MASKWACIS, ALTA. - Oil and gas workers are training alongside members of the Louis Bull Tribe of the Maskwacis First Nation to learn how to implement practical clean energy solutions.
Fifteen trainees installed solar panels at a community daycare as part of a five-day upskilling course titled Solar Skills that was initiated by Iron and Earth, a group of stakeholders from various industrial trades. The group formed as a response to falling oil prices and as a way to train for alternative employment for industrial workers.
The training program was a partnership between Iron and Earth, Gridworks Energy Group and the Louis Bull Tribe, and was sponsored by Enbridge and Suncor Energy.
"At Enbridge, we know that all forms of energy will be needed to meet people's needs as we shift to a low-carbon economy and we're doing our part to be involved in that transition. That is why we are investing in developing this workforce today," Enbridge director of community and indigenous engagement Kim Brenneis said in a statement.
The eventual goal of the Solar Skills program is to upskill up to 1,000 oil, gas and coal workers along with indigenous community members as solar specialists skilled in onsite installations.
"The skills we have as energy workers are versatile and transferable, but support is needed to enable workers to diversify," said Jen Turner, Iron and Earth communications director and wellsite contractor.
"Hundreds of workers have already signed the Solar Skills pledge, calling on the government to invest in worker upskilling. We hope they listen, and that more Canadians will realize what's possible with training programs like this."
A second course is planned shortly for Newfoundland and Labrador. Iron and Earth has also called on the federal, provincial and municipal governments to create a national initiative.