They say the modern economy is tough for young people. More and more parents are worried how their kids will make a living. More and more youth don’t see a bright future – they see a storm cloud. They see no direction forward and no sense of what awaits them on the other end of the road.
I don’t blame them. It’s getting harder and harder to find a job that pays a good wage for a hard day’s work. We need more opportunities for our young people. Pipelines can create those opportunities. I’m a perfect example of that. I found a job that pays a good wage for a hard day’s work – I’m an operating engineer, and for the past eight years, I’ve made my living working pipeline projects.
My dad was a heavy equipment mechanic. That’s how I started running equipment – it was my dad who inspired me to pursue this career. I built roads for many years in Manitoba, but when a new pipeline project was coming through, it meant new opportunities for guys like me. I went to the union and asked them to put me on the pipeline project. I’ve never looked back since.
I’ve worked on quite a few pipelines since then, in a relatively short time. I like working on pipelines. I especially like the people I work with – we’ve been on many projects together. You build camaraderie from that.
The money is good. You can take time between jobs, spending moments with your family. I have two kids myself, a 3-year old and an 11-year old. I’ll never forget the time my 11-year old visited our work site, and showing him what dad does for a living. That’s what makes it worth it in the end: family. That and knowing that the pipelines we build are safe for the communities around them – including for our own families.
Pipeline work is a great opportunity for young people looking for a good career. More young people should get more of those opportunities. They’re ready to work, and they deserve to work. I hope they get the chance too.
Shawn Bjornson is an operating engineer from Selkirk, Manitoba. He is a heavy equipment operator that got his start in pipeline construction in 2008, with Local 987. He has worked on pipelines across Canada.