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Working in the Canadian oil sands: 6 figures in 6 months!
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hiphoppotamus Offline

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Post: #689
RE: Working in the Canadian oil sands: 6 figures in 6 months!
Hey man how's it going? Hope you're enjoying Thailand, it's a blast and way nicer than Edmonton at the moment.

I don't know if you remember me but I messaged you a while asking you about working in the oilsands. Well things haven't gone as well as I'd hoped. Maybe it's a string of bad luck or a series of unfortunate events, I'm pretty distraught at the moment.
I don't want this posted in the thread cause I don't want to discourage people from making the move. I feel partly responsible for the things that have happened although I also understand that there's bound to be bumps along the way.

When I arrived in Etown I was incredibly motivated to work. I hitched to downtown from whyte to rent a car and drove to Nisku for 2 days hoping to land something. I got stumped because I didn't know if the jobs advertised were in camp or in the yard. It seemed to me that the only ones that were in camp were drilling companies and that wasn't what I wanted to do so I wrote off Nisku altogether. Renting a car to go to work isn't the smartest idea.

After more hunting I recieved a callback from some companies. One was a company who hires labourers for CEDA. The other was in Cold Lake that required a vehicle. Everyone I met had been talking about the CEDA one, how they'd hire anyone, and that we would be staying in camp. After a few weeks of getting my tickets we were oriented for a shutdown in Ftsask. There was confusion between the company and the plant of who would be starting which shifts and I got the sense that it wasn't managed very well. I got a call before the night I went to work telling me that some of us had been turned away and I won't be working that night. I was then offered to work for the company internally and was invited to do the company's orientation. I maintained a positive outlook throughout this ordeal hoping I would go to work soon. Finally I was briefed on an upcoming well servicing job that put me in a hotel and gave me subsidence. As if things couldn't get any worse, I get a call the next day telling me that an incident had happened at the job site and I won't be going. After that I called again and again only to learn that the person who hired me had left the company.

I managed to get an interview with a company that does machining for out of town work. I showed them all my tickets I got and my clean driver's abstract and was told to wait for a call. 2 weeks had passed and I left them.

By then it was already summer and I couldn't find any out of town work so I worked for the city helping out with festivals while applying for whatever I can. Having no car limited my prospects.

I get an email from a safety company telling me to attend training in 2 weeks which was a godsend seeing how things had worked out so far. Well that 2 weeks turned into 4 weeks and I was close to leaving them but kept in contact and was assured that it will happen. Finally, after a week of training we were told we could be call at any moment so be patient and standby. Funny thing is after training I get a call from another safety company I applied for in the summer and I turned them down.

Sure enough I get a call following week telling me to hop on a plane the next day to Fort McMurray. I was so happy I found something that sticked and someone had kept their word. Up till this point I thought I was chasing the ever illusive camp job I could never have.

The site we were going to was a SAGD site and doing safety was a pretty good gig. I can see all the different trades in the field doing their work and meet some of the more technical guys as well. Millwrights complaining about always having to clean shit for NDT guys, scaffolders yelling at each other, engineers inspecting vessels, labourers cleaning and vacuuming inside tanks. Camp life is ok, it wasn't as glamourous as I thought it would be. Food is dependent on the camp but the second camp we were at had some amazing food. I'd say camp experience depends on the quality of the camp and how much of a nuisance the guy is next door.

After getting back to town with no word on when the I'll be heading out next, I started getting anxious with winter approaching. Although the paycheck was nice, I hadn't been working that much, and that stint in FtMac was my only experience. By the second week I started applying for other companies cause I got the feeling I was going to be stood up once more. But then I was called for more training, this time for the rigs. We were told we would have to wait for the roads to be built which might take 3-4 weeks.

It's been 6 weeks already and I still haven't heard anything. During this time I went to a temp agency for work and shoveled snow the first day. I showed up at 5:45am the next day, waited till 9:30am only to be told there won't be work today. I show up again tomorrow only to be told the same. By now I had lost all confidence and motivation in myself and everyone.

On the upside I have applied for a pre-apprenticeship trades program at SAIT starting in January. And sure enough I am on the waitlist. Judging by the way things have gone, I wouldn't get my hopes up. I know it's gambler's fallacy to think otherwise.

So that sums up my experience in Alberta so far. I'm a patient guy so it might have worked against me. I'll be driving back home in December to get some money and hope I get into the program. If I don't I'll make the move again immediately afterwards only this time I'll find something more stable in the city. There is another college offering the same program though it starts in September and is in a smaller town and only gives the 1st year of schooling as opposed to the first 2 years.

If I were to give some advice to someone it would be:
- Know what you want. If you don't know then get a any job during a shutdown in late March/mid August doing safety or labour to get an idea of how things run in a plant. Once you know what you want, BOUNCE because shutdown work is on call. Or apply to an entry trades program in advance and make the move when school starts. That way you come out with a job and apprenticeship. If you have a car and know exactly what you want to do then you can hustle for an apprenticeship. YMMV
- Don't hang around to be a setting sun. Abandon things before they abandon you. If you don't hear back then don't be afraid to leave. Jobs are abundant here. Leave any beliefs you have about loyalty at home. I didn't want to leave cause I've already invested too much in the company. read:loss aversion and sunk costs
- Wear quality PPE cause getting insulation in your eye sucks!
- Make use of your time. Read and exercise.
- I didn't find as many assholes as there were idiots. It helps to be nice. Don't sink to their level. How much education your work requires dictates who you work with.
- Network.
- Be frugal.

That's about it.

There was this one older feller I remember while doing a manwatch for. We started talking about his work, how he loves doing testing and how's he been doing it for a long time. I told him about my experience coming here and he goes "Aha! That's because you come from a different work background! Out here no one gives a shit! You don't have to be loyal to anyone! You are worth more to them than they are to you!". He asked me if I had a girlfriend to which I replied no, he then goes on and says "pussy is a pussy maan, get some girls and go fucking! If I were your age man I would be fuckin a lot of pussy" with a thick spanish accent. I asked if he was married (yes) and if it puts a strain on their marriage. He says nope my wife understands she's cool and if his kids wants to smoke weed or whatever he won't stop them. He tells me he's from Spain and that even though he enjoys the rich history and culture and learning about the inquisition he's deeply against religion. He tells me of places he has traveled like Africa and how he hates it there and how he loves Canada and it's the best country in the world and that in Africa people walk by dead bodies rotting on the street with not a care on their face and that the camps aren't as nice and he doesn't get treated as well. We were just talking, waiting for the paint to dry. Really great guy. Kinda shows you the different people you meet in the industry.
(This post was last modified: 11-28-2012 11:19 PM by hiphoppotamus.)
11-28-2012 10:55 PM
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Messages In This Thread
RE: Working in the Canadian oil sands: 6 figures in 6 months! - hiphoppotamus - 11-28-2012 10:55 PM
Risks, opportunities, import/export - OSL - 03-16-2013, 06:58 AM