Opportunity abounds for career mobility in the natural resources sector
Canada has 9.984 million square kilometres of land mass, making it the second largest country in the world. Our country is lucky enough to be able to count on our vast natural resources both as a source of income from trade and as a provider of much needed energy and materials here at home.
Natural resource exports accounted for 47% of Canada’s total merchandise exports in 2017, valued at approximately $236 billion, and the industry directly and indirectly provided employment for about 1.82 million citizens.
Becca Chettleborough, TFT, FTELP is a Forest Technologist in British Columbia. She says, “The natural resource field has many opportunities within it. I wasn’t fully confident in choosing a single job I wanted to do for the rest of my life, as I have many interests. The great thing about natural resource jobs is that the experience you gain in one field can be used towards another field. For example, if you’ve worked in forestry for five years and decided you wanted to do a different natural resource job (such as reclamation), your experience in forestry will help meet job position criteria for the new job you want.
There are three main industries within the natural resources sector; energy sources and distribution, forestry and logging and minerals and mining.
There are many sources of energy available in Canada such as oil, natural gas, fossil and alternative fuels, uranium for nuclear energy and renewable energies including solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and biomass.
Canada is the world’s fifth largest producer of oil and natural gas and has the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves. There are many different jobs in the sector from a derrick hand on an oil rig to a surveying and engineering careers. The industry also employs a wide range of support staff like drivers, office workers and mechanics.
Alternative fuels include propane, bio-diesel, batteries and fuel cells, vegetable oils, etc. Fossil fuels are rapidly being depleted so focus is turning to these alternative fuel sources. As industry changes to make the adjustment to alternative fuels, the demand for trained employees continues to increase. To address this demand, colleges across the country are including more and more educational opportunities in this area.
As the second largest producer of uranium in the world, the industry in Canada directly employs over 3000 people. Uranium is used to produce electrical energy through a nuclear reaction. Mining and milling uranium is a $1.2 billion a year industry.
Jobs in the uranium field include exploration and sampling, mine site planning, construction and operation, scientific research, environmental assessment and protection as well as corporate and support positions.
Chettleborough shares, “When I was fresh out of high school, I worked in an office every day. I decided at that time that I did not want a desk job to become my career. The natural resources field has many opportunities within it. I wanted a job where I could make some type of difference in regards to the environment. It has always been important to me to do what I can to protect the environment.”
Renewable energy comes from natural processes that renew faster than they are used. Solar and wind energy, geothermal heating from deep within the earth, hydropower from dams and rivers, biogas and liquid biofuels are examples of this form of energy. Biogas includes methane derived from animal manure and other digested organic material, liquid biofuels often contain ethanol made from corn, and biodiesel fuel comes from liquid animal fat and vegetable oil. There’s even green diesel made with algae and other plant matter. Continuing advancements in technology help to make the best use of these natural resources.
Jeff Manser, Professor, Renewable Energies Technician Program at Niagara College says, “I think over the last ten years or so we’ve seen the sector move from a very small sector that needed support, to a more sustainable sector from an economic standpoint. There seems to be lots of positive news that the costs for these systems are continuing to drop and the technology is becoming more competitive. As a sector, it has significant potential for growth, as the need for clean power solutions is strong. This should allow the renewable energy workforce to expand with it.”
Renewable energies are currently responsible for 18.9% of Canada’s total energy supply and we are a prime example to the rest of the world in the production and use of energy from renewable resources. Career opportunities in this sector continue to grow and expand as state-of-the-art technology is developed and new processes are developed to implement the use of sustainable materials.
“The roles we have seen some of our graduates take has been diverse. We’ve seen students entering into manufacturing & construction on both the solar and wind side of renewables, as well as wind turbine maintenance technicians and blade repair technicians,” states Kerly Acosta Hitchcock, P.Eng, Program Head of Sustainable Energy Management (SEMAC) at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). “We also have graduates working in energy auditing, as well as photovoltaic (PV) sales and even business development.”
The forest industry in Canada employs over 200,000 people and generates more than $1.4 billion in revenue, making up 7.2% of the country’s total exports. The core of the Canadian forestry sector includes lumber and other solid wood products as well as pulp and paper.
Forestry jobs include biologists, researchers, loggers, engineers, arborists, land-use planners, surveyors, tree planters, millwrights, timber cruisers, and foresters and forest technologists.
Forest technologist Becca Chettleborough says, “Forestry involves planning for the future as well as dealing with present day problems. My college education prepared me for a job extremely well. They were up to date on what the industry wanted from recent college graduates. The theoretical curriculum and the hands on training have proved to be very useful at work. “
Canada is one of the top five global producers of more than 60 metals and minerals. Mining employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians who provide raw materials such as potash, aluminum, nickel, platinum, gold, diamonds, titanium, sulfur and more to worldwide markets. Exports of metals and minerals contributed over $97 billion to the economy in 2017, up 9.9% over the previous year.
Larry Fisher, General Manager of ProCon Mining and Tunneling in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan says, “Mining is important to Canada as it employs hundreds of thousands of people either directly or indirectly. Mining in Canada allows our industries access to raw materials at a lower cost and is done by ethically responsible mining companies. That does not happen in some parts of the world. Being sustainable is important because the future generations will need the same resources and more, that we are using today.”
Canadians working in the mining industry are the highest paid, surpassing the average earnings of workers in forestry, manufacturing, finance and construction.
Miners in Canada can earn over $110,000 a year, while those in supervisory positions may take home even more. Skilled equipment operators, engineers, construction workers, mine exploration experts, and operational and processing positions make up the majority of the employment openings in the sector.
Chettleborough advises, “Those who are considering a career in natural resources should job shadow someone if possible. There are lots of people that pursue the schooling for natural resource jobs, only to be surprised by the physical demands of the actual job. There are also a lot of jobs within the natural resource world; make sure you do your research to find the one that interests you the most. A career in natural resources is very rewarding. It is interesting and it keeps you grounded. “
By Jackie Fritz