A little over a week ago I had began my tale about my journey up to Northern Alberta to visit the community of Little Buffalo and to get a sense of what Northern Alberta really was/is. Even though the journey was well over two weeks ago the sense of being in the midst of something important has never left me and it only continues to be amplified as more tales are being released on the community: check out this amazing blog about Little Buffalo. Although, I too want to tell my experience of being in the community (granted we were only there for a mere couple of hours), I feel that this journey didn’t start in Little Buffalo but on the road.
We left Lethbridge, Alberta at 6 AM with the intention of stopping just outside of Edmonton, Alberta to camp in a nearby town or field. Unfortunately with my naiveté and indecision (we had decided to drive all the way to Peace River and camp near Little Buffalo) we ended up near Grand Prairie. Nineteen hours later we were back in urban territory and staying with Nat’s friends Dan and Sarah, a very lovely couple. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise since Dan just so happened to be an oil field electrician! Bingo-bango, someone on the inside!
The juicy stories that could’ve been unleashed from this source ended up just being tales of spills in Nisku, Alberta (unnecessary tank drilling…) and a basic job descriptions. But it lead to an important component that, I am ashamed to admit, I often forget since I am so busy vilifying the Oil industry: the workers of Alberta.
There are over 60 gas companies within Alberta. Each company employs hundreds, thousands of people. Oil companies salaries range between $40, 000 to $70, 000 a year (entry to mid-level). Jobs can be acquired with education ranging from high school to post-secondary credentials. Most companies will help an individual acquire the necessary training if they so desire. We all know this of course. We are all aware that Alberta is massively dependent on the oil industry to produce that chunk of coin us Albertans are so set on gaining, right? I’m pretty sure it is safe to say that the idea of attaining that salary is never going to go away. Most of us want to be in a different financial bracket then we find ourselves today.
Let us look at the statistic provided by our trusted Provincial Government. According to the 2010 Annual Alberta Labor Market Review, 140,200 individuals are employed by Mining, oil and Gas Extraction industry, making it the fourth largest industry in Alberta. But 150,900 individuals are employed to do professional, scientific and technical services and I am guessing that a mass majority of that number are employed by Mining, oil and Gas Extraction companies to help them to teach, find and implement better ways to extract the precious black gold from the ground. Gods knows how many students that is — someone find me the stat. That’s a lot of people doing the devil’s work.
My road trip took me along many towns that as we got further and further up North it became apparent that a significant portion is fueled by gas. We passed through Calgary, Edmonton, Stony Plain, Whitecourt, Mayerthorpe, Peace River, Little Buffalo. Each one of these “little towns” holds a piece of this black gold. And in it a little old man that looks like this.