Cenovus Energy is an integrated Canadian oil company that is committed to applying fresh, progressive thinking to safely and responsibly unlock the energy resources the world needs. As a “next generation” oil sands producer that uses drilling techniques and steam injection to recover oil from underground reservoirs, Cenovus operates without the use of open pit mines or tailings ponds. With various projects throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan and a 50 percent ownership of two refineries in the United States, Cenovus employs more than 5,000 people. The company’s main focus is its large portfolio of oil sands projects, including its two operating oil sands projects (Foster Creek and Christina Lake) in northeastern Alberta.
Since its inception in 2003, Cenovus has become an energy leader that has implemented numerous initiatives and projects to ensure that the Aboriginal communities in which the company works are treated fairly and respectfully. The company supports numerous educational and training initiatives that encourage young, positive and progressive thinkers to consider Cenovus as a potential employer. One of these initiatives, the Cenovus Aboriginal Employment Bridging Internship Program, began initially as a pilot project in 2012.
“Cenovus wants to be the kind of company where Aboriginal people want to build their careers,” assured Media Relations Senior Advisor Brett Harris in a recent interview. “We work to build strong relationships with Aboriginal communities and organizations in our operating areas with the goal of providing opportunities that will benefit both Cenovus and the Aboriginal peoples.”
“The Cenovus Aboriginal Employment Bridging Internship Program embraces that commitment,” explained Maureen Sander, a company Senior Recruitment Advisor. “The program, which is aimed specifically at First Nations communities in the areas where we operate, offers paid opportunities through a pre-employment and training program that can last up to two years, depending on the position being sought by prospective employees. A field operator, for instance, will complete his or her training within a year, while some positions, including those involving Power Engineering and apprenticeship trades training, will take longer.”
The internship program allows prospective employees the time it takes to settle into a new job, to become confident and comfortable in a new environment and to learn the skills they’ll need to be successful in the future.
The first program was launched in 2012. Four of the 11 Aboriginal participants involved in the pilot project have now entered into full time positions with the company.
“We are very pleased with that number,” stressed Sander, “because we realize that it can be quite an adjustment for people not used to being away from home for varying periods of time. Our worksites often incorporate a structure that sees employees onsite for up to a week at a time before returning home for a few days off. The oil and gas industry isn’t necessarily a good fit for everyone, but for those who are keen to succeed, it’s an industry that continues to grow, and in doing so is able to create meaningful, long term and sustainable employment.”
Scott Muskego was one of the participants in the first Cenovus Aboriginal Employment Bridging Internship Program. A member of the Cold Lake First Nation, Scott signed on to a one year contract, finished the program, went to school for his Instrumentation certificate and just this month was hired on as a full time Cenovus employee.
“I’m working at the company’s Foster Creek oil sands project as an Instrument Technician, an opportunity that I intend to utilize as a starting point in my career,” explained Muskego. “My uncle was an Instrument Technician, and his words of wisdom and his varied experiences helped me decide that this is a career path that I also wanted to follow. The Internship Program has allowed me an opportunity for a better future where stability and job security are not only possible, but also very important. There’s lots of opportunity in this field to develop both leadership skills and long-term security. The company is sensitive to Aboriginal issues and goes the extra mile to ensure that communication, both on the worksite and in the communities, is ongoing and meaningful.”
“Cenovus,” assured Harris, “embraces the opportunity to contribute to the strength and sustainability of the communities where we work and live. Our first goal is to hire from within the local communities in our operating areas as we work to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships. We’ve developed an Aboriginal engagement framework that allows us to follow a consistent approach when working with Aboriginal communities. This framework can involve looking at opportunities for employment, education, investment, consultation and business.”
Cenovus has developed numerous long-term community agreements with its Aboriginal neighbours that help guide the company’s relationship with them today and well into the future. The agreements encourage engagement, help community members understand the potential benefits of Cenovus’s development plans, and help the company understand the communities’ interests in its projects.
“We are still learning because there is a lot to learn,” noted Harris. “But our goal is to ensure that the communities we work in are better off as a result of us being there. We’ve signed five long term agreements with First Nations that involve such things as how we consult, what contributions we make, education and employment strategies and how we share our knowledge so that everyone benefits. Trust is a key factor and we are always trying to improve the ways in which we do business.”
Scott Muskego says he’d recommend Cenovus Energy to everyone interested in a career in the oil and gas industry.
“The company’s Aboriginal Employment Bridging Internship Program gave me the tools and the experience I needed to achieve my goals. To others wishing to pursue a career in this field I’d say: stay focussed, work hard to achieve your goals and remember that knowledge is power so be ready to learn, to participate and to put your best foot forward with every step. It’s also important to remember and thank those who supported you, your family, your community and your friends.”
Cenovus encourages Aboriginal students to pursue and complete their post secondary education and in doing so offers up to 10 scholarships, each valued at $3,500, for Aboriginal students who reside in the company’s operating areas and are pursuing a full-time degree, diploma or certified trade. The Aboriginal Scholarship program was designed to encourage Aboriginal students to pursue and complete post secondary education; to increase the number of Aboriginal professionals and role models in communities where Cenovus operates and to further the potential for local employment in the oil and gas industry. During the past several years Cenovus, as part of the company’s long-term strategy to ensure that the demands of its ever-growing business are met, has committed more than $6 million to support trades education programs at NAIT, SAIT, Portage College and Lakeland College, a move that allowed these institutions to collectively add 100 spots in power engineering programs.
For more information about Cenovus Energy and its unique and ongoing relationship with Aboriginal peoples and communities check out the website at www.cenovus.com.
To learn more about the Cenovus Aboriginal Employment Bridging Internship Program send an email via the link at: http://www.cenovus.com/careers/need-help.html.
by John Copley