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Rolling out the big guns

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by Roxanne Hooper

During the firm’s annual general meeting last Wednesday in Vancouver, stakeholders were of its successes.
Rolling out the big guns

Alberta Oil Sands

Finning supplies about 70% of the heavy equipment

Staff Writer

Finning’s dominant presence within the Alberta oil sands is undeniable.

During the firm’s annual general meeting last Wednesday in Vancouver, stakeholders were of its successes.

Attendees were told the company has 307 employees and 340 pieces of equipment working in the Athabasca deposit near Fort McMurray, Alta.

As a result, the company that sells, rents and services Catepillar equipment around the globe earned $310 million in mining revenues in the oil sands alone last year. Finning has been a player in the Alberta oil sands for 30-plus years, but it’s only been in the past five years that this and many other companies directly and indirectly involved in gas exploration started growing at a tremendous rate, said Finning’s general manager Brian Shaw.

“There’s no doubt, we command a leading market share,” Shaw said, noting that Finning currently supplies about 70 per cent of the heavy equipment demands in the oil sands.

“We provide small skid steers for light construction, all the way up to the largest mining trucks and graders, the 797B trucks and 24H graders,” he explained.

It’s the demand for these products that allows Shaw’s team to boast the highest number of equipment sales and rentals in Western Canada, he said.

And the great news is that as long as the price of oil remains above $50 a barrel, Shaw predicts no sign of it slowing.

“We expect by the end of the decade or 2011, we’ll be seeing double the fleet in the oil sands. That’s not just Finning, but our competition too,” he said.

And with an increased fleet size, Shaw predicts a similar jump in staffing will be needed. But like many employers in Alberta, the current hurdle is finding qualified staff.

During 1997-98, Finning had 57 staff in the oil sands. In 2001, that number jumped to 170-180 people. Then the boom hit almost three years ago, and he’s increased the staff to more than 300, Shaw explained.

He joined the company seven years ago, and was excited to move to into his current role in the oil sands four years ago – just at the cusp of that boom.

He is joined by staff who work in sales, service, parts and other management positions. But he noted the single largest job classification for Finning employees in northern Alberta is heavy duty mechanics.

To address the ongoing labour demands in Alberta, as well as South America and the United Kingdom, Finning is working with colleges and trades schools to entice graduates to Finning. It has also launched an apprenticeship program and continues scouring the globe for skilled workers.

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