Sometimes in this vast and complicated world, it's easy to feel a bit lost and hopeless. It can be hard to see progress or positives in the face of so much struggle. But I find if I focus things inward and think about the community with which I work to put renewable energy on the map, my mood changes. Drastically.
Four weeks ago Iron & Earth concluded a whirlwind engagement tour in Edmonton, Alberta. It started with a Visioning Workshop where we invited both our committed members and prospective allies to engage with our core leadership team and each other to learn about everything we do, identify key priorities and contribute ideas for the next phase of our work.
At the end of the session, participants committed to engage with their co-workers and communities to recruit new members in working toward chapter development. The visioning day was followed by a few drinks and a celebration of everything we've accomplished together. We also had a special opportunity that evening to get to know the Leduc-Beaumont Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Shaye Anderson and discuss specific opportunities in the region.
After all that, we hosted our first ever AGM where we elected a new board of directors and determined our bylaws. The following day we embarked on an intensive media training. Our board and other worker members got comfortable being in front of the camera and practiced discussing our work – and let me tell you, did it ever pay off...
The week ended with a press conference at the Gridworks Energy solar training center where we stood side by side with a range of allies and presented our completed Workers’ Climate Plan (WCP) report to a room full of news crews and reporters. It was the culmination of four months hard work surveying worker members and non-workers, and conducting consultations with industry and allies. By all indications, the event was a smashing success.
Since calling on government to retrain, retool and rebuild Canada's energy sector, we've received a positive response from a number of workers, unions, and political leaders. As we were hoping, the WCP report has immediately become a helpful conversation tool. Within the first week of launching the report, we engaged with a number of tradespeople, MPs, MLAs, wind energy contractors and developers, unions, and oil and gas businesses about how to refine and implement our proposed policies...
There's an industrial revolution emerging – that much is for sure. Where oil and gas workers are positioned within it has yet to be determined. There's absolutely no reason to leave workers and families struggling in the wake of this transition.
If you haven't already, please support our call on the governments of Alberta and Canada to foster job opportunities for skilled workers that are aligned with our climate commitments. All you have to do is sign your name here: www.ironandearth.org/call_for_government_action.
Thanks for sticking with us on this journey. •
Iron & Earth is led by oilsands workers committed to incorporating more renewable energy projects into our work scope. This article was first published on their website ironandearth.org.
Workers' Climate Plan – Media Summary
What is the Workers’ Climate Plan?
- The plan is a blueprint for getting Canada’s energy sector back to work, developed by workers with experience in the energy industry
- Energy workers are currently dealing with some of the greatest challenges of their careers — they deserve lasting solutions that create good-paying, sustainable jobs
Who developed the plan?
- The process was started by Iron & Earth, an organization led by skilled tradespeople who have worked in Canada’s oil industry
- From June to October, Iron & Earth reached out to energy sector workers online, over the phone and in-person to consult with them and gather their input
- Iron & Earth also consulted with energy sector stakeholders to devise policy recommendations based on what workers are asking for
What are you recommending?
The Workers’ Climate Plan process identified four key areas for government action:
- Build up Canada’s renewable energy workforce by rapidly upskilling energy sector workers through short-term training programs and expanding apprenticeships
- Build up the manufacturing capacity of renewable energy products through the retooling and advancement of existing manufacturing facilities
- Help existing energy-sector unions, contractors, manufacturers and developers transition to renewable energy through incubator programs and multi-stakeholder collaboration
- Upgrade existing non-renewable energy infrastructure by integrating renewable technologies and industrial-scale energy efficiency into that infrastructure
- There is a brief window of opportunity: large-scale renewable energy projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan will start ramping up in 2018. Canada needs to proactively prepare the workforce and industry to harness our country’s energy sector specializations
- The federal government is currently developing a pan-Canadian climate and clean energy growth strategy. It must ensure continued job opportunities for energy sector workers
- Up to $50 billion will be invested in renewable energy over the next 14 years in Alberta and Saskatchewan, according to Siemens Canada, because of new energy policies
- Many of these dollars will flow out of Canada, and to countries with more established renewable energy industries, unless Canada expands our own renewable energy sector
What is needed for workers to make this transition?
- Most workers who responded to the Workers’ Climate Plan survey say their skills could be applied to renewable energy projects either with some retraining (64%) or immediately without any retraining (16%)
- The federal government must invest in specific training opportunities for the rapid upskilling of energy sector workers, and support job growth in the renewable sector, to make that possible
- The compatibility of existing skills with renewables is extensive: electricians are needed to install solar panels, welders are needed to build wind turbines, boilermakers and pipefitters are needed to build biomass and biofuel systems, drilling engineers are needed to locate and maintain geothermal wells, and so on
Where can I learn more?
- The full plan includes quotes and photos from workers, full results from the consultation, as well as more details about the policy recommendations