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

Posts: 109
Joined: Feb 2012
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Post: #905
RE: Working in the Canadian oil sands: 6 figures in 6 months!
I just got back from my first 2 week camp rotation as a labourer and feel that I should flesh out what I have learned from the experience and maybe add some extra insight and recommendations regarding this great opportunity scotian has shown us. I will cover what I have learned from preparing for the journey all the way to coming back from my first rotation.

This is what I did from the perspective of a Canadian living in Ontario moving out to Calgary looking for a Fly In / Fly Out camp job in Ft Mac:

1. Read this entire thread, paying special attention to and copying posts from scotian and other posters that are actually up here and have experience. Almost everything I read from the experienced posters here has rung true. And a lot of what I am writing was mentioned earlier.

2. Try to decide what trade will best fit you (consider your interests, pay, safety, repetitive injuries, etc.). Though if you are smart you will learn a lot your first rotation no matter what job you get and will be able to pursue the best trade for yourself later. I started off thinking Electrician was my best bet, but now figure Instrumentation tech is a better match for me.

3. Figure out if you want to live in Ft Mac or get a Fly In / Fly Out job and from what city (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, etc). I visited both Calgary and Edmonton and decided Calgary was worth the higher costs of living for me. Some people even choose to stay in hostels during their time off to save even more money, but that comes with many disadvantages as well.

Also change your cell phone number to one in your target city before you leave.

4. When your boots hit the ground in your target city (I will relay my experience in Calgary) hit either HI or Wicked hostels and use it as your base.

To save the most time follow these instructions in this order:
A. Buy a PO box at a convenient location close to where you plan to live.
B. Change your online banking account address to your PO box address and then print out a statement.
C. Take the statement to a licensing facility and use it as proof of residence in order to get an Alberta driver's license and health card (I am still amazed this actually worked).
D. Get your H2S, CSTS, Standard 1st Aid, and OSSA tickets. This will take about three days. Let your company pay for Fall Protection, etc. if you need it later.
E. As you are getting your tickets and applying, be sure to explore your city and figure out where you want to live (and the best areas for daygame).
F. Once you have your tickets, cell phone number, and po box. Put them all on your resume (make it a resume that a foreman would like). Also say you have a class 5 driver's license and a clean abstract. Then print out around 30 resumes from a quality printer service.
G. Use google maps and an iPhone or Android phone to plot the locations of all the contractors mentioned in this thread. A smartphone is worth its weight in gold here.

5. Start by visiting unions of the trades you are interested in. They are a great source of leads. The Electrician's union gave me a great tip to ask for a starter's position instead of an apprentice position, where the only difference is a piece of paper and you are much more likely to get in as a starter.

6. Then you should hit the concentrated downtown contractors offices. You can hit all of the ones listed in this thread for Calgary in one day if you start at 9 AM. I personally just asked for a fly in fly out job to Ft. Mac as a starting Electrician, and that I would take a labourer position to get my foot in the door if I had to. I applied at the worst time of the year (just before Christmas), but ALMOST EVERY company I talked to said they could get me what I wanted if I came back in January.

7. As for the companies on the outskirts of downtown, fuck em. I wasted my first two days trying to apply to them, with one day only being able to reach three by bus. Someone said earlier that you don't need a car to hit them, well fuck that. If for some crazy reason you didn't land a job from applying in downtown, I would recommend you use Car2Go to rent a smart car very cheaply for the day to hit the rest of the contractors.

8. I got an offer from a downtown contractor that started a month later, but it had everything I wanted, including grossing just over $100k. I am as green as grass in this industry, so I took it to get my foot in the door and am glad I did. I got the job within 3 business hours of applying.

9. Camps. I read horror stories of the camps before I left, but it turns out most of those were older camps that have been shut down. My camp was just as scotian described them. Everything down to laundry detergent is provided and the food is pretty good. Having your own room is great even if you have to share the washroom with one other person (some sections have their own though). If the gym was a little more starting strength friendly I would rate my camp experience (an average camp as rated from more experienced guys) a 9.1/10.

10. Labourer position. I did some temp work before I flew here to get some extra cash. If assembly line work is a 1/10 and QA work is a 2/10, then being a labourer is maybe a 6/10. It is not nearly as bad and hard as I had expected. In fact if they let me use my headphones and listen to audiobooks I might rate it a 9 (I will ask when I have more clout, as others do it). I work with a surprisingly great crew and can expect an apprentice position to come my way in less than 3 months. If you are not sure about your chances of getting work as an apprentice or starter, then don't be afraid to take a labourer position.

11. Highway 63. I drove to and from Ft. Mac twice. Once during a sunny day with dry roads, and another time in bad slippery conditions with multiple deaths in the preceding days. The first time was actually nice, so don't be afraid to take the journey when there is no snow/ice. The second time was the worst driving experience of my life. I would highly recommend taking flights if your company will cover all of it (mine just gives a monthly travel allowance, so I would rather pocket some of it). If you cannot fly then I would recommend taking the bus on a seat near the back so you will be less likely to get crushed. Highway 63 is no joke. It is quite literally gambling with your life, with multiple deaths in the days preceding.


That is all I can think of relaying to you guys right now. I just want to emphasize the importance of having a smartphone with a data plan and gps in the job hunting phase. Get a used iphone or one of the new $300 Google Nexus 4 phones; it should pay for itself in time and frustration saved.

One area where I lack knowledge and want to learn more are of the shutdown seasons that scotian describes, where from what I understand you mostly just sit around waiting to do work in a nice climate (which would be a great time to learn Russian and pipeline girls in your home city). I hope to learn more about this kind of opportunity as I progress.

I want to once again thank everyone that provided helpful content to this thread and especially scotian for showing us this great opportunity. Everything had turned out even better than I imagined jumping into this. I am very very happy where I am right now, and where I see the future heading. I will use this great cashflow to fuel my life travel desires and then eventually finish my Uni degree.
01-27-2013 05:45 PM
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Messages In This Thread
RE: Working in the Canadian oil sands: 6 figures in 6 months! - Ferro - 01-27-2013 05:45 PM
Risks, opportunities, import/export - OSL - 03-16-2013, 06:58 AM