Campaign launched to retrain oil sands workers for solar

An Alberta group is launching a campaign to put out of work oil sands electricians to work in the solar industry.

EDMONTON — Oil sands workers are launching a campaign to put Albertans back to work in the renewable energy sector, and are calling on the Alberta government for support.

Iron & Earth, a non¬profit association representing oil sands workers, says its Solar Skills campaign seeks to retrain 1,000 out-¬of-¬work electricians as solar specialists.

“We’re asking the Alberta government for support so we can scale up the training, put more Albertans back to work and build a strong solar industry across this province,” says Iron & Earth founder and boilermaker Lliam Hildebrand.

Over the past year, thousands of oil sands workers have been laid off. The association says on¬-the-¬job retraining proposed by the program can get many of them back to work in the new economy, especially as their skills are highly transferable.

“Iron and Earth members see opportunities in the renewable energy sectors that are not subject to the boom and bust cycles of the oil sands,” said Joe Bacsu, a third generation boilermaker. “We want to leave a healthy planet for our children, but we need jobs, otherwise they’ll be no food on the table tomorrow.”

The province plans to be powered by 30% renewable energy sources by 2030, which means new opportunities in a range of renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and bio¬fuels.

Solar Skills is the first of several planned skills retraining programs across Alberta by the organization, which will be looking at putting pipefitters, boilermakers, ironworkers and other building trades to work in the geothermal, wind, biomass and biofuel industries.

1 Comment » for Campaign launched to retrain oil sands workers for solar
  1. Eric Larson says:

    Good intention, but incredibly short sighted. The free market system has already defined how many of these installers are needed. Adding more installers will undoubtedly significantly reduce the price that customers pay these folks, due to an over-serviced market. Two things will happen. Most will go back to the patch as soon as things get better, or those with the new skills will seek opportunities elsewhere. Construction trades are in demand in places other than Alberta.

    According to the industry association for solar for Alberta, there are only 1,359 solar power systems in the entire province:

    Do we really need one installer per system?

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