SIR – I am a water-treatment operator in Fort McMurray, in the heart of Alberta’s oil-sands country, and I read your piece about our boom town (“The sands of grime”, November 17th). There are labour shortages here and we really do need 100,000 skilled tradesmen, as you said. But I’m worried that articles like yours might frighten off workers by writing about, for instance, our “ultra-low temperatures”.
Of course it’s cold here. It’s Canada. Last night was -27 Celsius (-17 Fahrenheit) and I went out without my jacket zipped up; you get used to the cold. And it is expensive to buy or rent property, which is why many people share apartments. In order to attract more workers the site camps are improving their facilities and financial packages.
My grandfather owned an iron foundry in Britain’s West Midlands. I was always taught that dirty hands make clean money. If you tell someone here that you are out of work you will get no sympathy as so much employment is available. Over the past 20 months I have earned $300,000 and spent a few weeks on vacation in Miami, a few more in Virginia and a few more in Toronto. It certainly beats overturning cars and waiting for some Russian or Arab billionaire to buy my local football club while collecting benefits.
The oil-sands boom is happening, like it or not, so why not make some money during this gold rush. Come on out and get your hands dirty.
Fort McMurray, Canada
The letter-writer makes some good points, but as I considered the closing thoughts, I struggled with imagining myself as someone working in the oil-sands of Canada. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that oil is an important part of life (and the economy) as it stands today, but I just don’t know if I could bring myself to work for a cause that I didn’t whole-heartedly support. When I started my MBA back in the fall of 2011, one of my first thoughts was that I would graduate and work for a firm for which the mission was wholly congruent with mine. This was a strong contributing factor that led to me interning with Ashoka this past summer.
While providing energy/goods is a noble mission, I don’t know if I want to be directly part of it in this way. That is, I don’t know if I would want to use my skills in this way. However, I wouldn’t absolutely rule out working for a firm/organization that is in this industry. My way of reconciling something like this would be working for the firm’s department/area responsible for corporate social responsibility.