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Eugene Cardinal was born and raised on the north side of Lac La Biche, Alberta. He’s lived in the area practically his entire life, including the past 20 years spent with Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries (Al-Pac). Taking advantage of the training and apprenticeships offered by the company, he is now an Electrical Instrumentation Technician — a valued member of the team who plays a vital role in keeping the pulp mill running smoothly.
This is his story as a member of the GreenestWorkforce, Canada’s forest products industry.
I’m proud to say I’ve lived around Lac La Biche for 98 percent of my life. I grew up about 75 kilometres away from the Al-Pac pulp mill, and while I moved away for school in Edmonton and some work in Fort McMurray, this place will always be home. When Al-Pac offered me a long-term position over 20 years ago, I couldn’t say no.
As an Electrical Instrumentation Technician, my job involves a lot of preventative maintenance plus some corrective maintenance. We inspect all the different instruments and analyzers used by the mill. If we find something wrong, we put in a work request. If it’s critical and needs to be addressed right away, we get in there and fix the problem. It’s very hands-on and can be pretty challenging at times. I like that.
I also like that I can see the impact of my work. We have scheduled outage days where we shut the entire plant down so we can work on all the different areas of the mill at once. When you start it all up again and everything’s running smoothly, that really makes a guy feel like it was worth his time.
One piece of advice I’d give to anybody looking for a career in forestry is to do an apprenticeship. It definitely helped me. Al-Pac rotates apprentices throughout all the different areas so they can figure out what they like and what they’re good at. I finished my instrumentation apprenticeship here and I’m now in my third year of a four-year electrical apprenticeship. I was offered many others along the way, too: millwright, pipefitter, welder and so on.
The company also has money put aside for leadership training. I’m a backup team leader now, going up to Edmonton to get that training through Northern Lakes College. If you want to broaden your skills and advance your career, you definitely have a lot of opportunities.
On top of that, the salary is pretty good and you actually have a good work/life balance. I work Monday to Thursday, 10 hours each shift. I have every Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, which is pretty sweet. Plus, we have flexible hours. If you’re coaching your kid’s sports team or you need to take your wife into the city to see a specialist, they’ll give you the time off and support you 100 percent of the way.
When you combine all that with the lifestyle that comes from living in this part of the country, it’s easy to see why I’ve stayed at Al-Pac all these years.
The forest products industry has been really good to me. And right now we’re looking for new people to come in. A lot of jobs are opening up and I would tell anybody who wants to work in an industry where they can see the impact of the work they do every day, a job in forest products could be really good for them, too.