EMBRACE: New Sectors


Meet Iron and Earth: A worker led initiative to re-train oilsands workers for the renewable sector

By Progress Alberta

They want to retrain 1000 electrical workers on 100 different solar projects by 2018

The workers and tradespeople who make up the oilsands sector have been hard hit by the recent oil slump. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Worker's local 424 in Edmonton reports that 44 per cent of its members (approximately 3500 out of 8000) were out of work last month. But a new group that is launching today is aiming to put oilsands workers back to work in the renewable energy sector and are calling on the Alberta government for support. 

Iron and Earth is a non-profit led by oilsands workers who want retrain 1000 electrical workers on 100 different solar projects. The governments of Alberta and Canada have made important climate commitments and while certain people and organizations might might see that as a problem Iron and Earth founder and boilermaker Lliam Hildebrand sees it as an economic opportunity

"Meeting these climate targets will be one of the biggest job creation opportunities for our trades in a long time," says Hildebrand. "Let's get Albertans back to work."

They are developing programs and initiatives to create real opportunities for workers and they are calling on government and industry to do the same. Their first project is this Solar Skills Campaign.

They want to re-train 1000 unemployed Alberta electrical workers as professional solar workers by 2018. They want to do this by installing solar on publicly owned buildings - essentially turning these jobsites into classrooms. 

Their first press conference was held at Gridworks in Edmonton, a solar PV installation and training company run by Randall Benson, an ex-oilsands worker and a director with Iron and Earth. Benson was born and raised in the oilsands but he now has 15 years experience in the solar PV industry and has trained nearly 1000 electricians as solar installers and entrepreneurs. READ MORE