BC LNG jobs: You need four Ds

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It takes more than just dreams and desire to get a job in the LNG field in BC. Two more Ds apply: determination and doggedness.

LNG-sector employers long ago offered us some tips and questions for job-applicants. They included: “Have you looked into training? Have you done anything about training?”

We need look no further than Jesse Ogen, a Wet’suwet’en member from Terrace BC, for a worker with all four Ds.

“I started in Kitimat with Bird Construction. I was driving a rock truck for them, just putting rock down for them, for the Kitimat LNG project.

“Then I moved on from there to a heavy-haul company, Total Transport, as a heavy-haul driver and rigger. That was to move big sheet piles, they called them king piles, for the seawall for the new Kitimat LNG port they were building near Kitimat.

“That was a really good experience as I learned to drive Class-1 semi-trucks.”

As he delivered material and equipment, he’d observe the cranes at work, deliver equipment to the crane operators, and chat with them, especially one.

“I’d say, ‘Hey, where are you from? He’d say, ‘Oh, I’m from Vancouver.’ This was in Kitimat, and I said, ‘Oh, wow, so they flew you out? And he said, ‘Yeah. When the crane operator in Smithers isn’t available, they call me.’

“I was like, are you serious? I would love to do that.”

Jesse’s first chance came with operating “a very basic crane” on a boom-truck.

But he was to find that becoming a serious and skilled crane operator is a tough and competitive trade to enter.

“I ran into one guy who had been a rigger for 8-9 years. He’d operate the crane every once in a  while, but it took him that long to get into the crane-operator’s course.”

Jesse’s determination and doggedness eventually paid off: He was admitted to the training course run by Local 115 of the International Union of Operating Engineers at Maple Ridge BC.

The union local helped to create BC’s system for certifying trained and tested crane operators. And there’s a lot to learn in the course, from “site assessment and crane positioning,” safely setting up and operating a crane, and learning WorksafeBC regulations.

Jesse: “There’s an entry exam to get into crane apprenticeship, and all of the students there were the ones that scored the highest in the province. And I’m proud to say I was one of the six.

“Throughout my course I achieved one of the highest marks in my class. But it’s more than marks. With the knowledge I got, I understand the importance of being a safe operator and the responsibilities that come with this position.”

There’s still a long road ahead to his ultimate goal: a red-seal ticket as a journeyman crane operator.

“I am very excited to be beginning my career in the crane industry. It has been a challenging three years to get to this point and my hard work is only beginning.

“I’m a mobile crane apprentice now. I’m looking now to get seat-time and some work experience.

“They call your hours on a crane ‘seat-hours’, and you have to mark those down and record them. I need 600 seat-hours just to move on to Level 2 of the apprenticeship, 1,200 to move on to the third year, and 1,800 to get my red seal.

And earning hours started this week at Northern Crane

Jesse tips his hard-hat to those who helped and encouraged his progress:

“I would like to thank the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association (PGNAETA), the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, the Yinka Dene Economic Development Limited Partnership in Burns Lake, Matterhorn Crane and Rigging, and everyone else who’s supported me throughout the years.”

And he has his own way of underlining the need for dreams and desire to be accompanied by determination and doggedness.

“For those with goals and dreams, I say, ‘Keep pushing and striving for better. Do not be scared to ask for help when unsure; great teachers will take this opportunity to ensure you will not forget their lessons.’

“I believe the best thing my grandfather, Mitch Ogen, instilled in me is that hard work does pay off. He had such a big heart that it showed in his work every day. I hope I can do the same.”

(Posted here 27 April 2021)

First Nations LNG Alliance Newsletter