Hebron developers hoping to bring NL workers home

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Question remains how many will return and how labour gaps will be filled

Hebron public review

As Newfoundland and Labrador communities dependant on traditional industries like fishing and forestry have hit hard times, untold numbers of young people have left the communities, and ultimately the province, in search of meaningful employment.

Now, the hope is these workers will return home to Newfoundland and Labrador, to new opportunities with the offshore.

Monday, vice chair of Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association’s board of directors, Mike Critch, told the Hebron Public Review Commission he can be counted among those who have moved away for work, developed skills relevant to the oil and gas industry and ultimately returned.

Critch spent time working on projects in Alberta, the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. He said, due to the development of the oil and gas industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, he was able to come home and continue to develop his career locally. He expressed his hope that, with the continued development of Hebron, others might have the opportunity to do the same.

“The oil and gas industry has revitalized the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador with each new offshore development,” he said.

In addressing the commission, Hebron project manager Geoff Parker expressed a desire of the Hebron project partners to see Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans away returning to work on the project, helping to fill current gaps in the local labour pool.

However, “no one’s really too sure how much of that is going to happen,” he said.

No one disputed that there were gaps in the labour pool.

Commissioner of the Hebron public review, Miller Ayre, said Newfoundland and Labrador was apparently a skilled shortage “hot spot” within Canada.

In their submission to the Hebron Public Review Commission, the St. John’s Board of Trade highlighted an aging local workforce and warned against the “demographic wave,” set to hit first in Atlantic Canada, affecting the availability of experienced workers. In addition, the board stated there was an existing “skills mismatch,” wherein many available workers did not have the training needed to be effective on the Hebron project.

The board has stated labour availability remains a “significant risk to the project.”

Project leaders at ExxonMobil Canada said the labour needs for the project would be met. The project manager, Parker, said the Hebron partners are looking at all options available to them in order to address the local labour shortage.

One of those options is attracting workers home from away. Other options include tapping traditionally “underutilized” sectors of the workforce, such as tradeswomen and workers with disabilities, and bringing in available workers from other parts of Canada, the United States and other international areas, progressively.

“The mechanism is there within that labour agreement that if we have to draw on that pool we could,” Parker said.

The St. John’s Board of Trade has recommended more resources go to immigration, but immigration is a federal jurisdiction and what might be done to speed up the process at the provincial level remains unclear.

“That’s something we haven’t figured out yet,” said Craig Ennis, the board’s vice president of policy and communications.

Meanwhile, the board has publicly encouraged changes that facilitate training of available local workers, such as the recent move by the Provincial Apprentices Certification Board to allow two apprentices to a single journey person mentor without one of the two trainees having to be in their final year of training, as had previously been the case.

That policy is up for review in the spring of 2012 and the board would like to see the change made permanent.

The trainees of today have the potential for finding work with Hebron subcontractors towards the end of the approximately five-year development phase of the project.

Locals might also look to work within the estimated 30-year operational life of the project.

It is estimated the provincial oil and gas industry currently, directly employs over 4,000 people, increasing to about 17,000 when spinoff employment is included, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute. The question being considered now is where the numbers might stand post-Hebron.

More is expected to be said on the subject as the Hebron Public Review Commission continues its public consultation sessions.


Organizations: Hebron Public Review Commission, Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association, Board of Trade ExxonMobil Canada Provincial Apprentices Certification Board Canadian Energy Research Institute

Geographic location: Hebron, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta North Sea Gulf of Mexico Atlantic Canada United States

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Recent comments

  • Not an American
    December 24, 2011 - 16:26

    This one goes to you (Geoff Parker) manager of the Hebron Project Hello to all ,I'm a former Newf in Alberta 31 years working in the oil/gasconsulting/design/engineering and yes I've worked 6-years on NF drilling/production rig/platforms here in Alberta. Past 31 years I've been trying to get employment back in NF,with no success. I guess you have to be American or a foreign worker to work for min.wage. So much for getting Newf's back home.If you check the stats the only Newf's that go back to NF is for retirement. Regards Former Newfoundlander

  • Not this Project
    November 24, 2011 - 07:29

    I heard they got rid of the only Newfoundland Managers awhile back and now its run exclusively by CFA's/arrogant Americans bullies who think they got one up on the locals. Local content, developing local people? yes by', its a joke, Newfoundlanders would join if they believed but this one wont be returning until there is wholesale change in Mgmt and the way its run. Caddigan with NOIA is spot on in his remarks, what about local companies getting in on the work rather than overseas? What we dont have the ability ? Spindoctoring is the specialty and the CNLOPB are in their pockets...When are Newfoundlanders going to take ownership of their own resources?

  • bad
    November 23, 2011 - 02:37

    Want to start to attract some of us high skilled individuals back to NL - first and foremost look at your tax regime. Why would anyone ever move back for the same (or more than likely less money) yet pay 4 times the taxes. Makes no sense

  • newffie
    November 23, 2011 - 02:34

    i move back when i get me old age or a rich woman

  • Jerry Baker
    November 22, 2011 - 17:52

    Skilled trades shortage...I think the oil companies should have a chat with the unions. I am a pipe fitter with ten years experience in Alberta's oil and gas industry, and the pipe fitters union in NL won't even accept a resume from me to join. It is funny though, how those with parents in the union are accepted immediately, and with little experience. This issue needs to be addressed, because many are going to give up on returning home, due to the frustration of this alone.

  • Rig Guy
    November 22, 2011 - 17:22

    Maybe KKC should start by hiring some NL'ers for higher up positions in Bull Arm. All the managers are american. Anyone who thinks there is a shortage of tradespeople in this province is out to lunch.

  • rose
    November 22, 2011 - 16:44

    I have a son who is longing to go back to NL to work. We have been hearing alot of negative things regarding Long Harbour. Being laid off after 6 wks or less. Not getting as many hrs as they r in Fort Mc. Incompetent project managers. Let's hope Hebron has more on the positive side.

  • Far Away Newfie
    November 22, 2011 - 10:58

    My husband and I are Newfoundlanders living out west, working in the oil and gas industry and would like nothing more then to be able to return home to raise our children. We are always hearing about all the work that is going on or coming up and how they are never going to be able to fill the required positions, yet nobody can suggest who to talk to or where to apply to get the ball rolling. Does anybody know of any resources for people working away, longing to return to HOME? Why is there never an article about that??