Pipeline welders are the core of the ‘pipe gang’ that is responsible for one of many stages of work involved in construction of oil pipelines.

Michael Grainger, a welding instructor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, says the work is high paying but very demanding.  

“You have to be extremely dedicated and you have to be extremely talented. The pipeliners are kind of the cream of the crop in the welding trades. Your work must remain perfect. I would say probably one in 200 make it to become pipeliners,” Grainger estimated.

“It’s a very demanding trade. It’s really hard even to get on as a helper — because a helper on a pipeline usually makes more than most guys make welding in a shop on the coast.”

Grainger’s uncle was a pipeliner in Alberta and he used to tell Michael “There are 100,000 helpers that want our jobs, and if somebody doesn’t want to work with me, doesn’t want to listen to me, I can find another one to take their place — and they’ll be here before the one leaving can get their boots unlaced.”

The apprenticeship is extensive — even a Red Seal Journeyperson welder with many thousands of work-hours of experience and months of classroom training needs additional training and certification.

“Upon receiving your Red Seal, you can go back to school and then take the examination for the BCP-100 Pressure Welder Certificate of Qualification, which is monitored by the BC Safety Authority. The BC P-100 exam is not an easy test,” Grainger said.

“And at that point, if you pass, you can get onto a pipeline — but you must find a company willing to take a chance on you, to let you try it.

“Pipeline welding is the ultimate goal for most welders, because that’s where the money is. If they’re willing to go away from home and get out in the bush, be in the cold, be in the heat and all the rest of it, they can make a tonne of money.”