Calgary

Micro-courses designed to re-employ energy workers, redirect sector

An eight-week online course designed to retrain energy sector workers displaced by COVID-19 is being offered this summer, giving young professionals a chance to propel the oil and gas industry forward.

Young professionals get chance to propel the oil and gas industry forward

Kevin Krausert, president and CEO of Beaver Drilling, at the Avatar breakout session in September 2017. (John Ulan)

An eight-week online course designed to retrain energy sector workers displaced by COVID-19 is being offered this summer, and organizers hope it inspires young professionals to propel the oil and gas industry forward.

The program is in partnership with Young Pipeliners Association of Canada, Beaver Drilling and the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business.

Some believe "micro-credentialing" could become the new norm for keeping the industry current and relevant as the landscape evolves — and help get thousands of people back to work.

"We don't have time to retrain 25,000 workers in a four-year educational degree, so we're hoping to use the Avatar program as an example of micro-credentialing, and academia and industry partnering to work on this together," said Kevin Krausert, president and CEO of Beaver Drilling.

The Avatar program is being delivered in six, two-hour virtual sessions, over eight weeks. It's being led by some of the industry's most senior leaders.

The students will be broken into teams to design a project from one of five topics: hydrogen in the new energy future, carbon trunk lines and sequestration, digitization in oil and gas, energy advocacy, and innovative pipeline construction techniques and trenchless crossings.

Each team will then present its idea to a panel of judges from industry, including the chief economist at ATB, the president of Shell Canada and the chair of the Clean Resource Innovation Network.

"There's a little bit of a hope that some of the projects, depending upon how quality they become, turn into business opportunities for the industry and for the workers who are working on the project," said Krausert.

Previous Avatar program

Krausert says the program follows the success of a previous Avatar program in 2017 that was offered only to Beaver Drilling employees.

That program spanned two years and enrolled 17 employees. It was a mix of in-class instruction and online, project-based work designed to leverage technology and artificial intelligence to prepare workers for the drilling industry of the future.

Fourteen students graduated, and Krausert says not all are still working now that rig activity has declined dramatically.

This time around, the program is open to anyone in any part of the energy sector — it's all online and it's over a much shorter time span.

"We've updated the program basically to realize that we have to move as an industry a lot faster than we have in the past," said Krausert.

Jen Zieglgansberger, Avatar program co-founder, works with Avatar participants at the University of Calgary. (Beaver Drilling)

Accessible approach, says Young Pipeliners CEO

Krausert says another difference is the partnership with the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada. The group consists of individuals early in their careers working or studying to be in the pipeline industry. 

Molly Beckel, president and CEO of the association, says it's a great opportunity to network, receive coaching and mentorship, and generate ideas, whether someone is currently unemployed or working.

"There is a real opportunity there for those that choose to grab it to make an idea into a reality," said Beckel.

The condensed offering costs $50, with all proceeds going to the Calgary Food Bank.

Molly Beckel, president and CEO of the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada, says the program is a great opportunity to network, receive coaching and mentorship, and generate ideas. (Katherine Calnan)

"We're trying to make it accessible and we want to ensure that we have senior leadership buy in, manager buy in, so that is seen as part of your development, part of your work," said Beckel.

Deborah Yedlin, chancellor of the University of Calgary and freelance business journalist, says the program is "exactly what we need to train the oilpatch workers of today."

"It is [a] great example of what can happen when industry and academia partner."

Registration is open. The course starts June 19.

About the Author

Colleen Underwood has been a reporter/editor with CBC news for more than 10 years filing stories from across southern Alberta for radio, television and online. Follow her on Twitter @cbccolleen.

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