Power Engineer Central

3rd Class Steam Time


I finished (passed) all my 3rd class ABSA exams in October (plus distance learning from a college). I was lucky enough to get a long list of chiefs, HR personnel etc. at 3rd class/+ plants who I emailed looking for steam time(non-paid). 8 chiefs were good enough to get back to me and they all said it isn't possible due to insurance etc. etc. I offered to get insurance pay my own WCB and anything else. I have my Standard Fist Aid, H2S, TDG, and (WHIMS which I believe isn't transferable between companies but I've taken it many times so I can easily complete it again). But they still said it isn't possible, and honestly I'm not upset it makes sense they can't have a non employee wandering around getting injured or worse cranking valves etc, that they shouldn't.

My history is I have a diploma in Survey Engineering Technology and was in the surveying industry for 25 years and wanted a change. I obtained my 4th class theory while still working in surveying. I couldn't get the 5 weeks off to go to the 4th class lab. So so after talking to a power engineer instructor at a college who said and I quote "with your varied experience every plant will want you" (HAha). So I quit my job and went to the lab which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Then I spent the next month applying for every single 4th class job anywhere in Canada (and I still do from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland). After a month of not even 1 PFO I realized I'm in trouble here! So I went out and completed my 3rd class exams which bring us to where I started my post.

I'd just like to say the chiefs that got back to me were amazing. Their hands were tied, but they were very positive and gave me advice. And I know I'd be lucky to work for any of them.

But here is my Rant:

Honor is fleeting in the world if not gone completely. Institutions of higher learning are happy to take my money for 3rd class studies without informing me I will never get steam time unless I'm already at a 3rd class facility. ABSA my association that I pay a yearly fee to happily takes my $$$ knowing I've painted myself into a corner and will never get steam time. And I can't start 2nd class theory without the steam time I will never obtain.

I thought how great to go into Power Engineering because you go through secondary education then have to pass the association exams. This is so fair! In surveying most the support staff have no education and rise up the ranks through some form of nepotism.

To those that have broken into the market I commend you! To those that are thinking of getting into it unless you have connections or get accepted to a full time 2 year program I fear you will be in for a rough ride like myself.

I know I'm whining but I'm slinking back to surveying, with my tail between my legs hat in hand begging for a job (after getting marks in 3rd class between 84%-92%) . I know what many are thinking at least you have something to fall back on. And I agree no matter what they can't take education away from you. It doesn't always help you get ahead but education is yours.

Dont think you are whining, its just the reality of PE is setting in. What was the job market 5 years ago has vanished, yet there are still tons of grads flooding the market looking for a job.

Schools are businesses, and only care about getting your money so a seat in class
Is filled. After you graduate, you are on your own, like in any program.

Having taken PE at 40, I have empathy for your situation..I took this to get me out of Sask and hopefully into a job near Lethbridge or Medicine Hat, and I now realize at 45 this will never happen. Too many available workers with better experience and levels to compete with, and HR really doesnt like older guys.

Cant change the market, so all we can do is keep applying and x your fingers. Could get llucky, depending on how far into the remote boonies you are willing to go, or could get zip and be back at surveying to pay the bills.

Like my mechanic says, sometimes you are the bug, sometimes the windshield...and presently plenty of us feel like the bug! So whats plan B??


Firstly I wanted to say I've never posted my own discussion before this, and have only replied to a few discussions but I am a lurker. I have seen your comments many times, and you Sir are a very positive force on this site and I assume the same in real life. Please don't lose that, it takes the same amount of time to bolster some one up, as it does to cut them down. But the affects of negativity seem to last longer. So thanks MAN from myself and I'm sure everyone else you've given your positive and or realistic comments to it is much appreciated.

I will go anywhere in the boonies to fulfill this journey, but shy away from the opposite, TO and Vancouver because of the $$$ mortgages and only making $27/hr.

"Plan B" back to surveying, but keep applying PE knowing I will not leave a paying job for unpaid steam time.

I remember in your past replies you commented on Operations in the boonies in SK (FYI grew up in the Regina, received my survey diploma from SIAST in MJ) at a lumber mill any chance it was Big River? I did a lot of the preliminary surveying there for that facility.

Not Big River, but Lanigan. Started here and after a stint at PA Pulp (closed down) and COOP Refinery I am working my first job again, at a potash mine. Prob should have stayed at coop, but the bitterness and way coworkers treated each other was brutal, so I left.

Interesting you are a surveryer, that is something I thought I sjould have taken years ago. As one ages I am guessing it starts to "get old?"

Might want to try the mills in BC up in Chetwynd or Mckenzie..but they seem to always be on verge of shutting down.

We must me cosmically related (JOKE) because in the downturn in 2008 I was sure I would lose my job so I started applying for survey jobs outside of oil and gas. Then I made the cut and kept my job. After that the potash mine at Lanigan phoned to interview me for a survey position but the $ was quite a bit less than I was making, but i still considered it. The shift for surveyors (days on vs off) wasn't that great considering I would be travelling from Medicine Hat (on days off) so I decided to stay at my job in The Hat. I believe you said The Hat would be one of the places you wouldn't mind living hence my lame sense at cosmic humor.

I've actually applied for the last posting at West Fraser in Chetwynd, plus Spectre(now Embridge) just west of Chetwynd. And at the new power plant in Mckenzie to no avail, but please keep sending me suggestions I'll go anywhere.

The biggest problem with surveying in the field is when there is work they expect you to work for a minimum of 3 weeks straight with 2 days off then that gets pushed back to 5 weeks straight etc. etc. And the second the work ends you get laid off. So the money is good, no life, no job security. I love working 12 hr days I just want 14 days off after working 14 on. Not the promise of 2 days off after working 35.

As for the COOP situation it doesn't surprise me I know people who work at IPSCO (don't know the knew name) and they say it is a bad situation there as well. You probably made the right decision to get out of a bad work environment COOP wise.

Interesting. At the wife's prodding we moved to the Hat in 2013, and while it took a bit to adjust after 6 months you couldnt drag me out. We really liked the city and were determined to make a go of it, but after a year with no job and exhausting our savings I had to cave in and move. Couldnt even get on at Rona or pizza Hut..its a different job market thats for sure.

In Sask I can always go back into corrections or whatever to make ends meet, but Hat was just impossible. I went to the hospital every month to ask for a job and eventually got an interview for PE, but someone in the union bid in and I lost out. I was in trouble when PA Pulp called (got job because I was from PA) and saved our bacon. Wife? Best she got was part time at a dog kennel and 1/4 time assisting special needs persons. Tough times lol.

For me Hat or Lethbridge is where I want to be, and it is why I took PE ( 5 plants in Burstall, one has to hire, riight? Wrong!!) instead of something medical. In hindsight I chose wrong, but life is about change sometimes.

Wa informed one the Burstall area plants is shutting down and will be dismantled, and Cameco in SK will be laying off 140 or so guys. Not good for us as more experienced guys in the field looking for positions.

What about mines near Yellowknife or Whitehorse? At least they are cities, cant be any worse than some of the places in northern Alberta.

Forgot to mention keep an eye on fed gov website for jobs in a Pen. They dont pay well but that might improve and there is good steam time there. Was supposed to be positions opening in Drum and owden but I have yet to see them posted. Could also have missed it :(

toss me an email at dkr111000@gmail.com and we can exchange some
info if you want. Its my spare one that i can filter all the flakes out, and since there isnt a PM on this board its the easiest way to create contacts

Keep your hopes up buffalo67! I can relate to your post. I started off studying through Lakelands online 4th class programs and then put out resumes everywhere. The plant I finally got into needed 4th tickets bad and liked the sure-thing they had with me only requiring my steam time. I moved my family for the opportunity (which was not easy). Lucky for me it's a 3rd class plant and I now just received my 3rd class ticket. I would say that if you want it bad enough, there's an opportunity for you out there. It sounds like you've already exhausted a lot of avenues but keep going! You have accomplished so much more than a lot of guys I know who have never even opened the 4th class books yet. One big deterrent at our plant with hiring new guys not from the area is worrying about them getting their ticket and leaving, so perhaps you could find a way around that. Maybe there's a plant near some family where you could be "wanting" to move to.

I hear what you're saying about the honour being gone in the world too. When I was job searching I drove to a few plants and couldn't even get past the gate to try and make a good impression with a real live person at the company. Seems like we're all doomed to just throwing our resume into cyber space to be passed up by a computer. Too bad, but I'm a firm believer that if you want it bad enough you can get it. I wish you the best luck in the world and have serious respect for your journey this far. Cheers.

@ Heavy D
I used to talk with you on 780 Tuners, what a great blog that was. I went by Geitus.
I finished my third class and got steam time in SAGD, then the oil price dropped. Finished my third in Feb 2016 at age of 54. Even though things are bad now, I know something will come up. Ive applied for all kinds of stuff and will continue to do so. Did you finish your third?

Have half done, 3a1 killed me a few times (yes I know its the easiest exam, ut im just slow at calcs) so I am reading 3b1 just to get something completed. No steam time where I am at, just refrig so I am kind of screwed, like lots of others.

Like I tell my wife, hope is free!!! Good luck everyone.

Thanks Marty I appreciate what your saying and will keep trying and I'll keep a positive outlook.

HeavyD I sent an email to the dkr111000@gmail.com with the the subject line buffalo67 power central. Let me know if you didn't get it. Hopefully you'll find it, and email back, and we can talk about 3rd class exams etc.

Good luck buff, it's tough out there right now.
Ya, the institutions should adjust their placement #'s or be sued, misleading for sure.
Like you say, they just want to fill the classes, but people gotta be smart too.
Even the 2 year guys are finding it tough, but they do have the edge over the 4th or distance learning students, and the practicum student postings of large companies state 2 year interim or post grad only need apply.
I'm lucky, 33 years now in big plants, but my 4th class son can't get on anywhere, maybe in time for him, he's just 19.
Good luck,

I was in a similar situation for a while. I got my 4th class steam time at a plant in Alberta, but it closed down shortly after that. I looked for PE jobs and used contacts to get a couple of interviews at CNRL, but immediately after my interview they changed those areas to prioritize internal applicants and transfers.

Ultimately I set a timeline for myself. If nothing came up in a certain period of time I would move on and go back to my previous career (teaching). I was lucky and got a mediocre job (mediocre wage anyways) doing industrial sales although I couldn't get on at even crummier places like Rona or security at an old folks home. And then got lucky with a local hospital casual job which has now become full time due to the department being privatized. Good for me, bad for everyone else.

I think right now getting a position that will get you steam time is just luck. You can drive around and visit all the plants you can find, but you may not get past the gate. Ask anyone you know anywhere to get you an interview or event just an introduction.

But ultimately, don't wait around hoping this will get better. There are tons of people looking for jobs. The hospital I am at has had opening sit open for over a year a few times in the past decade. But we posted a job a few months ago and had over 50 applicants in the first day. Most of them had lots of industrial experience but only a few had any building ops experience.

If you feel like gambling you could sign up to do your 3rd at a school with a good chance of a placement. Keyano got placements for many of their 2nd year students this year and last I heard quite a few of them got on at Suncor and Syncrude. And at least one has gotten on with Nexen. It is an expensive gamble, but without knowing someone this is probably your best way to get your foot in the door.

Good luck, this is a tough time to be getting into PE.

Been awhile since I posted.

I graduated last May near the top of my class and with two good practicums at a local Upgrader. Unfortunately they were only hiring locals as they were worried about people from the cities leaving at the first opportunity. Since then I've been applying to every job I can find and even moved to Vancouver after getting laid off in Edmonton after returning to the job I had before I went back to school.

Out of 200 or so applications I've netted a single interview which I lost out to a 2nd Class person with years of experience. I've been applying to positions in Vancouver but the energy industry jobs are also being taken by experienced guys and the building operator type jobs won't look at anyone that has a 3rd because they are worried you will leave for the first opportunity.

I've kept in touch with my classmates and it seems like about 1/3 managed to get a Power Engineering job after 10 months. The majority got their positions through luck in where they went for their school practicums or family/friend contacts that were able to get their resume into the pile. For the rest of us, we keep applying but we're over qualified for the building operator jobs and under qualified for the few positions that pop up.

I think the only hope is getting your 2nd Class papers written once you have your 3rd and hoping something comes of it. I need to do that but it's really hard staying motivated when you're only working on hopes and dreams that it might work out in the end.

To anyone looking at entering the field right now, I would say unless you have friends or family that can open the door for you that you are better off choosing something else to pursue.

@Magicide How many papers you have towards your 2nd? I was contacted by a recruiter regarding 2nd class position in a food plant.

Power engineering is a dying field, same with the trades. The new power plants are more automated, and don't require near the amount of operators that the old ones did. Way too many entered this field, too many TFW/foreign workers, too many out of province people migrating to where the jobs are, and the boom is done in Canada (it sounds like this is site is only canadians). None of this has stopped the stream of students taking PE like has been said.

I would suggest to any young person reading this to stay in school and get an education, don't go for industrial jobs because they are definitely not the way of the future.

I tend to agree, the math just doesn't work anymore. If a third isnt enough anymore, something is definitely fishy in Denmark.

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