Women take on challenges as apprentice ironworkers at Alberta’s Sturgeon Refinery

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sturgeon refinery construction

Women Building Futures (WBF) says it is celebrating the graduation of the first Ironworker Readiness class. WBF joined forces with North West Redwater Partnership (NWR) and the Alberta Ironworkers Apprenticeship and Training Plan (Local 720) in late 2015 to launch the new training program. The Ironworker graduates have entered the province’s workforce at NWR’s Sturgeon Refinery near Edmonton.

“WBF is proud to be part of this innovative partnership that will benefit women, families, industry and Alberta’s economy as a whole,” says JudyLynn Archer, president and CEO of WBF. “It’s amazing what can happen when organizations join forces to create innovative solutions that benefit all stakeholders.”

“These highly skilled women represent the strength, determination and diversity of this great province,” Alberta energy minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd said in a statement. “Not only will they build the energy infrastructure of Alberta’s future, they have chosen to take hold of their own futures, to do what they love, and to prove any and all nay-sayers wrong. As Energy Minister, they inspire me, as a mother, they inspire me, and as a woman, they inspire me.”

The need for motivated skilled tradespeople in the construction and maintenance of the NWR Sturgeon Refinery near Edmonton sparked the creation of this unique partnership.

“It is our pleasure to welcome these talented and dedicated women into the Sturgeon Refinery workforce,” says Ian MacGregor, president and chairman, NW Refining Inc., a 50 per cent partner in the NWR Partnership.

“I feel good about what we been able to achieve through this partnership. This first class of graduates exemplifies exactly who we hope to attract to our team. Albertans with passion, commitment and a focus to the future. We are excited to be able to partner with WBF, Local 720, and the contractors on site, PCL and Fluor, to create job opportunities that truly make a difference to the lives of Albertans. But this is also about more than job creation. This is about being part of something we as Albertans can all be proud of. The Sturgeon Refinery is focused on finding ways to add value to our resources, manage our CO2 footprint and gain market access. Together, we are building Alberta’s energy future. As construction continues, it is our hope that this first graduating class will be able to stake their claim in the long-lasting and meaningful legacy that this project will leave on our province.”

“Local 720 is thrilled to have played a role in training this graduating class as they develop new skillsets and take control of their future,” says Scott Papineau, apprenticeship co-ordinator/training tnstructor, with Local 720. “The united workforce that is emerging from this unique program is now equipped to contribute to Alberta’s expert workforce and empower and inspire future students who can now follow in their footsteps.”

Tuition for the overall program was provided by NWR, and work experience and employment at NWR’s Sturgeon Refinery was provided in conjunction with their contractors Fluor Canada and PCL Industrial Constructors Inc. Participants were also indentured as Ironworking apprentices with the Alberta Ironworker Apprenticeship and Training Plan, who provided the hands on skill building.

“This program has always been about empowering women and fortifying Alberta’s workforce with skilled, dedicated tradespeople,” says Four Canada construction director Bill Schneider. “We are proud to be supporting WBF, NWR and Local 720 by offering employment at the Sturgeon Refinery to this year’s graduating class as they continue succeeding in pursing non-traditional careers.”

“The WBF ironworkers training program is an important next step in a wider effort to help open doors for women in trades. We are pleased to welcome these recent graduates as they join us at PCL on the NWR project site.” said Gary Truhn, vice-president and general manager of PCL Industrial Constructors Inc. “The success of this program should only increase as it gains momentum provincially and continues to promote opportunity and excellence in the ironworking industry and in other trades.”

Recruitment for the program began in November 2015, throughout which WBF focused on the engagement of Aboriginal women and women living in communities local to the Sturgeon Refinery.

The program started with WBF’s Best Practices for Working in Construction in a Safe and Productive Way, Healthy Choices for Productive Work, Movement Sequencing and She Works: Financial Tool Kit followed by Worksite Safety Certification: Standard First Aid, CPR Level One, CSTS and WHMIS, OSSA Elevated Work Platform, OSSA Fall Protection.

Local 720 provided all of the hands-on skill training. Apprenticeship retention and completion support is provided by WBF and Alberta Ironworkers Apprenticeship and Training to ensure the ongoing success of graduates.

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