By Brodie D’Angio
I recently spoke with the client services coordinator at Employment Connections in Fort St. John. My hope was to learn more about the Fort St. John labour market and to better understand what makes applicants successful at finding jobs in the area.
Note that I will be holding a special workshop called Gearing up for Oil & Gas on Tuesday, February 25 from 1PM-4PM at Career Link! Register at 604.485.7958 or online. Space is limited for this FREE workshop, so sign up fast!
Fort St. John’s Local Labour Market
- There is an Oil and Gas industry in Fort St. John, but there are no mining operations.
- Companies looking at contracts: Rhyason contracting, Continental Pipeline, etc.
- There are always companies looking for new contracts.
- The people at Employment Connections have a great deal of knowledge of the local labour market and encourage job seekers to connect with their organization.
- Site C dam (peak will have 7,000 workers) – going through environmental process (maybe late spring or Fall 2014)
- Pipeline connecting to Kitimat (Still a politically hot topic, but could be a job producer in the future)
What are some common job openings? What is in the most demand?
- Truck drivers – Class 1 (BC driving schools)
- Heavy Equipment Operators (training link)
- Trades are in very high demand:
- Instrumentation, electrical, surveyors, and construction workers for new sites
- Employers limited on how many apprentices they can hire, because they need a certain ratio of apprentices to journeymen.
What are attributes employers are looking for in low-skilled labourers?
- Big oil and gas companies (Shell, etc.) will contract out service companies
- Service companies then hire labourers to build/insulate pipelines, construction, etc.
- Labourers $18 – $20 to start + overtime (long days)
- Many labourers are going to get hired for service companies, who often don’t send workers out to camp.
- Looking for labourers that can be working within a day or two notice – who have gear, tickets, and who can come to orientation sessions.
What about people who are knowledgeable, but may have physical limitations
- If they have some industry experience they may find themselves a parts person, delivery, or hot-shotting (a private hauler, usually with a 1-ton pickup and a double or triple-axle trailer, who will haul anything anywhere for a premium price)
Discussion on Medics (a less physically demanding position)
- Medic on-site: Need Occupational First Aid (OFA) Level 3 + H2S Alive (Hydrogen Sulfide Training). These tend to be more camp related.
- 12 hours a day at approximately $300/day.
- Often sitting in a truck waiting for an accident to happen.
- Met one guy who had been doing it for 5+ years with no incidences.
- Sometimes includes office admin work, site traffic logging, flagging, etc.
- This type of work can be boring to some people.
- Some office administration programs are now including an OFA level 3 component to try and bring all those duties together under one umbrella.
What type of backgrounds/skillset are employers looking for?
- Class 5 driver’s license & clean drivers abstract (to drive company vehicles)
- H2S Alive, Occupational first aid level 1, WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System is Canada’s national hazard communication standard)
- Need Work Gear (approx. $800) – steel-toed, fire-retardant coveralls/jackets (Nomex is one of the main brand employers are looking for)
- Too many people come with limited work gear (i.e. Warm wear, or just boots, etc.)
- Employers are willing to give job start emails and accept calls to confirm job offers (for job start funding)
- Drug tests are required before starting a job here (more information on drug tests and the law here)
Lots of retail jobs available
- 3+ major stores opening soon – No Frills, Walmart Super Centre, Dollar Tree, etc.
- Big need to fill retail positions.
- Typically $13 an hour for retail jobs.
- Because many of the jobs are non-camp, and people move up to Fort St. John, wives or older family members might end up working in retail to help support the families.
In regards to accommodation/camp
- People tend to think “I’m going to get camp work in Fort St. John and come down to the Lower Mainland on my days off”. This mindset is a problem, as many of the jobs here are NOT camp jobs.
- Also, the jobs that do end up in camp often only provide a few days off. Not enough time to really fly back home, so many people end up renting locally to have somewhere to stay on those days off.
- The men’s shelters (Salvation Army) are completely filled up every day with people. There are not a lot of rentals available, but there are some, and rent can be quite high.
- Rent: a 1 bedroom can go for $1200 a month.
- www.fsjnow.com – community classifieds – has more detail on rent and jobs.
How much of a difference does applying online make? Does your address (where you live) have an impact?
- Employers want to see applicants face to face if they can, especially labourers.
- Orientation sessions happen as the next step, and can be somewhat of a screening process.
- Drug testing happens before any job.
- With resumes for labourer jobs, employers tend to look more locally because they don’t want to wait.
- Employers are much less strict on location for resumes with ticketed trades.
- One might consider not including their address when applying for jobs up North. I have actually read recently that addresses are often being left off resumes in general.
What do you feel makes a good resume stand out? Is there a particular format/style of resume that is most accepted? (Functional/Chronological)
- Tickets should be at the top of the resume.
- Stay away from generic objectives.
- If you are mechanically inclined, get it on your resume.
- If you have driver’s license, put it on there.
- Put that you can pass drug test and that you can work immediately.
- Use Chronological resumes (easier for employers to read and better for resume scanners)
What is some important info for individuals to know before moving up to Fort St John?
- January, February and March are good times of the year to move there (spring breakup will be delayed in 2014 due to heavy snow)
- Spring breakup:
- Crews can’t go on site (roads too mushy)
- Employers tend to give employees a break and time off.
- Employers weed through employees, lay off those who weren’t effective during the season.
- Skilled tradesmen stay on during spring break up.
- Especially heavy equipment mechanics who maintain equipment during this off season.
- Some trades people complain that there are actually too many hours (i.e., they are needed even in off season).
How does Fort St. John compare to Fort McMurray?
- Fort McMurray – Much larger operation, lots of people in camp (like 10-1 ratio of workers compared to Fort St.John)
- Many people come up from Lower Mainland without understanding the Fort St. John rental situation and expect camp work like you might get in Alberta.
- Camp work is typically more common for skilled trades people.