Edmonton

Hundreds line up for jobs to clean up Fort McMurray fire ruins

Hundreds of people showed up to a career fair in Edmonton Tuesday, in the hunt for jobs to clean up Fort McMurray. An agency has been contracted to get 500 people ready to go to work as labourers when it's safe to go back.

500 labourer jobs available as plans for rebuild take shape

Angela Whiteside, who is currently unemployed, is hoping to get work helping clean up Fort McMurray. (CBC)

As haunting as the job of cleaning up the rubble from the Fort McMurray fire might be, Angela Whiteside is still hoping to get the chance to help out.

She was one of hundreds of people lining up to apply for one of the jobs up for grabs at a career fair on the south side of Edmonton on Tuesday.

"Sadly, like a lot of these people, I was laid off months ago and it's a sad thing trying to find work," said Whiteside, as tears streamed down her face.

Whiteside lost her driving job last October, and said she's been trying to get another job ever since. She has found it impossible to make a breakthrough in a sluggish economy affected by a slowdown in oil and gas.

"There's a lot of people here that get up every day and hand out resumes, go driving around and we've got no luck," Whiteside said, adding she's feeling stress supporting an eight-year-old daughter, and wondering how she's going to pay her bills.

She has a Class 1 licence but is keen to get back into the workforce by snagging one of the labourer jobs, while at the same time helping Fort McMurray, where she has worked in the past.

Hundreds lined up outside a building in south Edmonton to apply for the Fort McMurray clean up jobs. (CBC)

It's not clear when the successful applicants will actually begin work, but the company running the job fair said it's gearing up to be ready to hit the ground running.

"They have to go in and make sure it's safe, make sure the fires are out, and then we'll get an idea on the type of industrial skilled labourers they're looking for," said Beatrice Floch, of Spirit Staffing and Consulting.

She said that while everyone looking for work is welcome to apply, special consideration would be given to people from Fort McMurray who had to flee because of the fire.   

Beatrice Floch of Spirit Staffing and Consulting said the company is contracted to hire 500 workers. (CBC)

"We're hoping some of the evacuees will be at the top of our list if they would like to go back. Everybody is really emotional about this," said Floch, who said the overwhelming turnout for the hiring fair was yet another indicator that many Albertans are going through tough times.

Rob Martel, a welder by trade, said he hasn't worked since March 2015 and the stress from being unemployed is making his hair turn grey.

"I'm pretty desperate right now," he said. 

Rob Martel, a welder by trade, has been out of work since March 2015. (CBC)

So many others in the line are hoping for the same break.

Angela Whiteside said it was slightly crushing seeing so much competition for a job she really needs.

"Some of us will make it for these jobs and some will not," she said.

gareth.hampshire@cbc.ca

@cbcgareth

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