December 12, 2015 0 Comments Experience Working in Alberta's Oilfield

December 2015

Studying for Year 1 Electrician Module Exams.


 This month would mark the 31th month that I have been in Alberta.

The time to do my 1st year electrician schooling was near, and I learned that NAIT offered a more flexible schedule variant through distance learning, but the catch was that if you failed, then you could not take a distance learning program ever again. I wanted to get my school done while minimizing the financial burden. So I made a gamble- to use this program to do the studies while work was slow, thus avoiding needing to quit a job to attend school full-time and getting hit financially as little as possible, as when work was slow, my EI payments would kick in and I wasn’t forgoing income. The risk laid in not having enough time to complete my studies and failing, or having to quit a job just for the sake of preventing failure. Much of this time to study would come from the transition period of the oilfield and construction, where it was too cold and wet to do summer work, but not cold enough to have frozen ground for winter work, and during weekends and days after work. On some days working out of town, I sat in bed with my books until I fell asleep.

The low price of oil has taken its toll on the oilfield and myself somewhat- as I started looking for work all the way back in September, 2 months before my construction seasonal period was ending. I had some interviews, but either projects were delayed, or employers had more choosing power than in the past. It was very aggravating to see the identical job posting return online to Indeed or Kijiji some time after an interview, or to return to the office to say Hi only to learn they just went through a mass hiring spree and I wasn’t selected.

I was laid off the first week of November, and had an interview 2 hours after my supervisor called me to notify me of the layoff, at a local company. They somewhat said they had work for me, but never heard back despite calling back twice. EI payments kicked in immediately as my claim was on-going after my layoff last December. I took this opportunity to accelerate my studies. The coursework initially was very simple, but progress bogged down significantly after getting deeper in the course. I was expecting to have the course done in a month without working; turned out it was going to take 2.

I also took the slow times as a chance to increase the intensity and quantity of my workouts and diet. As of the time of writing I’ve increased my squat weight to 355lb, and body weight by 16lb (though 8 of such is estimated to be water retention from the increased influx of carbohydrates).

My fortunes reversed recently, as I was finally offered work again just as I was about 3/4 complete my studies, but this time not in the field, but in a plant, meaning there is no Spring Breakup. I also have a base salary (roughly 87K) for working only in theory, half of a month (2 weeks on, 2 weeks off), and if required to work in addition to my regular schedule, there is a hourly wage.

By itself the income is not enough for my purposes- as I need to gain  $40,000/year to be on schedule with my objectives ($3300/month approx., as addressed in my previous writings) – more if I am to enjoy myself more, like have a newer fast car and do some travels. Rather, it is the schedule that has potential, as I can do my future schooling without leaving a job or waiting for layoffs, and have half of the rest of the month to make money. Even using my friends in hospitality as an example ($200-300/day cash), taking the bottom end of that and working 5 days/week, this could add another $2000 of net income. A rough breakdown of this financial picture:

$5271 net income/month

$4075/month budget; $3475/month if one room is rented out.

Using 4075 as the worst case scenario, monthly profit is $1196.

Plus $2000/month more on days off brings this close to $3200; 3800 if a room is rented out.

With a second sufficiently-paying job and renting a room out, this is more than enough to be on schedule with my goals. The challenge lies in getting the appropriate second job, as many employers like full-time people versus one gone for half the month, and cash is difficult to come by. To replicate $2000 net/month without cash would involve something paying closer to $300/day consistently on weekdays.

Also, another problem is school in the future, as this obviously would dent my earning power. I am missing quite a large sum of apprenticeship hours, so odds of myself doing this school anytime soon are relatively low, and by then I should have also investment income as an aid- which is money mostly working by itself, so combining forces with that in addition to my second job during non-study time would together be a fair force.

One year later, the most realistic investment income I’d see is a rental condo fetching about $1400/month with $210K approximate cost. The tax bleed is significant, reducing this to $1082/month net after the interest tax write-off. This would more than offset the 8 weeks of lost second job income incurred for each electrical year of school, assuming appreciation offsets the mortgage interest, so that though positive cashflow is obviously lower, the remainder is going towards the principal.

Forward concerns in addition to the above is the search for a company to provide me electrical experience to progress in my apprenticeship. It continues to be a struggle under $36/barrel oil and amongst companies that seem to prefer kids through the Buddy System who just want to fuck and smoke weed in their moms’ basement, as they had less life experience, cheaper, and easier to “Mold them into what they like”. Plus you can rip them off or work is slow and they won’t leave.

My concern are the kids I must arm wrestle with to get my apprenticeship hours and experience, but in the very grand scheme of things this is only a minor bump in the road. They have the advantages of the above traits, plus more electrical experience and connections. For myself, my advantage is a working attitude and a more diversified set of skills and experiences. Therefore, in a sense we are not too far off on the playing field.

Overall I am relatively optimistic going into year 2016. My physical strength and fitness and experience is increasing everyday. Without the hand of rich Mommy and Daddy, as a 22-year old young guy I have few equals, and even fewer who stand in my way.