There are myths, rumours, truths and lies about working in the Alberta oil patch and now one lowly roughneck is giving those on the outside a first-hand glimpse into the fast times and big money that go hand in hand with the province's oil and gas industry.
Going under the handle "traviesaurus," the lowly rig hand took to Reddit and held court in his own "Ask Me Anything" to answer those most burning questions that average Janes and Joes have about living in Alberta and working in the oil patch.
He recounts how, as a three-time college drop-out, his first paycheque was unexpectedly big and how his second was even bigger.
He's candid about what it's like living in Alberta and why he's had to swear off booze and drugs, "even weed."
How does one get a job in the oil patch, where does one live when working on the rigs and where are most of the people pumping out Alberta oil from?
Read the highlights of the AMA in the slideshow below.
Story continues after slideshow
What's the pay like there?
My first paycheck was $1800, my second paycheck was $2700. Before taxes, I made $4000 on my second paycheck. I'm still astounded. I make $29/hr and work a lot of hours. A LOT.
I know you can make some major cash working in the sands but because that part of Alberta is pretty bleak, I hear its hard to have much of a life. How are you handling life outside of work and are you there to make cash and dash, or be a lifer?
Originally, I had decided to come here and be a lifer. I was going to work my way up the chain and take over my fathers consulting company when he retires. It sucks here. I make more money than my mother and step-father combined. I have had to decide not to drink at all while I'm out here or to touch any drugs including weed. My first paycheck, I spent $750 on alcohol in 2 days. My days usually consist of waking up, driving into town, going to work for 12-16 hours, coming home, showering, watching tv for 30 minutes, going to bed. It is very stressful. I find myself looking forward to days off. Your rig crew becomes your family. I see them more than anybody else.
How far do people come to work there?
My boss has told me about people who came from Africa and West Asia. Everybody that I've worked with so far has been from New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, or PEI.
People that travel, or maybe where these rigs are located, is there company housing for those cases or do they have to rent a place in the nearest town? I only ask because I'm very interested in how it all works. And I've dropped out of college so I wanna earn some money while I get my head on straight.
You can work at a camp where you work 21 days on, 3 days off. There you stay in company housing and they feed you and everything. You get an extra $100 per day usually for staying there. Some times they will pay for your flights. You could also rent a house or room somewhere and work at a company where you have more off time. I usually work 21 days on, 3 days off (that is the max you can work and min you have to have off) and I live at my fathers house. There has been weeks where I haven't worked at all and times where I have a weekend off every two weeks .. There is a lot of different types of jobs out here and a lot of different opportunities. If you are looking to just earn money, this is definitely a good way to do it. I work on a service rig which is probably the hardest job out here. The easiest I've seen is a boilerhand who sits in a truck all day and just steams things with a big steam wand if we need it. They usually don't have to do anything. We call it getting paid sitting.
you mentioned you went around inquiring about openings, what are the big companies that are out there, or anywhere really, and how would you contact them? Online? Guess that's why knowing the firms would help.
Apply online and call them after you give them some time to look at your resume. I would say 2 or 3 days after you apply. Emphasize how hard of a worker you are and that you are looking for work. I don't know too many companies other than service rig companies but I just Google searched "Service Rig Companies in Brooks Alberta", replace Brooks with whatever city you want to move to and you'll be set. You could also just try searching oil rig jobs. Drilling rigs are much easier work and you get paid the same. Expect $21-25/hr to start at any job in the oil patch. If you have any questions you can message me any time. I don't mind helping people out, especially considering how lucky I was that I knew people out here already. It's not as easy if you don't have any resources. Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer will be the places with the most companies, although you could move anywhere and would be able to find a job. Everybody is always looking for workers.
My dad started on rigs in Alberta over 30 years ago and worked his way up to one of the higher management positions in his company. (He) just got transferred last week to Asia! Do you plan to stick with what you're doing and try to advance? Or do you think you're going to go back to school?
Congratulations to your father! That's amazing! Originally, I planned on staying out here for life and taking my dads consulting company over when he retires, but now I plan on going back to school in September 2014 for Environmental Engineering. It was always my dream as a child to be an environmental engineer and deal with something marine. I'm going to fulfill that dream now.
Did you really drop out because you didn't like them? Have you got any degree at all? Even an associates?
I have nothing at all at this point in time. I dropped out midway through second semester of the first two programs and I dropped out near the end of first semester in the third program, then I came right out here. I waited a week and flew out.
The description of the Alberta oil patch by those who live and work there vary from the very negative - a harsh wasteland suitable only for a quick buck, to the very positive - a land of opportunity, the likes of which exist nowhere else in North America.
Proven reserves in Alberta guarantee that, as long as there is demand and a way to get bitumen and natural gas to markets, the oil patch will continue to attract workers from far and wide.
The latest study conducted by the U.S. government into the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which virtually gave the proposal a passing grade, will mean greater labour demands in Alberta's notoriously tight jobs market.
According to the Financial Post, citing a a five-year outlook published Monday by Industrial Info, because of Alberta's constant struggles with labour supply, average wages for electricians, boilermakers, plumbers and pipefitters, carpenters and structural steelworkers in the province can be anywhere from 70% to 136% higher than median U.S. wages.
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