by John Mark Aquino John Mark Aquino

Sharing news that SHCA members need to know

Stronger Together: Have you registered?

The Western Canada Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association (WCR&HCA) will be hosting an unforgettable event in Waikiki, Hawaii, from Feb. 5–9, 2023. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with your peers and learn from industry speakers while soaking in “Waikiki’s widest and most spectacular white sand beach as well as Waikiki’s only saltwater lagoon.”

Plus, Air Canada and West Jet offer conference attendees 5 to 10 per cent discounts dependent on their selected fair.

For more information, head to the event website:

CWF policy brief proposes solution to skilled worker shortage

Canada West Foundation (CWF) recently released a policy brief addressing the shortage of skilled workers in Canada. The proposed solution? On-the-job rapid employee upskilling and reskilling. 

 A shrinking talent pool, lack of quality skills training programs and youth reluctant to enter the skilled trades are some of the factors creating a shortfall with no end in sight.

CWF proposes an innovative solution to help employers build the workforce they need now and in the future. The company’s latest What Now? brief, Rapid Employee Upskilling and Reskilling, provides principles upon which to build on-the-job skills training programs that meet the needs and interests of employers and job seekers.

Although employers have been reluctant to invest in training their employees because of a fear they would leave or be poached by the competition, CWF notes that attitudes are shifting. The wide-spread demand for workers has employers recognizing the need to invest in their own staff.

To be successful, training programs should meet the needs of both employers and employees. Steps to ensure successful outcomes include:

  • Working with curriculum developers to define the technical and non-technical competencies required for in-demand jobs,
  • Ensuring job seekers are a good fit for jobs, and
  • Employers playing an active role in delivering on-the-job training.

Visit to read the full brief. 

Success for First Nations and Métis contractors 

Saskatchewan’s Accelerated Site Closure Program (ASCP) has led to strong participation in two provincial programs, the First Nations Stewardship Fund (Stewardship Fund) and the Indigenous Business Credit Pool (Credit Pool). Announced in January 2021, these programs have leveraged $80 million in ASCP funding for First Nations and Métis contractors and for site closure work on Reserve lands across Saskatchewan.

“The ASCP has created additional opportunities for oil and gas producers to engage with Indigenous contractors and communities,” Energy and Resources Minister Jim Reiter said. 

“We know that Indigenous contractors have expanded their service offerings and that producers and communities have built strong relationships. We hope to see this continue on as a legacy outcome of the program.”

The Credit Pool made ASCP funding available to participating oil and gas producers to engage eligible First Nations and Métis contractors to complete site closure work. The Credit Pool completed operations on Oct. 31, 2022, supporting over $28 million in spending on 34 eligible Indigenous contractors. The Credit Pool has facilitated the creation of new partnerships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous oil and gas service companies.

“The federal government is pleased to have helped Indigenous contractors in their efforts to close sites on Reserve lands across Saskatchewan. These funds supported Indigenous workers in uncertain times, while concurrently helping to clean up the environment,” Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson said. “I would like to thank all those who participated in the program, including the Government of Saskatchewan for working together on this important initiative.”

First Nations and Métis contractors have also seen success in the program outside of the Credit Pool. As of Nov. 28, 2022, Indigenous oil and gas service companies had completed an additional $22 million in site closure work, bringing the total for First Nations and Métis contractors to $50 million under the ASCP.

“The federal government is pleased to have helped indigenous contractors in their efforts to close sites on Reserve lands across Saskatchewan. These funds supported Indigenous workers in uncertain times, while concurrently helping to clean up the environment.”

– Jonathan wilkinson, minister of natural resources in canada

“The ASCP program has been an opportunity to showcase and build skills with the utilization of Indigenous companies and on-the-job training,” said General Manager of Beretta Pipeline Construction, Darrell Carter. “In addition, it has enabled many Indigenous workers to earn an income in uncertain times. The results have produced an excellent finished product for customers that we otherwise may not have had exposure to. We can all be proud of our accomplishment under the program.”

As of Oct. 31, 2022, the Stewardship Fund, which directs up to $30 million in ASCP funding to complete site closure work in First Nations communities with inactive oil and gas wells, had issued over $29 million in work packages on Reserve lands, with over $24 million in site closure work completed or underway. The Fund is set to conclude on March 15, 2023.

The administration of the Credit Pool and Stewardship Fund is co-led by the Saskatchewan First Nations Natural Resources Centre of Excellence and is supported by a collaboration agreement with the Saskatchewan Research Council.

“The ASCP has provided opportunities for many Indigenous companies across Saskatchewan. We thank the Government of Saskatchewan for the partnership and the inclusion of our EXPORT Database platform, which has helped to connect Indigenous contractors and workers to the program, delivering upwards of $80M in site closure work to Indigenous companies and communities,” President and CEO of the Saskatchewan First Nations Natural Resources Centre of Excellence Sheldon Wuttunee said. “We look forward to finding continued opportunities for Indigenous service companies following the conclusion of the ASCP.”

The ASCP is a $400 million stimulus program for Saskatchewan-based oil and gas service sector companies and workers and is funded through the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. As of Oct. 31, 2022, the program has paid out $338 million to over 850 Saskatchewan-based service companies, supporting an estimated 1,556 direct full-time equivalent jobs. 

The ASCP has seen the completion of 7,409 well abandonments, 3,422 flowline abandonments, 61 facility decommissions and more than 11,900 site remediation and reclamation activities. The program is set to end on March 15, 2023.

Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce hosting business summit in 2023

On Nov. 28, 2022, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce (SSC) announced it will be hosting the first-ever Food, Fuel, and Fertilizer Business Summit (FFFBS). This unique event takes place Feb. 14–15 at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon, Sask. The FFFBS is being put on in partnership with the Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia Chambers of Commerce. 

“Western Canada has 85 per cent of the nation’s farmland and rich reserves of oil, uranium, and potash,” said Prabha Ramaswamy, CEO of the SCC. “Our world has changed dramatically because of COVID-19 and the Russian occupation of Ukraine. Western Canada is positioned to stabilize supply chain issues and support the world food insecurity crisis.”

The FFFBS positions Western Canada as a major powerhouse in the global economy, especially as it relates to food, fuel, and fertilizer. Businesses across Saskatchewan will benefit through increased jobs and the need for goods and services.

Over the two-day business summit, the advantage Western Canada has will be showcased as its capacity to engage in the global economy. The Business Summit will also identify opportunities for investment attraction, trade and attracting global brands. The event will also be used to create a Western Canadian network to develop a plan for global positioning.

“Western Canada currently accounts for 40 per cent of the country’s GDP. Enabling greater access to global economies benefits every business from those that are export-reliant to smaller businesses that provide support services of all kinds. We are stronger when we work together,” said Ramaswamy.

“Our world has changed dramatically because of COVID-19 and the Russian occupation of Ukraine. Western Canada is positioned to stabilize supply chain issues and support the world food insecurity crisis.”

– Prabha ramaswamy, ceo, scc

STARS president and CEO retires this year

Andrea Robertson

President and Chief Executive Officer

The Board of Directors of Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) and president and CEO, Andrea Robertson, announced Nov. 7, 2022 that Robertson intends to retire from her position later in 2023 following a smooth transition.

“It is with very mixed emotions that the Board of Directors received Andrea’s news of her intent to retire,” Helen Kasdorf, STARS board co-chair said. 

“She has been a passionate and inspiring leader in the delivery of safe and timely critical patient care for more than a decade, and we will miss her.”

Since 2011, Robertson has worked to foster long-term relationships with federal, provincial and municipal governments, private sector partners and donors, in order to serve the people across the prairie provinces and beyond.

Robertson’s tenure included leading the organization through a period of monumental change, with the expansion of STARS into two new provinces and the complete replacement of its helicopter fleet. Supported by strong executive leadership, the exceptional team at STARS will continue to seamlessly provide the critical care for which the organization is renowned.

The board of directors has begun the search for a new president and CEO, while Robertson and the STARS team continue to focus on the work of delivering life-saving missions wherever and whenever they are needed.

“The board has every confidence in Andrea’s continued leadership through what will be a careful and thoughtful transition process over the next year,” STARS board co-chair said Kasdorf. “STARS is a terrific organization in a very stable operating and financial position, thanks to Andrea’s leadership.”

“Working with STARS has been the great privilege of my career,” Robertson said. 

“I am excited for the future and believe a new leader will bring fresh ideas to the important work of continuing to improve patient care for people across Western Canada and wherever the future may take us. I will be working closely with the board and the new president and CEO to ensure a smooth transition.”

Tiny homes project gives Indigenous apprentices experience in the skilled trades

Thirty-two brand-new homes stand in Indigenous communities thanks to more than 130 apprentices and students who took part in the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission’s (SATCC) tiny homes project.

The project, launched by the SATCC in 2021, with funding from the Government of Saskatchewan, aimed to give Indigenous apprentices experience in the skilled trades through hands-on learning, while bringing new housing opportunities to Indigenous communities. Apprentices and students worked alongside experienced journeypersons to build tiny homes in their communities.

“They helped out with everything right from the foundation and framing to the exterior and interior finishing. They even helped the plumbers,” said Matthew Lerat, owner and operator of EW Construction, a partner and contractor for the tiny homes build on Ochapowace Nation, where four homes were built with a group of nine students and apprentices. Lerat is a member and newly elected Headman of Peepeekisis Cree Nation.

The SATCC invited Indigenous stakeholders such as economic development authorities, housing agencies, Indigenous communities and employers to apply for funding for the building of tiny houses, or similar single unit dwellings, in Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. Applications were accepted in 2021 with the hope of building at least 10 tiny homes by mid-2022.

By the end of the project, 32 tiny homes had been built in 22 Indigenous communities.

“Everyone really enjoyed the program,” said Lerat. “They liked building the homes right in their community and being able to work on the Nation.”

The project was embraced by communities, partners and participants, with all involved seeing the positive benefits. Communities welcomed the new housing and skills training opportunities. Students and apprentices learned valuable skills in carpentry, electrical and plumbing and experienced work in the skilled trades.

“We had support from the leadership and support from the community,” said Lerat. “I think it brought the community together for sure.”

Thirty-five apprentices contributed to the work on the tiny homes across the province along with 98 secondary students. Some participants continued their journey in the skilled trades following the project and indentured as apprentices, with apprentices continuing to be signed up as residual project work finished.

One of those apprentices now works with Lerat at EW Construction, joining the First Nations home builders after Lerat saw her work on the Ochapowace Nation tiny homes build. 

“She showed up and worked hard every day,” says Lerat. “She was excited to learn and excited to be part of the team.”

According to Statistics Canada data from the 2021 Census, 17 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population self-identifies as Indigenous.

Chris Stubbs, director of innovation and inclusion at the SATCC, says the Commission continues to pursue opportunities working with Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan.

“We want to ensure we’re facilitating a diverse, inclusive apprenticeship system,” said Stubbs. 

“Projects like the tiny homes continue this work – strengthening relationships, providing training opportunities and helping meet the needs of the communities.”

Each year, the SATCC oversees and administers the Indigenous Apprenticeship Initiative (IAI) program, which funds initiatives that aim to increase Indigenous people’s awareness of, and participation in, apprenticeship training and the designated trades. Past projects have included apprenticeship and upgrading training, job coaching and mentoring and courses aimed at high school students.

Looking forward, the SATCC will fund an innovative Indigenous Welder training program on Ochapowace Nation. The program will offer pre-employment training with the goal of training and indenturing Welder apprentices.

“The tiny homes showed the impact that a project like this can have on young people, providing them with experience in the trades and the tools to succeed in their future careers. We’re excited to continue work like this,” Stubbs said.