After a multi-year slump in the forest industry, the flow of people going north to work in the oil patch has ceased and is now running the other way.
“I’ve got a desk covered with resumes of people who work in the oil patch,” said Don Banasky, TLA President and operations manager at CopCan Contracting Ltd. and FallTech Logging in Nanaimo.
“In fact,” said Banansky, “I hired a guy last week who’d left the oil patch in hopes of getting a forestry job on the Island close to home. And I’ve got jobs to fill—road building, driller/blaster, graderman, excavator operator.”
Rick Parcher also chose to leave the oil patch come back to forestry and Vancouver Island. He came back last summer for his wife and two daughters. “You can’t watch your kids grow up,” said Parcher. “In a month you have 21 days away, two days travel and seven days to fit back into the wife’s schedule. It wasn’t working.”
Parcher was born in the Franklin River logging camp. His dad was a hook tender. One grandpa was a log truck driver; the other a Finning Mechanic. He grew up in forestry. But in 1997 the forest industry hit a rough patch and Parcher left for the oil patch. For 15 years he “chased the rig” across northern BC and Alberta.
In September, Parcher joined TLA member company, Alternative Forest Operations. “They’re a great company,” said Parcher. “They’re family oriented and willing to train.” These days, Parcher is working as a charge hand outside of Chemainus. He’s out in the field relaying safety alerts and making sure everyone is signed in. “I’m working about an hour and ten minutes from home right now,” said Parcher. “A lot better than a 24-hour commute, weather permitting!”
Bridger Schmidt is Parcher’s boss and managing partner at Alternative Forest Operations. “A lot of the skills people develop in oil and gas can be transferred to forestry,” said Schmidt. “My hook tender is also back from the oil patch. I attract and retain people on my crew by selling the West Coast lifestyle and quality of life. Money isn’t everything.”