October 20, 2017 12:42 pm
Updated: October 20, 2017 8:13 pm

Alberta oil and gas workers get solar energy training

WATCH ABOVE: With the drop in oil prices, Alberta's economy is changing. Those who have been laid off are being forced to change. Vinesh Pratap profiles what's happening on the Louis Bull Tribe south of Edmonton, as a grassroots group calls for some support.

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A not-for-profit organization is holding a training program to give oil, gas and coal workers the skills to work in the renewable energy industry.

The five-day training program at the community of Louis Bull Tribe – one of four First Nations in Maskwacis, Alta. – is part of the Solar Skills campaign conducted by Iron & Earth.

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Workers participating in the program are learning to install solar panels.

“I think there’s opportunity now that they have these skills and networking ability with people, they took the program with people they had training with, there’s that opportunity to explore other venues of employment,” explained Desmond Bull, a councillor with the Louis Bull Tribe.

Iron & Earth is calling on the governments to support workers with a national training initiative in renewable energy.

“It’s a rapid intensive training program that is specifically designed to capitalize on really valuable skill sets that workers already have yet enable them to take on different work opportunities,” said Jen Turner with Iron & Earth.

READ MORE: Alberta offering up to 30% off solar panel installation with $36M program

Iron & Earth is a worker-led not-for-profit organization that was created in 2015 and is pushing for investments in green energy and renewable energy training programs.

The organization says its membership includes boilermakers, electricians, pipefitters, ironworkers and labourers.

In 2016, Iron & Earth began publicly calling on the federal government to provide renewable energy training for unemployed skilled tradespeople.

Among the primary focuses of the plan has been providing training for tradespeople quickly and building up the manufacturing sector.

READ MORE: Alberta oilsands group calling on federal government for renewable energy training

In 2013, Louis Bull Tribe began a solar initiative.

“We can offset the utility/electrical costs and if we save money on them, not paying into electrical costs, they can divert that money into the programs internally into their departments,” Bull said.

In the spring of 2015, the community applied for a grant through the First Nation Infrastructure Development Fund and was approved that summer.

Band members were interviewed to become installers and trainees to form their own solar company for the project.

Phase 1 began in the spring of 2016 and, by the end of the project, 400 solar panels were installed.

 

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