Watercooler Survey, March 2014: Working in Remote Locations

Career Link maintains a monthly survey at www.careerlinkbc.com. At the end of the month, we compile the results. Here below Maureen Latta provides a very useful perspective on last month’s survey question.

 Are you willing to take a position outside of Powell River?


by Maureen Latta

Many years ago a friend of mine (let’s call her Sharon) confided that the beginning of the end of her first marriage happened when her husband took a job in another city. Sharon felt abandoned with their three children. She began to feel like a single mom and her frustration grew to mammoth proportions. The result: marital disaster.

And yet, many marriages not only survive, but thrive, as a result of a decision for one spouse to work “away.” What makes one situation a success and another a shambles? Sharon reports that the crux of the issue was that her husband accepted the job without consulting her. Instead, he announced his decision and listed all the reasons why it was a good one.

Successful decisions are the result of teamwork and planning that involves shared goals. Any decision for one spouse to work away should be preceded by plenty of rational discussion. What do you and your family want to achieve? What are the ways you can make both partners (and children) feel comfortable about the situation?

Many families today find themselves with one spouse working away. For example, the mining, forestry, and oil & gas industries frequently require “fly in, fly out” workers who live in one town but travel to remote areas for work. Some people work in seasonal industries, such as tourism, that require working in remote resorts. Others have to leave their homes to obtain educational qualifications required for their careers.

A different friend (let’s call her Fiona) had to be away from home during the entire week to attend university in a nearby city. She and her husband had always had a fairly traditional distribution of labour. Fiona did all the cooking and housework. Despite the dramatic change in circumstances, she tried to continue to meet those expectations. When home on the weekends, Fiona spent many hours in the kitchen trying to prepare enough food to last her husband and son for the following week. She did all the housecleaning as well before heading back to her demanding program in another city. The result: exhaustion.

When one spouse works away, it might not make sense to stick with the division of labour that suited you both before. How will you deal with responsibilities around the house? Come up with a realistic plan and be prepared to change what’s not working.

Another woman (let’s call her Laura) loves the cheery and romantic notes that her spouse leaves in her pockets, her dresser drawers, the coffee tin – anywhere he’s sure she’ll find them during the long periods he’s away working. Every time she finds one of these notes, Laura feels pleasantly surprised, and her husband’s supportive words always make her smile. Small gestures like this help Laura to overcome the occasional feelings of frustration and sadness that are inevitable when one partner is absent. In return, Laura always keeps her schedule clear on the days her husband is due to arrive home. When he steps in the door, she makes him feel like he’s the most important person on earth.

Working away requires some creativity and sensitivity. If handled with finesse, the thrill of being reunited can even put more spark into a relationship.

While working away can create challenges in communication, intimacy, and coping with household responsibilities, there are advantages. Working away usually carries financial rewards. If both spouses share the goal of paying debt down faster to enjoy an earlier retirement, then reminding each other of future benefits will help to ease the difficult times.

Remote workers typically have large blocks of time at home between work periods. Successful couples reserve these blocks for intimacy and communication – quality time that can be spent with family and friends. While one spouse is away, the other can enjoy planning their next vacation, whether that’s a boating trip close to home or an international adventure.

I found one resource for families dealing with the challenges of working away. An Australian company offers The Survival Guide for Mining Families and other guides related to remote working at the following website: http://www.miningfm.com.au/.

Job Fair Wrap-Up

Career Link Job Fair 2014Leading off Hiring Fair season, Career Link’s first ever job fair was clearly a success.  With 18 employers and hundreds of job seekers and career changers, this event hosted here at the Career Link, created an environment prime for fostering new employment relationships.

A heartfelt thank-you to everyone who made this event a success.  The staff at Career Link, the employers who shared their time, the job seekers who attended, the media that spread the word, and River City Coffee for the delicious lunch.

The Numbers:

  • Job Fair day, Career Link’s door opened 470 times.  A typical daily door count is around 180.
  • 95 people signed up for a door prize
  • 78 people signed into our sign-in computer
  • 33 job seekers filled out a feedback form

Employers and job seekers alike were generous with their praise.

Employer Responses


  • “Found people I wasn’t really looking for but definitely could use”
  • “[Of the ten I spoke with] one good candidate for sure”

Job seeker responses


  • “Well organized and advertised”
  • “It was apparent that significant effort went into organizing”
  • “Very organized, stations clearly indicated”

What we heard from both job seekers and employers is that they would recommend Career Link use a larger venue for the next Job Fair to allow more privacy for conversations as well as a larger contingent of employers.

Any employer interested in participating in the next event is encouraged to contact Career Link at yourteam@careerlinkbc.com  or  call us at 604.485.7958. Keep an eye on our website  www.careerlinbc.com  for any news and drop by anytime at #103-4511 Marine Avenue, Powell River, BC.

Top Tips for Boomtown Job Hunt

The retrofitted MS Silja Festival now docked in the Douglas Channel at Rio Tinto Alcan's Terminal B. The ship will house 600 workers for the Kitimat Modernization Project. Image: Kitimat Northern Sentinel
The retrofitted MS Silja Festival now docked in the Douglas Channel at Rio Tinto Alcan’s Terminal B. The ship will house 600 workers for the Kitimat Modernization Project.
Image: Kitimat Northern Sentinel

By Maureen Latta

The race is on to pipe resources across Northwest BC to the coast and then ship them to the markets of Asia. You’ve seen the headlines. A retrofitted ferry ship cruises into Kitimat to house 600 labourers working on Rio Tinto Alcan’s $3.3-billion aluminum smelter modernization project. Enbridge seeks approval for a pipeline to pump Alberta crude oil to a marine export terminal at Kitimat. Pacific Trail Pipelines Project proposes a 463-kilometre pipeline that will carry natural gas from Summit Lake, 55 kilometres north of Prince George, to the proposed Kitimat LNG facility.

These are just a few of the projects planned or underway in the Northwest. New hotel projects are also in the planning stages in Terrace and construction labourers will be needed.

Terrace is a city nestled in the mountains along the Skeena River and ground zero for people hoping to get work on mining, forestry, liquefied natural gas, oil and gas, and hydro power projects.

Workers with skilled trades are in demand, especially if they have some level of apprentice training, according to Dyani Simon, Specialized Services Coordinator at Northwest Training Ltd., the WorkBC Employment Services Centre in Terrace, BC.

Labour surveys indicate critical shortages in several of the building trade classifications, including operating engineers, carpenters, millwrights, bricklayers, cement masons, iron workers, sheet metal workers, and electricians.

A series of ATCO trailers provides on-site management offices for workers of the Kitimat Modernization Project. Nearby, similar structures are set up to house workers. The proposed maximum capacity of the on-land camp is 2,160. Image: Kitimat Northern Sentinel
A series of ATCO trailers provides on-site management offices for workers of the Kitimat Modernization Project. Nearby, similar structures are set up to house workers. The proposed maximum capacity of the on-land camp is 2,160.
Image: Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Career Sense asked Simon for her top tips for people seeking work in the Northwest.

Secure housing first

If you show up looking for work in your car, you’re probably going to be living in your car. Rental vacancy rates are at zero in Terrace and Kitimat, and even seasonal workers with jobs have sometimes had to camp on the river bank.

“The biggest thing that I would suggest to someone before they come is to have secured some sort of housing…even if they have a fifth wheel or a camper or something that they can bring to stay in,” says Simon. “A lot of our hotels are even operating at full capacity.”

Get hired before you come

Apply online. Make connections with employers before coming to the Northwest. (See links at the bottom of this article.) Simon says skilled labourers from Fort St. John and other boom economy towns are coming to look for jobs at Northwest Training Ltd.’s job resource centre, so the competition with people who already have experience is fierce.

“There is so much competition for the jobs, and the other half of that is that a lot of the jobs haven’t started yet,” says Simon. “A lot [of projects] are still working through the proposal phase. So there is lots of actual work, but there’s a lot more actual work coming and it’s not here yet. People are coming pre-emptively, and it’s too soon. Try to get hired before you come.”

Consider self-employment

Terrace presents opportunities either to start your own business or take over an existing one from retiring business owners, says Simon. Terrace serves as a hub for towns and work camps in the Northwest, and the influx of thousands of workers requires inventive solutions.

“With so many people coming, it makes such opportunity, especially if people wanted to create any sort of business that provides a service, especially things like entertainment and restaurants and things that people want to do when they have their downtime,” says Simon.

WorkBC’s Self-Employment Program delivered through Community Futures provides help with business plan development for eligible applicants receiving Employment Insurance (or who have applied for EI within the last three years). Simon pointed out that to be eligible, applicants have to be living in the region. “You’d have to be living here first, even if it’s just in a fifth wheel.

A great place to live

If you can overcome the challenges of finding housing and a job, Terrace offers a great lifestyle for those who love the outdoors. Terrace offers hiking, biking, camping, white-water kayaking, rafting, and golfing. The community is strong and offers opportunities for local investment. For example, locals bought the ski hill at Shames Mountain as a co-op to keep it running (see mymountaincoop.ca).

Watch this video about Terrace

Online Resources:

iChinook is an interactive, online, information forum that connects all stakeholders with opportunities in the Northwest. An initiative of the Northwest Labour Market Partnership, iChinook brings together industry, government, First Nations, education, and small business in an effort to promote the growth of skilled labour in Northwest BC. Create an account online now to access information regarding training, education, and career choices.

Northern Gateway, one of the largest private infrastructure projects in BC history, will create thousands of new, well-paying jobs. The pipeline will create more than 3,000 construction jobs and 560 long-term jobs. Northern Gateway has committed to providing more than $3 million in core funding for a Gateway Education and Training Fund to support construction skills training. 

Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership Skills and Business Inventory Database is a database of applicants available to work with contractors and employees for various job opportunities on the NGP project. Sign up for the Northern Gateway newsletter and stay informed.

Kitimat Modernization Project is a major industrial construction project located in Kitimat. Construction is governed by a Project Labour Agreement between the Kitimat Modernization Employer Association and the Coalition of British Columbia Building Trade Unions. At peak, the project will employ more than 2,000 workers. Construction is in progress with commissioning and start-up to take place in 2015.

The WorkBC website allows you to search by region, occupation, or industry to uncover important labour market information.

Northwest Training Ltd. is the WorkBC Employment Services Centre serving the Northwest. You can find job postings on its Facebook page or pay a visit to the resource centre in Terrace. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NorthwestTrainingLtd


Consult the Terrace Standard and the Kitimat Northern Sentinel frequently for news about the many projects in the region and to keep informed as projects move through the approval process.


Seaspan set to hire new tradespeople by Fall 2014


There couldn’t be a better time to pursue a career in BC’s burgeoning shipbuilding sector. Annual revenues in the BC shipbuilding and repair industry are projected to climb from an average of $265 million (2004-2010) to more than $1.4 billion by 2018, according to BCShippingNews

At least 2,000 new direct jobs and 2,500 indirect jobs are expected to be created by 2020.

Seaspan Marine is gearing up for a significant increase in trades positions. The exciting news came in 2011, when Seaspan Vancouver Shipyards was selected to build four noncombat ships for Canada: offshore fishery science vessel, offshore oceanographic science vessel, joint support ship, and polar ice breaker. In 2013, the government announced two additional Seaspan projects: offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and medium endurance multi-task vessels (MEMTVs).

“Since the 2011 announcement we have been working with the government on the design for the fishery science vessel and investing in our facilities in North Vancouver and Victoria, building new facilities, buying equipment, putting in place new processes and building the team,” says John Shaw, VP Government Relations and Business Development at Seaspan.

Shaw says Seaspan has hired all senior management and technical staff. The company is currently hiring engineers and production managers—“those people that have experience in building ships”—and in eight months will begin filling trades positions.

“We will be completing the design for the fishery vessel this year and are looking at starting construction in the fourth quarter. We’ll have the first uptake in trades work in October,” Shaw says. “Over the year, we expect, with the building of the offshore fishery science vessel, that our production workforce would grow to between 250 and 350 people.”

That means hiring about 50 to 100 new tradespeople in the last quarter of 2014.

Production of the joint support ship is expected to start in late 2016. “And for that, we would see a ramp-up in the production workforce in late 2016 and into 2017 of up to 1,000 tradespeople.”

Shipbuilding trades include the following:

  • Electrician
  • Joiner
  • Machinist
  • Metal Fabrication
  • Painter
  • Sheet Metal
  • Steamfitter
  • Welder

All trades positions are filled through the respective unions. Anyone interested in becoming qualified to fill a trades position should contact the union for information and requirements.

Here are some links to Trade Unions to get you started:

  • Marine & Shipbuilders Local 506 – representing Painters/Sandblasters, Welders, Shipfitters, Metal Fabricators, Crane Operators , Riggers, Joiners and General Labour. http://marineandshipbuilderslocal506.ca/
  • International Association of Machinists Lodge 692 – representing Mechanics (Engine Fitters), Machinists http://www.ibew213.org/
  • United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local 170 – representing Pipefitters http://www.uacanada.ca/
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – IBEW Local 213 representing Electricians http://www.ibew213.org/
  • Marine Workers & Boilermakers Industrial Union – Local 1 representing Welders, Shipfitters, Painters/Sandblasters, General Labour http://www.marineworkers.ca

High-school students who are interested in trade certification will need to enter an apprenticeship program and should contact the union for information. Some trades require completion of a certificate program before becoming an apprentice. For example, Steamfitters have to complete the Pipefitter Foundations Certificate at an accredited learning institution prior to the apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are generally four or five years, depending on the trade.

Shaw says it is also possible to do an apprenticeship through Seaspan. “It’s something we are currently doing, but the volume will pick up as we move into 2015 and 2016.”

He notes that Seaspan apprentices still have to go through the unions for hiring. “We can train tradespeople, but they then go on to the union seniority list and then we hire through the unions.”

For information on apprenticeships, click here: http://www.seaspan.com/career-path-apprenticeship/

Shaw has this advice for high-school students thinking about a trades career: “First, talk to your high-school counsellor. The high-school counsellor should have information on trades training and the process necessary to do that.”

Here are some links to help you get started on your career

Accredited Learning Institutions provide the classroom courses and training segment of apprenticeship programs. See what’s involved in the classroom side of apprenticeship by following the links to the trade for program schedules, course outline, hours and schedules. Enrolment is subject to acceptance into an apprentice program.

“If you love it, others will too.” Karen Skadsheim on the process behind her successful business start-up

By Maureen Latta

Karen Skadsheim
Karen Skadsheim

Townsite Brewing Owner Karen Skadsheim spoke with Career Sense about the process of developing a new business in Powell River. Townsite Brewing incorporated in 2010 and rolled out its first kegs in March 2012. The microbrewery’s beer won two BC Craft Beer Awards in its first year in operation, followed by another two wins in 2013. Recently, it picked up an award at the Winnipeg Brew Bombers Pro-Am beer competition. With six employees, high praise on beer review websites, and its products now distributed throughout the Sunshine Coast, Greater Vancouver, and Vancouver Island, Townsite Brewing is a shining example of a successful business start-up.

What made you decide to start a brewery?

When I found myself living in Powell River, there wasn’t a lot of craft beer here. And everybody I spoke to said, “What this town needs is a craft brewery; we need a brew pub or whatever.” Basically, nobody else was doing it. I talked to the building owner here and he said, “That’s a great idea—let’s do it.” And that was that.

Did you check out other business ideas as well?

Not at all. It wasn’t, “I want to start a company, what do I want to do?” It was, “If I’m going to be living here, the beer needs to improve dramatically. My needs are not being met.”

How did you fund the start-up?

It’s all private investment. I was very fortunate in meeting the gentleman [Steve Brooks] who owns this building. He’s a little bit of an angel investor in the whole thing. But it was friends and family and people who believed in the project. We didn’t go with people we didn’t know. I think a lot of private investors are people who say, “If I’m not going to get 20 percent return on it…,” which for a little start-up company is crazy. That kind of private money is too costly. It’s a risky venture. So we went with family and friends that believed in the project. They didn’t want to lose money, but they were happy with a smaller rate of return.

How did you approach Steve Brooks?

He loves Powell River. He lives in West Vancouver and thinks Powell River is great. He had this building [the old post office in the Townsite] and I approached him and said, “Hi, my name’s Karen. You don’t know me, but I think this town needs a brewery and I think the post office would be a perfect building for it.” And he said, “Yes, you’re absolutely right—let’s do it.”

Did you benefit from the assistance of any government programs?

We had an employee over the summer through the Wage Subsidy Program. And also I went to Community Futures’ business start-up program, and that was very helpful.

What kind of marketing research and analysis did you do beforehand?

I went on a trip and visited a whole bunch of other breweries around the Pacific Northwest: Oregon, Washington, and different models that people were doing. Because in the early days it was like, should we do a brew pub, or should we have a straight brewery, or what should we do?

It was really eye opening. The most telling one was [an example of] ‘It’s always greener on the other side of the fence.’ I visited a brew pub in Seattle and one of the founders said, “If I had to do it all over, I wouldn’t have a pub—I’d just have a production brewery.” He said, “I really dig what this guy Matt is doing over at Fremont Brewing. I suggest you talk to him.” So I went to talk to Matt and he said pretty much the opposite. He said, “If I had to do it over again, I’d have a brew pub.” It’s always greener.

You have to try to figure out what’s going to work where you are. What we ultimately decided was that, if we had a brew pub, we’d have one customer in this town, it would be us. But by having a brewery, we are going to promote all the other pubs in town; we’re going to be in partnership with them. We don’t want to compete with our customers in a small town. In a big city like Vancouver, you can have a brew pub because you’ve got that much more population. But in a small town, it makes send to collaborate with your customer. So it’s a symbiotic relationship in a smaller town.

Were there any other aspects to your market research that people might find interesting?

It’s all drudgery, typical research. There’s nothing exciting about it. You’ve just got to do it, ask questions. The trip was fun, it was a great thing to go and see all these other places. Definitely try and get outside of our own market so people don’t see you as a competitor.

How did you handle the need for partnerships, expertise, and early staffing?

You’ve got to have a great team. Basically, everybody that’s on the team — with the exception of Cédric Dauchot and Chloe Smith — they were all friends. There was a great show about a bakery in Baltimore and the guy says, “I staffed it with the best people I know, my friends.” Of course, there wasn’t anybody in town who was a commercial brewer, so we had to advertise for Cédric, and we had to go through a lot of résumés before we found them. They were living in Saskatoon. He’s originally from Belgium. We’ve got the only Belgian brewmaster in BC, which we didn’t even realize. And coincidentally, his wife [Chloe] is also a brewer, so it’s been an amazing fit.

How happy are you with how your business has progressed compared to your projections?

It’s been beyond every wildest expectation or hope. It’s been great. The people in Powell River have really taken to this brewery, and they love it. It’s such a relief. Some of it was, “I can’t believe you’re opening a craft brewery in Lucky Lagerville.” That’s how I think other people see these smaller towns. And certainly Lucky Lager is still a big seller in this part of the world, but people are leaving the big cities for these small towns and they don’t necessarily want to drink that.

What are your personal qualities and qualifications that helped bring your business to success so quickly?

Horseshoes in the right spot. Having a great crew. For me personally, I’ve been an administrator for a lot of years, and it’s very paperwork-heavy dealing with the government and dealing with liquor. I had no idea. Because before you have your licence, they don’t even talk to you, and once you’ve got your license, it’s all systems go, full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes, and then they’re like, “Oh, well, you need to do all this.” “Well, can’t you have told me this six months ago so I would be prepared for this day?” No, they won’t even speak to you without a licence, and they don’t give you a licence until you’ve built the brewery, and once the brewery is built, you’ve got to start making beer.

Brewing Perfect Storm stout
Brewing Perfect Storm stout

What’s your approach to marketing?

We’re doing the marketing in-house for the brewery. Michelle Zutz is a great salesperson, she can sell anything to anybody, and it’s even better when you love what you’re selling. As far as the rest of the marketing goes, we’re all craft beer lovers—we’re all fans. What do we like? This is how I like to be marketed to, so that’s where we go from there. We use a local artist for all the artwork and we’ve been getting great reviews on that. So keep it local.

Any frank advice for people who want to be entrepreneurs in the Powell River region?

Do something that appeals to you that you love. If you love it, others will too. But if you’re not in love with it, it’s never going to happen. If it’s something that you’re doing just because, “I need to do something; I think people might respond to this,” no, no, you need to respond to it.

Take your time, don’t rush it. It took us six months to find Cédric and Chloe. We incorporated in 2010 and took our time doing the research and the business plan and finding the right fit for key people. But I think when you rush—it’s difficult not to do—because obviously once you start going, the money starts bleeding out and you want to start recouping that as fast as possible. But make sure you budget properly and try and take your time and make sure everything’s fitting properly.

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