Coming to Estevan to find workers for northern Alberta

Estevan – The first indication that the oil downturn was starting to turn around was in the service rig sector. As early as the first quarter of 2017, service rigs started advertising for new workers, and several reported shortages. Billboards seeing workers became commonplace.

On Aug. 28, recruiters from High Arctic Energy Services and their service rig division, Concord Well Servicing, were in Estevan with a job fair. The day before, they were in Weyburn.

Rylee May and Abby Toledo were the two recruiters. “We’ll be in Virden on Thursday. We’ll be in B.C. in October. The rest of September will focus on Alberta,” she said.  

Their goal is to find service rig hands to come to work in Alberta. While their Lloydminster location is crewed up, they were looking for people to go to Grande Prairie, Cold Lake and the Edmonton area. The company is also developing a new location in Brooks.

“We’re turning down jobs because we don’t have enough people,” Toledo said.

That’s why the company is now searching far and wide for staff.

High Arctic announced on Aug. 20 it had acquired all of the shares of Powerstroke Well Control Ltd, increasing its snubbing and well service fleet and expanding its geographic footprint.

Powerstroke is a well service company established in 2004, currently operating a total of eight hydraulic work over units and a heavy capacity new build service rig and drilling package. Powerstroke is headquartered in Grand Prairie, and has offices in Greeley, Co. and Williston, N.D., where they have been successfully offering snubbing service and well services to companies operating in the Bakken, North Dakota and in the Niobrara, Colorado. The purchase price is a total of $9.4 million which consists of the reimbursement of costs for the new build service rig and the balance based on an adjusted EBITDA multiple of 5x for the established snubbing business.

The acquisition establishes an entry into the United States for High Arctic, where it plans on expanding its well service offering. The trend toward longer well bores and increased number of stages in each well bore has increased the demand for pressure control equipment required for well completions. After the acquisition High Arctic will own 17 snubbing units, making it the largest snubbing operator in Canada. Of the total fleet of 17 snubbing units it is planned that eight units will be marketed in the United States, initially focused on well service and completion work in the Niobrara and the Bakken.

The acquisition will also allow for immediate service rig equipment deployment in the United States, and increases High Arctic’s well service rig count to 58.

And that would be a good reason to look for more people.

Toledo said, “Ideally, we could probably take another 30.”

Cold Lake could use 12 people, and Grande Prairie could take 12 to 15. “We’ll see what we can get,” she said.

Ideally they’re looking for experienced hands, they are willing to train, and have in-house training.

In Estevan, May said they had received some good resumes. Five had come in, halfway through their job fair, which ran until early evening so that people had the opportunity to come in after work. Between Estevan and Weyburn, they said half the applicants were experienced, while others had worked in the industry, but wanted a different career.

To that end, Toledo said they’ve gone through a lot of transition. A lot of people have left the industry and are not coming back. The current generation of service rig workers is looking for a different work-life balance, valuing time off and stability, she said. The idea of working all the time is not as appealing, she said.

Some of the benefits they’re offering include a $2,500 signing bonus and a similar referral bonus, both of which require a person to stay a year to fully pay out. There an RRSP matching program and a steay work top up program. They’ve increased wages, and have health and dental benefit.





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