October 24, 2015 1 Comment Experience Working in Alberta's Oilfield

October Blues

Last time I posted I was ranting about the struggles of fighting to keep the home downpayment money, and further into October the battled continued. Seemingly the world kept wanting to take my money away and prevent me from getting ahead of others at any cost.

The seatbelt became jammed in my car, and because it was an electronic one powered by a motor and all within an enclosed system, the entire unit had to be replaced, which was $360 in parts, and about another 490 in labour and taxes. There, I just lost another $850.

Then I was told layoff time was imminent in the second week of October- when I thought life was going to finish me with its Swan Song. One driver rolled his ankle, and another wanted to return to his home province. The latter had more seniority and experience, so I’d have easily been replaced. So fortunately, I kept working, albeit only have been averaging around 60 hours/week.

I started applying for work back in September in anticipation of a layoff because of the construction season ending, and ended up with only 3 interviews/calls back. One didn’t go well, as I was too honest about my intentions and struggled with poor phone reception and being called while I was on the road. From her tone they seemed to just want an older guy with family who just wanted a job to feed themselves, rather than some young guy trying to make it big, especially in the current economic climate. I was just told by others in the industry that they may have been slow and just didn’t have the amount of work to keep me as an employee. The second company’s projects were postponed. The third was through e-mail, and from the guy’s tone he just wanted some kid in his/her parents’  basement who wanted to be an electrician and have a job.

I finally got my electrician schooling materials, and breezed through some portions, but progress slowed significantly at the Electrical Code section, as there was a lot of material to digest and it was dry. I managed to get about 21% of the course done so far. At the time of writing I have both Saturday and Sunday off upcoming, so my plan is to make as much progress as possible during this time.

After much discussion with mortgage brokers, it was determined that my best approach now is to just purchase a cheap condo to use as a rental property later. A rental property goes precisely in line with  my medium-term objectives, so the idea is plausible. I was surprised at how much some of the newer units are selling at discounted values, making the move much less financially painful. To own a newer high 500s sq ft. unit would run about 1200-1300/month; around the 190-200K mark. Now my only concern is to come up with the downpayment for the next home, as working as a beginning years electrician apprentice would severely dent my earning power, dragging my objectives even longer. Regardless, it’s still a first step.

I haven’t been able to get electrical work since November 2013, which is a cause of concern as putting it off too long would make the apprentice board to discontinue my apprenticeship. Enrolling in school drags the timer on as now they see me in school until June 2016 (really it is until end of March, but then exams have to be arranged after). This buys me some time, but now if I don’t find anything later in 2016, then it’s gone. On the bright side, providing that the slowdown in the oilfield doesn’t affect me too much, then I may be able to raise the second downpayment much quicker. One strategy I’ve been brainstorming is to join the union. Even though they are slow for 1st years and may wait 6-8 months until I work, meanwhile I can stay in trucking to keep my higher earning power. If then I only work for a short period of time, then at least I’ll have electrical experience under my belt and then can hop back to grabbing gears meanwhile. The union also has the advantage of making me relatively even with other 1st years, so I would move the queue in order, which is untrue for private companies. I also wouldn’t have to deal with the mistreatment for not knowing anyone (many trades companies are very close knit; it feels like a little family in there when you walk in), or having an oilfield and trucking resume and be seen as someone who will leave.