Sunday, January 31, 2016

Death spiral of Alberta economy wildly exaggerated

It's been nothing but bad news out of Alberta for the past year or so.

Yup, first the price of oil goes for a shit.

Then Notley's socialist hordes seize power...

That's pretty much gotta be the end of the road for the Wildrose province.

I've got a soft spot for Alberta. Put in some time there back in the '70s. In fact, the all-time worst welding gig I ever had was in Edmonton.

Worked at an outfit called Tandem Industries. Decent enough rate of pay, and, for the most part, a nice variety of work. Tandem did truck and trailer maintenance and repair. They claimed to be the only place in the West, north of California, to be certified in repairing the big compressed gas tankers.

But, that wasn't the only stuff they repaired. The worst job ever was when an offal truck came in for a rework. In case you don't know, offal is the stuff left over at abattoirs after they've made every possible bit of edible protein into hot-dogs or chicken nuggets. I'm not sure where it goes, but they use tanker trucks to take it there.

So with the gazillion doom and gloom stories festooning the nation's news platforms, I thought I'd pay a visit to the Canada Job Bank for a look-see. Are there any jobs out there at all?

What an eye-opener! Search "heavy equipment mechanic, Alberta" and there's dozens of open jobs!

Search "welder, Alberta," and you gets stuff like this; Jacobs Industrial Services has thirty welding jobs open. Now. At $45.79 per hour.

So it's not all doom and gloom after all. The 300 horsepower snowmobile and the 75 grand pick-up truck are still within reach if you've got the right tickets!

But back to the '70s. That offal rig needed a partial re-skin. That involved mostly working inside the tank. As soon as this unit was pulled into the shop you had guys retching all over the place. Man was it foul! Needless to say nobody stepped up for this assignment, so we drew straws.

Me and Buddy got the two shortest. Buddy was probably the top gun in that shop, a can-do overachiever who had ambitions of opening his own shop. I was a pot-addled wanker with no ambitions whatsoever.

So first day we had to climb into that tank, I was mostly pre-occupied with fighting my retch reflex.

We drag in fans, O-A hoses, welding cables, more fans, and we're good to go.

It's amazing how fast you acclimatize to the absolutely foulest of smells. After a couple of hours you didn't even notice it.

Buddy the overachiever figures we can do this job in two days max. But because he's a favorite with the front office, he's privy to inside info; he knows they've told the client this is a two week job, and by God, we're going to live up to their expectations!

So I'm clambering into that tank as of day two with a coffee in hand and a Edmonton Journal in the back pocket of my Big Bill overalls. Even though the unit was allegedly steam cleaned before it came into the shop, there's a two or three inch crust of petrified offal encrusted on the sides of the tank, which is literally seething with maggots. You'd sit there for an hour or two burning off the maggots with a rosebud before you could get round to any actual work.

We realized from the get-go that there was zero likelihood of any supervisors paying a surprise visit to this particular job. I was therefore able to read the Journal cover to cover and mostly complete the crossword puzzle before we even fired up the torches. Buddy used to disappear for long stretches at a time... I think he was already getting his own business off the ground.

But who wants to read the paper with the walls around them writhing with maggots? I didn't last long at that job. As for Buddy, I hear through the grape-vine that he went on to huge success in his own business and is a millionaire many times over.

As for the prospects for young folks thinking about a career in Alberta today, get yourself the right credentials and it is obviously still a land of opportunity.

Especially if you don't mind reading among the maggots.

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