Categories: Guide to Education

Education Guide: Hands-on Experience


At the Northern Lights Public Schools Trades Exposure Centre, high school students have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience on a service rig while earning credits towards graduation.

“Our students and parents were requesting real world learning opportunities that would help students prepare for careers in the oilfield after they graduated high school,” explained Mark Centazzo, Dual Credit Coordinator for Northern Lights. “That’s what started us on the journey that has led to the creation of the Trades Exposure Centre.”

Working with industry was a critical component of ensuring that the course content developed was relevant and would provide students with the skills and experience necessary to help them secure employment after graduation. Over 40 partnerships were formed with industry, community organizations, and government to bring the project to fruition.

Energy 35-5: Orientation to Service Rigs is a five-credit course that was developed in conjunction with the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC). The online course features gamified content that engages students in learning about the oil and gas industry, operation of a service rig and duties of a floor hand.

After completing Energy 35 and some other pre-requisite safety courses, students are eligible to spend five days completing the Service Rig Safety and Floor Hand Experience Special Project at the Trades Exposure Centre, and earn two additional credits toward graduation. Schools or school divisions can bring a maximum of 10 students at a time to complete training on the Aurora #69 service rig. The five days of training includes H2S Alive, Fall Protection Certification and three days training on the rig with experienced instructors.

Not just for high school students

Through the industry partnerships formed while developing the centre, it became apparent there was plenty of potential for the centre to provide training for industry as well. 

“There’s quite a bit of flexibility in how we can accommodate the training needs of industry,” explained Centazzo. “In addition to customized service rig training, our classroom and 1,600 square foot shop allow for delivery of a variety of other training opportunities.”

Since its official opening last April, the site has already been used to deliver some unique safety training, and has become home to the Tribal Chiefs Employment and Training Services Association, North East Alberta Apprenticeship Initiative and Trade Winds to Success, who provide services to apprentices throughout the region.

Partnerships are key

From the beginning, collaboration has been the key to the development of the Trades Exposure Centre and its programming. Grant funding was provided through Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Provincial Dual Credit Strategy, and Merit Contractors Association. Ensign Energy Services donated the service rig that is in use at the Centre, and the land for the Centre was donated by the Town of Bonnyville and Hammon’s Holdings. Over 40 other industry and community partners also contributed to site development and other aspects of the project.

“It has been amazing to see how everyone has come together to get this project off the ground and make these opportunities available to high school students across Alberta,” said Centazzo. “We are looking forward to being able to give back to industry by providing them with well trained future employees as well as access to a facility to enhance their own operations.”



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