Alberta’s oil sands workers band together to create clean energy jobs

By Arman Kazemi

March 24, 2016

A coalition of Alberta oil sands workers is reaching out to government and corporate representatives to help unemployed colleagues transition to the renewable energy sector.

Iron and Earth hopes to provide the conditions for thousands of pipe fitters, ironworkers, scaffolders, boilermakers and other labourers who depend on the Canadian oil and gas sector to move to more reliable work in Canada’s developing green energy sector, following the global downturn in oil prices.

On Monday, organizers formally launched an initiative asking the Alberta government to invest in their “Solar Skills” project. Their goal is to get the government to help retrain 1,000 oil and gas specialists for work in the solar sector.

"We're a group of oil sands workers who see incredible opportunity to transition our skills to the renewable energy industry," Lliam Hildebrand, founder of Iron and Earth, told a press gathering, as reported by the Tyee.

In addition to the training program, Hildebrand is looking for the province and corporate sponsors to commit to putting 100 solar installations on public buildings, starting in the fall.

“We have the skills to build the renewable energy infrastructure required for Canada to meet their climate target," he told CBC News. “That will open up a huge amount of opportunity for us if we can start diversifying our energy grid and it would ensure that we are less vulnerable to price fluctuations."

The Canadian oil sands shed over 100,000 jobs as a result of policy uncertainties and the drop in crude oil prices last year, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Organizers behind Iron and Earth believe their program will provide job security to a vulnerable workforce, while helping Alberta achieve its goal of 30 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

“We need these jobs in renewable energy to go to the oil sands workers that are currently being impacted by a reliance on carbon-based fuels and whose skills are very easily transferable,” Hildebrand said at the press conference, according to HRM Online Canada.

“Some retraining will be required, but we’re ready to work.”




Photo Credit: Pembina Institute