Despite the best efforts of companies around the world to ensure oil shipments get to destination safely, accidents happen. Oil occasionally is spilled. And that demands a highly skilled and well-prepared response from companies such as ECRC, a private management company that provides oil spill response services.

“Since 1995, ECRC has responded to over 375 oil spills,” says Addison Vickerd, ECRC’s Response Centre Manager.

Wile Addison prefers to not discuss specific incidents, he says that ECRC has been involved in some of the most significant and high-profile events in Canada in recent years.

Established in 1995 by the private sector to meet its environmental, social, and legal responsibilities for marine oil spill preparedness and response under the Canada Shipping Act, ECRC works for its 2400 member companies, the Canadian Coast Guard or any government agency that takes the lead on an event response.

In fact, ECRC is the only Canadian response organization (RO) to provide coverage in all navigable waters east of the Rocky Mountains (except for Saint John, NB, and Point Tupper, NS, which are served by local organizations). The ECRC also has mutual aid support agreements with ROs serving the East and West Coasts. 

“To ensure our readiness to respond to an emergency, ECRC conducts approximately 52 oil spill preparedness exercises each year internally, and we participate in external partner and client exercises as well,” Addison says.

ECRC also has nearly $50 million in state-of- the-art equipment ready to respond at any given time, comprising some 2300 vessels, 87 oil-handling facilities, and 25 subscribers.

“Specialized spill-response equipment, maintenance and robust planning processes are part-and-parcel of the preparedness business, but talented people are the backbone of an oil spill response operation,” says Addison, who works in ECRC’s Halifax Dartmouth office (ECRC’s head office is in Ottawa). 

To gain line-of-sight on new talent who could potentially strengthen ECRC’s operations, the group has worked with Memorial University in Newfoundland and and a local college in Nova Scotia.

“Here, we worked with Nova Scotia Community College through its Oceans Technology Program on work-term employment [through ICTC’s Wil Digital]. We looked at about 10 students, interviewed two students, and hired one,” Vickerd says.

The fact that some of the students in the Oceans Technology Program came with specific safety credentials made ECRC’s choice easier. A commercial vessel ticket, for example, was important, in simplifying ECRC’s safety protocols.

The engineering student ECRC hired last year ended up working on electrical systems, generators, and other equipment in a hands-on mechanical role.

“[WIL Digital] was good for both us and the student,” Vickerd says. “We had him on for 16 weeks as part of that program. Then we hired him for a co-op term, and I was able to keep him on for 12 months because one of my employees was on maternity leave. So I still have him employed here till September.”

Vickerd notes that WIL Digital’s unique staffing access point “added value” to its operations while providing the student with experience in an industry of his choice. He recommends other employers consider the program.

“I shared [information about WIL Digital] with some of our other contractors and response organizations. Some of them take on students. You never know if folks are familiar with these funding programs. A 70% offset in wages—even if it’s for 16 weeks—is still an opportunity,” he says. 

Expanded WIL Program

ICTC’s WIL Digital is proud to be a part of ECRC’s important work in cleaning up oil spills across the country.

WIL Digital is an innovative Work Integrated Learning (WIL) program that helps employers grow their businesses by providing financial assistance for hiring post-secondary students (subsidies of 75% of wages paid, to a maximum of $7500). This allows students to engage in meaningful opportunities to develop foundational digital and entrepreneurship/business skills.

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program (SWPP), ICTC’s WIL Digital was recently expanded to assist in the COVID-19 economic recovery.

Perspective employers can learn more about WIL Digital and register today to hire a post-secondary student at: https://www.WIL.digital/en/.

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