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Welcome to Career Link’s blog. Subscribe by entering your email address (see right panel) to receive notifications of our newest blog posts on local and regional Labour Market Information (LMI), self-help tools to help you access the career and jobs you want, and more. We welcome comments and feedback! Visit our website at Careerlinkbc.com
Storms, floods, labour disputes, train derailments – any of these events can disrupt the flow of goods and services and threaten a community’s comfort and safety.
Qualified people are needed to manage the supply chain, which includes purchasing, transportation and warehousing.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces and certainly I think it’s safe to say that life in supply chain is not dull. There are lots of issues to manage on a day-to-day basis,” says Catalyst Paper’s Director of Procurement Hamish Doughty, who manages the inbound supply chain for the company’s three divisions.
“I think supply chain as a discipline has come a long way and is increasingly seen as important to organizations,” Doughty says. “On purely commercial terms, it’s a very sizeable spend. So just in pure dollars alone it’s very important. There’s also ensuring that all those materials show up in a timely fashion to meet your manufacturing requirements, and also making sure your products arrive where they should in a timely fashion to meet your customer needs as well.”
Doughty says Powell River presents unique supply chain challenges.
“Everything that comes in and out of Powell River has to go across water once or twice, so things like tides and storms can have a very significant impact on our supply chain.”
Supply chain jobs range from general labour positions to supervisors and managers. As Manager of Mill Stores Purchasing here in Powell River, Cathy Bailey is part of Catalyst’s corporate supply management team. She does the mill’s purchasing along with a supervisor who runs the crew. She makes sure orders go through in a timely manner and deals with the end users – planners, engineers, maintenance groups and operations groups.
“It’s a great job actually,” Bailey says. “You’re almost like a cog in the wheel. You make sure that your customers get what they need on time and you work well with your vendors. So you put together really good working relationships on either side.”
The Mill Stores employs receivers, shippers and delivery people – all part of the supply chain team. “They’re a large part of what we do,” says Bailey, who worked as a buyer for hospitals and mining companies before joining Catalyst as a corporate buyer in 2008.
“In my day we incorporate everything from nuts and bolts up to the larger equipment that comes in. There’s a huge variety for a buyer in this working environment. The challenge for us of course in this industry, and in a lot of industries too, is to make sure that we’re getting the best buy for the company.”
Bailey says she feels lucky to work with supportive people within Catalyst’s supply management group. “It’s set up really well because you belong to such a talented group. If you need any help and you’re trying to rush something in and you’re looking for resources, there’s always someone there who can help.”
The largest economic sectors employing supply chain management professionals in Canada are Manufacturing, Services, Natural Resources, Retail, Government, Health Care and Education. According to the Supply Chain Career Awareness Collaborative (SCCAC), there are more than 27,000 unfilled supply chain positions in Canada, and another 66,000 openings are anticipated each year for the next five years.
Bailey recommends that anyone interested in a supply chain management career look at courses for professionals offered through the Supply Chain Management Association of British Columbia (http://www.scmabc.ca/).
“It’s a great career for anyone who’s looking for something where they want a lot of variety, who’s looking for a great challenge, to be able to belong to a great team of your peers, as well as being in a position where you can make a difference.”
Doughty points out that there is a huge demographic shift in Powell River due to aging baby boomers, which means well-paying jobs will need filling in supply chain and other areas at the mill. “We have a very high percentage of our workforce that has already started to retire and will retire over the next number of years, so that demographic is going to drive needs for all our workforce.”
Those words were spoken to Linda Wegner when she was trying to establish her writing business, Words of Worth. Undaunted, Linda forged ahead and was rewarded for her efforts: this year, the company celebrates 13 years in business, 10 of them in Powell River.
“I began by writing for a number of newspapers in rural Saskatchewan, reporting on community events,” she explains. She then expanded into the provincial arena, writing for Western Producer. In addition to writing, Linda was travelling to various prairie communities as a speaker and workshop facilitator for the Saskatchewan government. She still writes a weekly column for several Saskatchewan newspapers.
The start-up was not without its challenges, one of which was moving her business to Powell River. “When we lived on the Prairies, my primary focus was agriculture. I was researching and writing about heavy farm equipment, which doesn’t exist here in Powell River.”
“There isn’t a field big enough to turn one of the tractors around in,” she adds jokingly.
A stint as a researcher with a US-based company paid the bills while she worked to establish a business presence here on the coast. Her labours have paid off. Among other projects, she is the author of a monthly column for Country Life in BC and covers local agriculture events for that publication. She’ is also working on her sixth book, a history of First Credit Union.
Linda has some advice for writers and other small business owners at the beginning of their career:
1. Develop a focus. “I began by writing about agriculture, and I got quite good at that. I understood the concepts of precision agriculture, which is a combination of technology and agriculture.” Upon moving to the coast, Linda used her transferable skills to transition into other arenas. “Through my work as a researcher for the US-based company , I learned how to create, conduct, and analyze surveys. That enabled me to do research projects for PRREDS [Powell River Regional Economic Development Society] and PREP [Powell River Employment Program] Since then, I have focussed on writing about business.”
2. Choose your colleagues carefully. My motto as a business owner is, ‘To go fast, go alone; to go far, go together,’ which is an African proverb. In the 10 years she’s been in Powell River, Linda estimates she has provided work for approximately two dozen local people. “I felt that I was giving back, paying it forward for people who had helped me get started.”
Two subcontractors in particular stand out: “Sara Blum and Suzanne Eddy worked with me the longest and they provided incredible support.”
Linda insists on paying her subcontractors well, while providing perks along the way. “I sent them coffee cards midway through or we went out for lunch. A good subcontractor is a treasure and I want to treat them that way.” When working on a team project or involved in community non-profit boards, she works hard at team building, holding regular meetings and welcoming her subcontractors’ input.
3. Consult the professionals. “A good web presence is key to business success,” says Linda. “I choose to pay a webmaster because I know that what I create would not be up to snuff. I also pay for an accountant because I don’t stay current on all the taxation rules.” She credits both Career Link and Community Futures with providing support, while PRREDS has been an invaluable resource.
4. Learn to budget. “Creativity is my strength. Math never was. I’m so grateful for Excel spreadsheets and formulae.” Linda’s very first cheque, in the amount of $15, went straight into a Words of Worth business account. “I keep my business finances totally separate, paying myself each month and keeping track of every invoice. Otherwise, you don’t feel like a real business and can get yourself mired in trouble.”
5. Engage in continuous learning . Computers posed a significant challenge in the early days of Linda’s business. “I always joke that, the day I retire, I’m going to destroy every ounce of technology in my house. Just today, I had to do something new and kept putting it off, hoping I’d find an excuse to avoid it. Of course, once I start I’m fine.”
Linda recommends that business owners check out BC Microbusiness Training [www.bcmicrobusiness.com]. “There are some conditions, which fortunately I met. As a result, I was awarded $1500 in training and took three courses, all to do with marketing on the Internet. I just sent off a marketing video to my webmaster this morning.” The video was created by Peter Harvey, a fellow Toastmaster.
Community Futures also helped Linda access business training, while Toastmasters provided a huge boost to her self-confidence. “Just this morning, I successfully negotiated a raise from a publisher because I decided that I’d been working for them a long time and I deserved it.”
6. Establish community connections. Linda is a firm supporter of the Powell River Chamber of Commerce. “You may feel you don’t need the Chamber of Commerce, but we need you, and at some point you will need us. Be sure, too, to take out a business licence with the City of Powell River. I know there are many home-based businesses that don’t bother, but it’s the right thing to do as a citizen. You also receive the extra publicity that comes from being a city business.”
7. Project a professional image. People with home-based businesses may be tempted to lounge around in their pyjamas. Linda is not one of them. “Treat your business as a business: when someone comes to my house, I’m professionally dressed. I also have a separate room in the house for exclusive use as an office and when I go in there, I go to work.”
8. Guard your integrity. Honesty is a key value for Linda. “You can work a lifetime to gain a reputation as being upright and honest, then blow it in 30 seconds or less.” She also cautions business owners to protect their family and other relationships.
9. Don’t give up. “There are going to be highs and lows, as well as times when everything in you just wants to cash it in. But don’t give up. Surround yourself with people who encourage you, both intellectually and emotionally. And if I can be of any encouragement, give me a call.”
Career Link is very happy to award First Group of Companies with the 2013 Powell River Healthiest Workplace Contest! They will get to celebrate with a $100 gift certificate to a local food establishment of their choice. Bon Appétit!
The Career Link Promotions Committee chose applicant Angie Poulsen’s entry for its reference to the many programs that First Group of Companies offers its employees, including a Wellness Program Committee, monthly nutrition and fitness programs, incentives for employees fitness activities, and educational/personal incentives, and more.
Other worthy contestants from the five organizations who submitted mentioned these great ideas on how to maintain a healthy workplace:
- Reduced waste in the workplace, as well as active recycling programs)
- The removal of workplace hazards and ergonomics in the design of desks, etc
- Cleanliness in the workplace
- Mentoring youth
- Educational incentives
- Encouraging employees to take their First Aid ticket
- Personal care (yoga, sauna, fitness instruction, nutritionist)
- Team outings and celebrations
- Discounts to local gyms
- Paid sick and family days
Many thanks to all contest participants!
1. Set aside a specific place exclusively for work. You’ll be able to deduct it from your taxes and it will help you in many other ways. A door on your home office, as well as your own phone line, can help too. Keep pets out.
2. Create a daily work schedule and stick to it like glue. Make time for meeting face-to-face as well; use your phone and keep up those people skills.
3. Network electronically, because this is your life now. Embrace social media but don’t get caught up in its time-wasting jaws.
4. Take an aggressive stance on retirement savings. Think about extra insurance and put money aside with each paycheck. Put money aside for materials and upgrades to your equipment; keep all receipts as these are tax-deductible or reimbursable.
5. Ramp up your tech skills. Again, this is your livelihood; mind the neighbours if you need to be using loud equipment.
Look into these links for legitimate ‘work-from-home’ opportunities.
- www.flexjobs.com (it’s free to search for opportunities but costs $14.95 to register and take advantage of that opportunity)
- www.freelancer.ca www.lexoncommunications.com
You can find out about news and scams here:
Disclaimer: By providing links to various websites, Career Link makes no claims about the suitability or quality of those websites. Links are provided without any express or implied recommendations.
BladeRunners! Intro to Trades
- Are you between the ages of 15-30?
- Are you interested in exploring new skills in the trades?
- Are you interested in accessing certificate training?
- Are you available November 18-December 20?
- Are you able to commit to 25-30 hours per week for skills training?
- No attachment to Employment Insurance?
- Priority will be given to youth with barriers to employment (example: little work experience)
- Training allowance.
- In class sessions will be held at Oceanview School 5 days/week from Nov 18-Dec 20
Two hour info session
Tuesday, November 5, 2:00-4:00 pm
Career Link: 103-4511 Marine Avenue
Enhance your skills!
Sponsored by: Career Link, Sliammon Youth Program and School District 47
More information on this program: http://www.bladerunners.info/
Still interested, but missed the info session? There may be a few spots left, so let us know you’re interested. Contact Lyn Adamson at Career Link (604.485.7958)
“I wasn’t really digging it that much but I always looked up at the conductors and engineers and thought, ‘That looks like fun.’ Plus they got paid the most.”
Back in Powell River a few years later and considering his next career move, Keenan remembered his experiences on the railway. His research led him to the 17-week Railway Conductor training program at BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology). Fresh out of college, with no experience, he knew he probably wasn’t going to find work in the Lower Mainland. So, six weeks after graduation, he accepted the first job he was offered: working on the Polar Bear Express in Northern Manitoba.
“It’s a tourist train that takes people to Churchill to see the polar bears. I got some great experience working for them, and made some good money. Then I got a phone call from Port Coquitlam, and I’ve been here ever since, working for Canadian Pacific Railway [CPR].” That was almost three years ago.
As Keenan explains, the conductor is essentially “the boss of the train and the train crew. You sit up front with the engineer and tell him or her what to do. You handle the emergency brakes, the radio, the demographics of where you’re going and at what speeds. If the train breaks down enroute, you’re also the mechanic.” According to BCIT, “the role of the Conductor is an important link between customer satisfaction and maintaining efficient operations.”
Keenan sees a bright future for the industry. “Just to show you how business has picked up from a financial perspective, this time last year our stock was at $47 a share and now it’s up to $130.” One reason for the surge is the continued delay in pipeline projects. As well, says Keenan, “it takes 100 semi-trailers to haul what we can pull with one train. We use a lot less fuel than trucks and can pull a lot more.” He also believes that trains are superior to trucks from an environmental perspective. “It’s just two diesel engines, compared to 100.”
CPR is well positioned to meet the demands of the future, he says. “For the last 20 years, the company has been investing in its track. Right now it’s probably the best in the country. And thanks to new technology, we use a lot less diesel. I’d say the industry is probably going to keep growing, becoming even more efficient.”
A recent article in the Calgary Herald supports those claims. (“Railway industry expects oil transport to continue to grow,” July 25). In 2013, CPR reported a record second-quarter profit, “driven in large part by growing long-haul oil transport.” The article goes on to quote Statistics Canada, which reported that approximately 175,000 barrels were transported by rail every day in April 2013.
What would be Keenan’s advice to someone considering a career in the industry? “Go to BCIT right away, and get your name on the waiting list.”
He adds a word of caution: “Get into it while you are young because it would be a challenging job for somebody with a family: you’re on call for the first five years, without a planned schedule.”
Being on call, he points out, is not a huge financial hardship. “You are paid a guarantee. Even when it’s slow, you’ll always make a certain amount of money. As long as you never miss a phone call and don’t book large hours of rest, you’ll always make a certain amount of money.”
Even the labouring jobs, he adds, pay over $20 per hour. As a union shop, CPR also offers extended health benefits and pensions.
This is also a field that women should consider, he adds. “There are a lot of really great women conductors out there.”
Admission requirements for the BCIT program are similar to those of other trades programs. Candidates must have completed any English 12 course (or English Language Proficiency exam), and any Math 11 course. Applicants must also successfully complete the BCIT Trades Pre-Entry test. Ability to do hard physical work in all weather conditions is another requirement, as is a certain amount of mental toughness:
“It’s mentally stressful, handling a two-mile long train down the mountainside through the Fraser Canyon. All sorts of things happen out there on the tracks, all sorts of adventures you have to deal with,” says Keenan.
Working on the trains is not for everyone. “You do get drug tested. You’ve got to be ready to let that side of your life go. There were guys in my class who didn’t complete the training because they didn’t want to give up that lifestyle.”
Graduates can expect to be employed fairly quickly. According to BCIT’s Student Outcome Survey, 64% of graduates in the Railway Conductor program found full-time employment, while another 15% were employed part time. Forty-eight per cent of graduates took less than a month to find a job.
Willingness to leave the Lower Mainland, at least in the short term, is key, says Keenan. “Once you graduate, take any job you can get. A lot of the short railway lines around the country are looking for grads from BCIT and the other colleges.”
While graduates may have to relocate, at least for a time, they needn’t fear long-distance hauls. “Since I’m based out of Vancouver, the farthest I go is to Boston Bar, and then from there to Tsawwassen to the super port next to the ferry terminal. Crew members stationed in Kamloops meet us halfway in Boston Bar. We’ll go to a CP Hotel there, while they continue on to Kamloops. Then they’ll trade off with someone out of Lethbridge, and on it goes across the country.”
After completing the conductor program, some students opt to become rail traffic controllers. Keenan, however, already has his sights firmly fixed on his next goal: locomotive engineer, with a salary of $100-120,000 a year.
“It’s all based on seniority: they train you to become a locomotive engineer and that’s kind of your pinnacle. You need to have a fabulous memory, to pass your Canadian Rail Operating Rules exam with 95%, knowing hundreds of rules off by heart. For me, that’s probably the most interesting trade you can get into. It’s what I’m waiting to do. That’s what this is all about.”