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Stories From Our Skilled Trades Workers


We’ve had an incredible time at Iron & Earth poring through responses to our Workers’ Climate Plan survey. We can’t thank respondents enough for participating in this important exercise to help inform the federal government’s climate action plan.

Stories From Our Skilled Trades Workers

Over the past month we’ve worked hard to analyze survey answers and compile a preliminary report for the federal government. Our report was shaped by ideas on how to address climate change without leaving energy sector workers and their families behind in the transition. You can read the Workers' Climate Plan preliminary report here.

Survey responses have been enlightening and uplifting. Of over 1,000 responses, 217 were submitted by skilled trades workers. We learned that more than half of our worker members have been negatively impacted by the low price of oil, and read heartfelt personal stories about the impacts on their day-to-day life.

I lost my job in the oil sands almost two years ago. I am now on the verge of bankruptcy and am struggling to pay the bills. I have been retraining in renewable energy, permaculture and natural buildings, but have not been able to make it into a career yet.

- Brian L.

I was laid off for six months, never had I planned to be off for that long. I had to pull pretty much all my RRSPs just to cover my family's monthly expenses. I have three children and a wife who depend on me to work. Employment insurance barely paid my mortgage while I was unemployed.

- Jason K.

My son, a machinist, was laid off for approximately seven months. Recently recalled but for how long – he isn't sure. He and his wife had a baby just prior to his layoff but luckily I am proud to say they are both very careful budgeters and had prepared for the chance that this might happen. But of course, now their savings are reduced significantly and they have to start over to replenish that in case of another layoff. He is thinking of trying to find another trade but that is difficult especially in Alberta.

- Patricia B.

Despite present day challenges, workers have a positive outlook on the future. We discovered 80 per cent of workers believe their current skill set could be transferred to build and maintain a renewable energy future, and a whopping 96 per cent ​of non-worker survey respondents support retraining skilled workers to move into renewables. This gives us hope and a lot of leverage to negotiate with government.

I have always had a strong desire to do my part for the sustainability of our planet. With the skills I've learned in my trade I know I can be an integral part of new green energy projects. It's also a great opportunity to get experience doing what I love and help Canada grow into a green energy leader.

- Justin R.

As a mechanical engineering technologist with a background as a journeyman welder, I want to use my skills to make things better, not just less bad. Battling climate change is no longer optional. It is no longer possible to continue on the path we have traveled ignoring the obvious impacts our actions have created. We have an incredible pool of innovators and self starters here in Alberta who have the ability to find and develop real solutions to the real problems we face. It's time to get down to business.

- Kerry O.

Electricity can be created by green means or by means with high carbon emissions. Canada needs to pivot away from all electricity generation with a high carbon footprint to green electricity. As an electrician, I am prepared to be trained and work within the clean energy sector.

- Daniel L.

We also learned that workers really care about a healthy environment. Most worker respondents are concerned about the environmental health and well-being of future generations, and still more believe minimizing negative impacts to the planet is a major reason Canada should transition to renewable energy.

I'm a journeyman electrician and I care about climate change for our future generation. I have no children but it's frightening to think that the world as we know it is in jeopardy because of the amount of waste we produce. If something can be done, we need to take action!

- Margaret B.

I am an architectural sheet metal worker, painter, carpenter, and I hope to one day be a private land-owner and farmer. I hope to own a home that is self-sustaining, to grow my own food and generate my own energy. I want to raise my future children in an environment free of industrial and urban pollution, but also to remain close to the community I have grown up in. I care because I want the best for my future children.

- Joel S.

I am a retired power engineer. I care about climate change because it is easier and cheaper to deal effectively with it now rather than wait until the climate forces serious changes upon us.

- Don M.

The bottom line is that workers are hopeful for an increase in new job opportunities, and see themselves at the forefront of the green energy revolution.

Over the coming months we will draw upon the expertise of leaders in Canada’s energy sector and beyond to update and expand our Workers’ Climate Plan.

      Our Three Point Framework:

  1. Build up Canada’s renewable energy workforce capacity by re-training and up-skilling Canada’s skilled workforce through public funding and support.

  2. Build up Canada’s renewable energy manufacturing capacity through research and development grants.

  3. Position existing energy sector developers, contractors and unions within the renewable energy sector through incubator and innovation programs and grants.

      Our Two Energy Development Priorities:

  1. Energy development must prioritize the health and equity of workers, families, communities, the economy and the environment.

  2. Energy development must be aligned with global, national and regional climate commitments.

We’ll also examine specific policy proposals in detail and refine a set of recommendations, because everyone working to promote renewable energy must recognize the crucial role for current energy sector workers in Canada’s necessary transition to a green economy.

Momentum behind the Iron & Earth movement grows by the day. We’re connecting with more workers, communicating with government, and working with more businesses and allied groups with every initiative we take on.

It’s our promise to prioritize building relationships as the foundation of our work, and we strive to find common ground as we develop and implement strategies for our membership to thrive in the renewable energy sector.

Want to help celebrate our Workers’ Climate Plan milestone? Please help spread the Iron & Earth message with your friends and family by sharing our pledge on Facebook:

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Stay tuned for more updates on the Workers’ Climate Plan.

Iron & Earth is committed to partnering with Indigenous workers to empower their communities to become self-sufficient in training programs, clean energy transition projects, and employment opportunities to combat environmental racism. It falls to all of us to continue the work of healing and reconciliation in our communities and our organizations. Our relationship with the land and the people who live here shapes who we are. It is in the spirit of reconciliation and honouring the past that we recognize treaties and agreements wherever they are and wherever we work.

We also acknowledge all peoples who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.
As individuals and teams we may make mistakes along the way, but we are dedicated to growth, openness, compassion, and forgiveness. These principles in our work are essential to building successful and healthy relationships with individuals, communities, organizations, and governments.

We look forward to building a path to lead us to a better relationship with Indigenous nations and the environment around us based on peace, friendship, and respect.