Many oil traders believe oil demand will return to an upward course as global lockdowns lift and the economy slowly recovers. In times like these, it’s important for industry leaders to look forward to the day it bounces back. Maintaining optimism and encouraging the younger generation to continue to pursue a career in oil and gas is vital. Without the emergence of younger upstream professionals, the industry’s skills gap will continue to expand, potentially resulting in further turmoil for the sector. 

A prime example of an organization providing active support for the younger workforce is an Alberta school district, the Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS). NLPS offers a service rig training program, called the Trades Exposure program, and other educational opportunities to its hundreds of high schoolers. The program is particularly geared toward underrepresented groups, such as Canadian aboriginals, at its Trade Exposure Center in Bonnyville, Alberta. 

Piloted at Bonnyville Centralized High School, this program is a collaboration between the school, oil and gas industry, the community and government. One of the primary goals for this program is to expose students to opportunities in the energy industry through hands-on learning and training. The Trades Exposure Centre has a working service rig on a safe well, designated classroom and scaffolding shop, which includes additional space for other trades-related programming to be offered in the future.

The program consists of two parts: a five-credit online course and a two-credit special project that takes place over a five-day period at the Trades Exposure Centre. 

  • The online course involves comprehensive coverage of the oil and gas industry, safety, operation of a service rig and duties of a floor hand. The course also has gamified content where students direct an avatar to accomplish content and tasks related to service rig operations.
  • The five days of training at the Trades Exposure Centre includes a hydrogen sulfide (H2S) alive certification, fall protection certification and hands-on service rig training where the students are accompanied by several instructors for a total of 25.5 hours. 

To advance industry support, NLPS partners with companies such as NES Sure Flow, a division of NES Global Talent (NES). NES Sure Flow, based in Alberta, is a well-respected provider of oilfield recruitment services for projects and operations. As a Foundation and Capacity Building Partner in the Trades Exposure program, NES delivers training geared toward hands-on floor hand training.

“NLPS’s dynamic program has exposed hundreds of students to the oil and gas industry’s unlimited possibilities,” said Darcy Pashak, director of operations at NES Sure Flow. “I am so pleased that NES has been able to contribute so meaningfully to this valuable real-world training, giving students the ability to make an informed decision about pursuing a career in the local oil and gas industry.”

Each year, the program also features an annual trades day carnival, including both students and industry professionals. The carnival connects students with industry leaders and post-secondary representatives by participating in interactive actives, demonstrations and presentations. At previous events, NES wellsite supervisors have led live rig demonstrations and hosted barbecues for all attendees.

“At NES, we are proud to partner with organizations like NLPS and help make a difference in our community,” Pashak said.

Amid these uncertain times, continuing to look forward is crucial. Oil industry leaders must come together in support of both the current and future workforce. Adapting and supporting programs like the Trades Exposure program, is a win-win for all. Lessening the impact of the great crew change and its associated skills gap, giving back to underrepresented groups within communities and passing down valuable knowledge and skills, is sure to engage and encourage younger professionals to persevere in their pursuit of an oil and gas career.