day, while 8,100 barrels a day is being produced in Manitoba from about 520 wells. The Manitoba fields are centered around the town of Sinclair, 125 kilometres west of Brandon near the Saskatchewan border.
The dominant player in Manitoba is Tundra Oil & Gas Ltd., owned by James Richardson & Sons of Winnipeg. Other Manitoba operators are Rideau Petroleums Ltd., Kiwi Resources, Advantage Oil & Gas, along with Grand Banks Energy Corp., WaveForm Energy, and Magnus Energy Inc.
So, where does the opportunity lie for you?
Right now, the oil producing regions in North Dakota and Montana cannot find enough skilled trades workers to work on the drilling rigs, drive trucks and provide the many other building and hospitality services needed to support companies’ drilling wells and their workers.
The oil companies also need to build housing and other accommodation for their employees who are now staying in hotels and motels or renting rooms in private homes. Some workers are driving over 150 kilometres a day to find much needed accommodation and other services. Add the need for carpenters, plumbers, electricians and every other trades skill you can imagine, and that is where your future may lie. And the hourly rates of pay are also sky high!
At a recent Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Brian Schweitzer, former governor of Montana, said that over the next 10 years two cities the size of Brandon will have to be built from the ground up to accommodate this very exciting and rapidly growing oil industry. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity for your future. It will be there for many years to come and provide you with a bright trades career.
Ernie Nairn is the executive director of the Assiniboia Chamber of Commerce.