Fort Saskatchewan — Inter Pipeline Ltd. isn’t having trouble finding workers to build its $3.5-billion Heartland Petrochemical Complex, but with an eye on the next activity upswing, the company is investing to build Alberta’s construction workforce capacity.
At an event at the project site on Wednesday attended by dignitaries including Alberta economic development minister Tanya Fir, Inter Pipeline announced it is giving $580,000 to Women Building Futures (WBF). The funding over three years will help provide pre-apprenticeship training to women in the Edmonton region, and raise awareness about the trades.
“We do mean what we say about diversity and inclusion; it does matter, and if industry can work together to provide more of these opportunities for women to enter into the trades it will help when times are good,” Inter Pipeline CEO Christian Bayle told JWN.
“Good times will come back and some point. We’ll be right back in the labour shortage that we were facing five, six years ago, and there’s a huge untapped resource with women in industrial trades. We’re going to do our bit to help.”
A little over halfway into construction at the Heartland Petrochemical Complex, Canada’s first integrated propane dehydrogenation (PDH) and polypropylene (PP) facility, there is a current workforce of approximately 1,500 on site, Bayle said. That is expected to rise above 2,000 at peak.
Many contractors on the project are WBF partners, said CEO Kathy Kimpton, including Graham Construction, PCL Construction, Kiewit Corporation, Waiward Industrial LP and Willowridge Construction Ltd.
WBF says that last year 186 women graduated from its programs, and 90 percent were employed within the first six months of graduation.
“When women enter the trades this benefits their lives, families, communities and the economy. We know that when we work together to create truly inclusive workplaces based on respect, it creates a better environment for everyone,” Kimpton said, adding that the partnership with Inter Pipeline “is critical and will increase awareness of the careers local women can have within the Heartland region.”
The company is supporting WBF’s Journeywoman Start program, a 17-week classroom and hands-on pre-apprenticeship training program that introduces students to six different industrial trades. Its investment is not tied to any existing labour shortage, Bayle said.
“When we sanctioned this project there was very little going on in the Alberta construction industry with the falling off of the commodity prices. This is the largest industrial project I believe going on in Alberta today…
“It’s very opportunistic for us to be building in this environment. To do a project of the Heartland’s scale back five, six or seven years ago when all the larger oilsands development was going on would have been very very difficult. The access to labour would have been tough; there would have been cost pressures in areas that we’re just not feeling today, so I think it’s good for us in terms of being able to access the market and control overall costs. It’s also great for the Alberta economy.”
Bayle said that of the project’s $3.5-billion capital cost, about $2.7 billion is expected to flow into the Alberta economy through direct employment and contracts with Alberta companies.
Construction of the Heartland PDH plant is progressing approximately one year ahead of schedule, and the entire project is on track to meet its startup target of late 2021, he said.