Some little girls grow up dreaming about being princesses or models. Not Erin Rideout. For as long as she can remember she has always wanted to travel and get her hands dirty working outside. She’s recently discovered working on pipeline construction projects can tick all those boxes. After roaming around Australia, Mexico and Costa Rica, the tall blonde Ontarian enrolled in a plumbing college. Following a recommendation from one of her teachers, she took a test to get into a pipeline-welding training program organized by the United Association (UA) union in Toronto.
“I am so glad I was taken, I really like it,” says Rideout, one of 12 apprentices in the 11-day course at UA Local 46 in Toronto’s Scarborough district. “What I want to do now is work as a weld helper on pipeline construction, helping welders get the job done. There are so many opportunities in that line of work.
Across Canada, the UA provides the advanced training in pipe cutting and welding that pipefitters, welders and apprentices require to work on complex pipeline construction projects. This week, Erin and her fellow classmates were able to practice their skills on sections of 42’’-diametre heavy-wall steel pipe – a rare commodity for UA training facilities – that was donated by TransCanada to Local 46 and seven other UA locals across the country.
“I have never seen or welded on a pipe that large before so this is pretty great that we get to work on this,” says Kieran McLoughlin of the 40-foot pipe section. The 23-year old professional welder worked on the refurbishment of a nuclear plant before joining the UA program.
The collaboration between the UA and TransCanada provides McLoughlin, Rideout and hundreds of skilled welders, journeymen and apprentices taking part in the training program across the country, with a unique opportunity to acquire hands-on pipeline experience as though they were in the field.
“Our ambition here is to set these young men and women up for success,” says Business Representative Paul Boyle, who is the link between Local 46 and pipeline companies. “We take good welders from the industry or the construction fields and develop their skills so they can go on a pipeline construction site and know exactly what they must do. We take the best welders and we make them even better.”
Boyle says his biggest problem isn’t not filling the pipeline-welding training courses – demand to take part has never been stronger – but to find the materials needed for his apprentices can develop their skills. “The problem is the pipe. We can’t get enough to teach. This is why this donation by TransCanada is a tremendous opportunity for us. It allows our apprentices to get some real-life experience.”
TransCanada and the Energy East Pipeline Project team have been working with the UA for nearly a year to provide 24 sections of large-diameter pipe to training facilities in Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Sarnia, Montreal, Miramichi and Dartmouth.
Highly-skilled welders are key to important pipeline projects such as Energy East – the 4,600-kilometer project that will ship 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Western Canada to the oil refineries and port terminals of Eastern Canada. Through this large-scale donation, TransCanada is proud to contribute to the UA’s efforts to train a new generation of superior welders, some of whom will go on to work on projects like Energy East.
“There will be a tremendous need for a talented workforce in the pipeline construction industry. This is why this collaboration between the UA and TransCanada is so important. We give them the means to train outstanding Canadian welders and pipefitters, they then build a highly-skilled Canadian workforce that organizations like TransCanada can rely on for complex pipeline construction projects.”
– Bob Eadie, Energy East project director, TransCanada
Energy East is a unique opportunity for Canada to enhance our energy security by replacing oil imports to Eastern refineries through domestic supply, and generate billions of dollars in salaries and tax revenues for local communities along the pipeline route. The project is expected to create 10,000 full-time jobs during the development and construction phase, well-paying jobs for welders and many others. Experienced pipeline welders can earn as much as $150,000 a year, according to industry data.
“When people get out of this training course with their accreditation to work in the pipeline construction industry, the world is pretty much their oyster,” Rideout says. “These pipeline projects will create so many jobs, for welders of course but also crane operators, truck drivers, you name it. This is a whole new world of opportunities.”