Alberta mill here to hire workers

Duane Hicks

While many people think “oil” when they think of Alberta, the province also is a place of opportunity in the forestry sector.
In light of the number of former Resolute workers looking for work, Hinton Pulp, a division of West Fraser Mills Ltd., held an information day and collected résumés last Thursday at NCDS here.
That was followed by an interview day Friday.
The Hinton, Alta.-based mill is searching for millwrights, instrument technicians, a vibration analyst, electricians, welders, pipefitters/gasfitters, and an electrical/instrumentation supervisor/planner.
“Right now, we’re looking for a lot of skilled trades—millwrights, electricians, instrumentation—that sort of thing. That’s our main focus,” said Lindsay Boone, West Fraser human resources co-ordinator.
“But we have a lot of jobs on the operations side, as well,” she added.
“We’re expecting a pretty high turnover rate in the next five-10 years,” Boone noted. “We’re having a lot of people retire, that sort of thing, so there will be a lot of positions to fill.
“We wanted to come [to Fort Frances] to see all these guys who are leaving Resolute,” she continued.
“They have the experience that we want, they know their pulp mills, they’ve been in them before.”
Boone said the main advantage working at the pulp mill in Hinton, versus working in the oil-and-gas industry, is scheduling.
“You’re going to be home every night with your family, whereas oil and gas, you can work pretty crazy long hours,” she explained.
“You can be working 24 days out of the month.
“Whereas we have a set schedule for pretty much the whole year,” Boone noted. “You’re home with your family on the weekends, and at night and in the evenings to have dinner.
“That’s really an advantage to working with Hinton.”
One former Resolute employee, Reece Mitchelson, moved with his family from Fort Frances to Alberta this past fall to work at Hinton Pulp.
Mitchelson, who worked at the mill here for 12 years, left his job by choice after being contacted by a head-hunter for West Fraser.
“At the time, I was kind of on the fence,” he admitted.
“I was concerned about the mill, as everybody else was, and so decided to explore some options.
“They made me some offers and made it very attractive to come out there,” Mitchelson noted.
“So far it’s a good decision—they’re a good company to work for.”
Mitchelson now is a reliability engineer at Hinton Pulp, a job which entails making equipment and processes more reliable “so you can rely on it in the long run, reducing breakdowns and all the costs that go along with it,” he explained.
Mitchelson said the company has recognized that to get ahead in this industry and to compete, they not only have to get quality people but keep equipment running and resolve issues that have been causing problems for the last however many years.
“It’s where our reliability department comes in—we look at recurring issues, trying to improve them, make them better so they’re behind us moving forward,” he remarked.
“It’s an important thing for our company.”
Mitchelson said West Fraser Mills is doing well, made $118 million in earnings last quarter, its stock prices are one of the best in the industry, and they have good benefits and a good pension.
“The mill itself has a good customer base,” he noted. “We’ve got some Japanese and North American customers.
“We’re doing well.
“The industry is all about cost per tonne,” Mitchelson stressed. “And when it comes to cost per tonne, we’re one of the best.”
He added the Resolute mill here experienced periods of downtime over the years because it was not competitive on a cost per tonne basis.
“If there’s market downtime in pulp, [the Hinton Pulp mill] will stay running because it’s competitive,” he said.
“That’s food for thought for someone who’s coming in and has gone through what we’ve gone through here for the last few years.
“They’ll stay working.”
Mitchelson said his wife, Angela, and their three children have been adapting well, and he has found the quality of life to be good in Hinton, a town of about 10,000 located west of Edmonton.
“Community-wise, it’s a good community. It’s like Fort Frances,” he noted.
“You’ve got a nice rec centre, you’re in the middle of a pretty nice area—there’s lots of outside recreational activities, lots of programs for kids.
“And being right next to Jasper is nice. From most place in town, you can see the mountains. It’s pretty,” added Mitchelson.
“And Jasper gives you lots of recreational activities to do, as well.
“It’s a nice place.”
Mitchelson added his monthly bills aren’t that much different than what they were here.
“I think the challenge is housing,” he admitted.
“It’ll be a bit of a sticker shock for most people—I know it was for me.”
But Boone said there are options for everyone when it comes to housing, adding the province of Alberta does offer relocation assistance to people who move there.
West Fraser is a leading forest products company, with 37 locations in North America.
These mills make pulp and paper, lumber, medium-density fibreboard (MDF), plywood, and veneer and laminated veneer lumber (LVL).
If you were unable to attend the event last week, forward your résumé to for consideration.