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Nicole Leibel moved from British Columbia to the Manitoba town of Swan River in 1987. Starting as a laborer at the Louisiana Pacific Canada mill, she worked her way up to a quality control career. The position has offered her flexible hours, demand for her computer programming skills, and the chance to make a valued contribution on a daily basis. Nicole works in Canada’s forest products industry – the GreenestWorkforce.
This is her story.
I love Swan River. My work is just 15 minutes from home. I’m surrounded by mountains and lakes. It’s so easy to pick up and go fishing or camping. Growing up in the city, I never had anything like this: there was less farming and a lot more cement.
I didn’t expect to find the opportunities I found here at LP when I came to Swan River in 1987 to take care of some family business. I took a job at the mill as a labourer, but that opened so many doors. I think by now I’ve done just about every job there is to do! I worked in the paint booth, on the tongue-and-groove line, and in the log breaking-down process.
Today, though, I work in quality control. I’m in charge of tools like flow and moisture meters to monitor our processes. I maintain them, calibrate them and make sure they’re working properly. It’s a great mix of desk work and hands-on problem solving: if something’s not working the way it should, I have to get in there and figure out why. I enjoy that aspect of it: getting to the bottom of a problem, coming up with a solution. You feel like you’re accomplishing something important. The better I do my job, the better everything else runs for everybody else. It’s rewarding to see things work so well.
I’m a bit of a minority here, since I’m Aboriginal as well as a woman. There are about 100 workers in the mill, mostly men, but when you look at all our personalities, you see the same drive. We all like getting our hands dirty. Most new people start as labourers, but the possibilities are wide open. You can work your way up to whatever interests you.
I took night courses at the Academy of Learning for my computer diploma, which has been very useful in the quality department, because so much of our testing equipment needs programming. We’re going through a big change at the mill right now, and we’re going to start producing a whole different product, so I had to rewrite a lot of programs to accommodate that. It’s a huge project. We’re going to be making siding and we’ll probably need 40 more people here, so it’s all very exciting.
And of course, it’s not all work. I have pretty flexible hours, I have Saturday, Sunday and Monday off. It couldn’t get any better than that.
I’d definitely encourage anyone looking for work to give the forest products industry a try. There are so many options, and you get to find out what you’re good at, and where your skills are most useful. I know for a fact our mill isn’t the only one that’s growing and switching up its product mix. There is a lot going on in the industry today and there are going to be a lot of new jobs coming out of that.