May 20, 2017 1 Comment Experience Working in Alberta's Oilfield

Brief Cliff Notes on UBC student -> Oilfield Career Timeline

Left UBC when I was 19 after finishing 3/4 years of my Math and Economics degree (with Computer Science and Commerce Minors). Current standing, at this time of writing:

Age: 24

Assets: $328,000 814 sq ft. Edmonton Floor 3 condo, $296,000 650 sq ft. Edmonton top floor condo. F83 BMW M4 Cabriolet. Excludes cash and current property and vehicle equity.

Credentials: Class 1 Trucking License. UBC BA in Math and Economics; Year 4. Apprentice Electrician Year 1, Year 2 academic portion.

Experience: 4 years of pipeline, oilfield, and road construction. 3 years trucking.


(1) Worked on a Math and Economics degree (Computer Science Minor) until April 2013, in GVA. 3/4 Years completed at Age 19.

(2) First job was landscaping in Alberta as a means of getting more money for school.

(3) Moved into oilsands labour in August 2013- learned there was no money in oilsands unless you held a skilled trade. But discovered there was money in Power Engineering and other trades- much better opportunities than what my university background would had led to- switched plan to go that route. Relatively speaking, financially it was too risky to continue university studies.

(4) Started working on Service Rigs (“oil rigs”) in Winter 2013. Money was good but too unstable to be a reliable means to raise funds for school, and the work and environment terrible.

(5) Decided to acquire trucking license (Class 1) to be more employable and increase earning power to fund school and start building an investment portfolio. School is to eventually increase earning power once income in trucking was stagnated. Acquired Trucking License (Class 1 or Class AZ) through Trucking School by August 2014; Age 21.

(6) Started trucking in road construction and oilfield in August 2014. Also found electrician apprenticeship and was indentured as apprentice as of November 2014. Offered multiple jobs upon a week of graduation Trucking School. Though inexperience resulted in work inconsistency as more experienced personnel were favoured. Income in 2014 was around $65,000.

(7) Price of oil collapsed in January 2015, resulting in a 6 week layoff. Electrician apprentice work opportunities grinded to a halt and most occupations across the province either reduced positions available and/or wages. Spent remainder of 2015 working at subpar wages as trucker in road construction and oilfield. Income was around $76,000 (71,000 on paper).

(8) Found oilsands operator job in late 2015 as I worked on electrician 1st year school part-time. $91,822 salary factoring in EI (the plant only allowed us to work half of each month for safety reasons). Tried to look for extra work on days off, but no one wanted to employ someone for half a month at a time- especially with a questionable, desperate labour market.

(9) April 2016: Bought first home at Age of 22 with no cosigner or any family financial assistance (2013 814 sq ft. condo near university and downtown) for $328,000 (a lowball). Same unit cost original owner $343,000 in 2013. Completed 1st year Electrician School, but still no work for apprenticeship.

(10) Found renter for 1/2 of the condo same evening it was posted in Kijiji for $750/month (below market).

(11) Job loss in August 2016 because of (A) jealousy towards young guy buying a home among financially starved oilfield workers, (B) dislike for the lack of desperate “grateful just to have a job” dog attitude, and (C) finding manager’s nephew willing to do my job for $22/hr for half of each month.

(12) Returned to previous road construction employer in September 2016. Had 11 job offers 3 weeks after job loss.

(13) Completed 2nd year Electrician School by December 2016. Had several job offers within this month, though none in electrical trade. Electrical apprenticeship work prospects seemed doomed. Began trucking for pipeline and oilfield rig/drilling work for new employer. Income on average for this employer was approx. $8500/month during the busy season, but had to be on call for 30 days/month in order to “catch” all the available work, and work all over the province. Did not enjoy my time there at all, but had to bide time.

(14) 2016 income was $85,000 ($102,350 equivalency factoring in tax writeoffs).

(15) Started own trucking contracting business in April 2017 upon leaving that employer at spring seasonal slowdown. Rationale for this move were:

(A) hitting income ceiling for trucking, which is around $100,000/year working year round in today’s economy

(B) tax writeoff implications and tax deferral

(C) flexibility

(D) reduced trucking wages in a employer’s market

(E) in realization that I’d never make money working as an employee, regardless of it were trucking, electrician, power engineering, analyst, accountant, lawyer, etc. General consensus is that if you’re good at what you do, you tend to make $100-150K in Alberta as an employee- but to exceed that requires decades of experience in a senior role, self-employment, and/or investment income. Business started producing positive earnings 3 days later upon calling client who originally offered me a job in Winter 2016. This one originally offered two raises within the interview to convince me to say yes.

(16) April 2017: Purchased second property 3 minutes away from university- pre construction unit for $296,000- a 1 br 650 sq ft. top floor condo. Age 23. Pre-construction discount and lowball resulted in about 10% below market value acquisition. Expected completion is Summer 2018. Market rental value of current property determined to be $2500/month furnished, $1850/month unfurnished.

(17) May 2017: Stopped performing work for contracting business and returned to road construction trucking/operating work. Latter average income is around $9,000/month, but only employed for 5-6 months/year. Client was much more pleasant to work for compared to all previous jobs. Average income was around $7000/month, but only 45-50 hours/week of work required. Enough to live on after taxes with some savings to grow, but progression very slow. However, it is a means to be happier and complete a considerable amount of education in the spare time, or look for other business opportunities.

Current objective is a combination of the following:

(A) Stay in trucking, with the road construction employer as a base of stable income from May – October, then work on business as contractor for remainder of the year.

(B) Use savings gained from trucking and contracting business to invest as aggressively as possible with a long-term (5+ year) horizon- specifically targeting undervalued real estate and stocks (value investing approach). The high income (especially that of the recognized road construction employer) is a formality enabling high leverage with real estate to amplify returns in the Alberta buyer’s market. In the beginning there will be a heavy reliance on real estate due to limited capital, and diversification to stocks in multiple sectors will be gradual. The goal is to acquire one additional piece of real estate every year. Between appreciation (in Edmonton, we are happy to see around 4% YoY, but high rents make cash flow positive or neutral situations common) and principal contributions, each property around the $300,000 range is expected to make $25,000/year- in today’s dollars. Upon expiration of 5-year mortgage terms (or two 2-year mortgage terms), each will be liquidated to cash out on appreciation and principal contributions- then cash re-balanced.

(C) Keep going to school every year part-time, completing one year of the electrician apprenticeship academic portion for now until the economy improves. Considering Power Engineering as well during the Winter of 2017 – 2018, but the upfront investment is many times larger ($15,000+ after considering tuition, books, and lost income). School is a path to increasing earning power, and increases in earning power are to fund more investments.