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Veteran Oil Patch Worker Lands Dream Clean Energy Job

“It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” says former oil patch worker turned solar panel installer, Gregory Elliott, about Iron & Earth’s Net-Zero Pathways (NZP) program.

NZP is designed to help people break into the clean energy field, by providing participants with training, internship and job opportunities in the renewable sector. The program provides one-on-one coaching, employability soft skills teachings, and paid on-the-job training with a renewable energy efficiency or sustainability company, with the possibility of permanent employment to follow.

Gregory was immediately interested when he heard of the program, since he wants to see a cleaner environment for future generations. “We need to reduce our carbon emissions and we need to ensure clean air for all the grandchildren,” he says. “I like learning about the shift from oil and gas to renewables to save the planet, and thought, let’s do it! You hear lots of talk about the move to clean energy and you see solar panels on homes around here, so I figured I gotta get with the times.”

The in-class part of the NZP program gave him an understanding of renewable energy concepts, helped him prepare his resume and perform well at job interviews. “The instructors were very professional, and explained things clearly,” Gregory says. “All the information was valuable, the instructors were excellent and made the course very interesting. I couldn't wait to get back to class the next day.”

After he completed the one-week classroom training, Gregory landed a placement with Calgary-based, Rocky Mountain Solar. “By the time I got home after the interview, I already had a job offer!” Gregory says. Following a six-week training period as a residential solar panel installer, Gregory recently entered into full-time employment with the company. “I was offered a really good employment package and the work is really interesting,” he says.

Gregory had previously worked as an oil pipeline insulator in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, before a double hip replacement recently ended that career. “I used to end my shift at the oil patch in tears from hip pain,” says Gregory. “Finally, when the doctor told me, you either get two new hips or a wheelchair, I went for the surgery,” he says with a laugh. “This new job is much, much easier than working in the oil patch. I can run up and down ladders to install solar panels, without any problem.”

Despite having no experience with solar panels, with his construction and oil pipeline experience, Gregory needed little training in his new role. “It was a bit intimidating getting on the roof at first, but now it’s a breeze,” he says. “I’m the type who asks lots of questions and the management has been great about explaining their operation.”

“I love my job - building things, putting things together and seeing the finished product,” he continues. “I was amazed to see how it all works and that any extra power you generate goes back to the power grid and gains you credit. It feels great when a customer tells you you’ve done a good job. It’s also great to be home every night, for a change.”

With his newfound knowledge, Gregory recently convinced some friends to convert to solar power and he also plans to install solar panels on his own cabin. “I showed them how the panels work and how to apply for a government grant.  Now, I’m wondering why everyone in Canada isn’t doing this, but it will probably happen in time."

For more information about Iron & Earth’s training opportunities, contact us at [email protected] or 778-771-0852 and if you’re ready to make the transition to a renewable energy job, visit our Climate Career Portal.

Iron & Earth’s training programs are funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.



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.