Iron and Earth: oilsands workers call for training in renewable energy
Published: May 15, 2016 – Green Energy Futures
The call to action on the Iron and Earth website says it all:
“As oil sands workers, or friends and family of somebody in the energy industry, we acknowledge the contribution of fossil fuel extraction projects to our lives and livelihoods. As global citizens, we also acknowledge the need to reach climate change targets. Let’s seize this opportunity and create jobs in the renewable energy sector.”
Lliam Hildebrand is first and foremost a boilermaker. On his last oilsands project in northern Alberta, a colleague said to him over lunch, “Man, oil prices are still dropping. They’re going to go below $30 soon, and if we don’t start diversifying our jobs into renewables, our union is screwed.”
It was many conversations like this that inspired Hildebrand to join forces with other like-minded oilsands workers to start Iron and Earth, a campaign calling for training and retraining in renewable energy.
New energy jobs for energy workers
“Our primary goals are number one, to build up the workforce capacity to build renewable energy projects in Canada and in Alberta,” says Hildebrand, now the executive director of Iron and Earth. “Secondly, we want to help build up the manufacturing sector required to build renewable energy. And third, we want to ensure that our contractors and unions can position themselves within this emerging sector.”
The campaign has really taken off. “It’s been absolutely incredible, the amount of attention and support we’ve received so far,” says Hildebrand. “We only launched a month and a half ago, and we already have 4,000 people who have signed our pledge and over 450 of those are actually workers interested in the program and excited about our initiative.”
Hildebrand says that diversification is already built into how various trades operate.
“These tradespeople actually work in all of these industries, whether it’d be coal or natural gas or the oilsands,” says Hildebrand. “So the work force is capable of diversifying, just as we’re capable of diversifying our energy grid.”