I was born/grew up in: St. George’s, NL
I now live in: Stephenville, NL
I completed my training/education at: for my 3rd Class Power Engineer certification at the Provincial Training Institute in St. John’s NL. They offered a 6 week program that was affiliated with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). I completed many other certifications while working on the job. These include: WHMIS, Fall Arrest, Emergency First Aid, Confined Spaces, Handling of Dangerous Goods, and Gas Detection.
What I do at work
My work changes from day to day. When we have asphalt in the heating tank, I keep the furnace at the proper temperature and monitor pressures in the heating coils. We want to keep the pressure of the oil in the heating coils to 45 psi to maintain the heat of the asphalt. The asphalt has to be kept hot so it will flow quickly and easily into the tanker trucks and stay hot until it is applied to the area to be paved. When customers arrive I make sure they get their load of asphalt quickly and efficiently, always keeping safety in the forefront. I perform a variety of clerical duties including entering the quantity of asphalt loaded on trucks so that an invoice can be sent to the company. I also keep track of how much asphalt we have on hand and place orders for more.
There’s a lot of science and math involved in what I do. A lot of it is condensed down to a formula or calculation. This makes it a lot simpler but you still have to know what the numbers you get represent. You also need to know how to make changes if things are not within the guidelines. For example, every shipment of asphalt will have a slightly different density. This means the mass per volume will be different. This is important when loading trucks to ensure they are not overloaded as that might lead to a dangerous situation. So I have to perform calculations to determine volumes. I also use a temperature conversion factor to convert back to mass.
My career path is
When I graduate high school, I took a job working with an electrical company. At first it was mainly unskilled work but gradually I worked my way into stock room. I discovered that I really didn’t like this type of work. I moved to Alberta and took a job with a fertilizer manufacturing company in the shipping department. While I was there I had the opportunity to work in the place where the fertilizer was being made. This required a 4th class certificate and the company provided a group of us with the time to do this program. I then continued working there as a 4th class power engineer.
Once I started on the power engineering program I started to realize the variety of jobs that were available and the education that was required. When I upgraded my certification to 3rd class, this opened more career opportunities. Eventually I worked at a paper mill and later at an oil refinery. Here I was a Panel Operator with an oil refinery in Fort McMurray. This meant that I was responsible for monitoring the production and safety of several different processing plants at the same time. Later I moved home and started working with NL Asphalt Ltd where I am today.
I am motivated by
I like the fact that while there is a day to day routine, what I do really depends on the situation. It keeps me on my toes. For example, when the heating oil is coming back to the furnace, it is around 150º C. That’s pretty hot when you consider water boils at 100º C! You’ve got to stay alert and concentrate on what you are doing.
I also like the fact that there is always something to learn in this profession. When I started out I had a 4th class certificate. This meant that I could only work on selected jobs. As I took more training, I increased my knowledge and moved up to more complicated and demanding jobs. And as the technology improves, the way we do our work changes. Recently, our company switched from a steam-powered heating system to the furnace system we are using now. This furnace system is much more efficient and environmentally friendly than the older systems. For example, the heating oil is very similar to cooking oil. If there is a spill it won’t have a major environmental impact. Learning to operate this system challenged me to rethink a lot of what I knew about operating industrial heating systems. I like that this career keeps pushing me to learn new things.
How I affect people’s lives
I guess my job affects people’s lives in a more indirect manner. For example, when a customer shows up at the plant, they are on a schedule. They can’t afford to wait if I don’t have the asphalt ready to load. If they have to wait, that means the paving contractor is going to be delayed and that might mean they have to pay overtime salary. This affects their bottom line and will affect both their level of profit and whether they might have to lay workers off or not. To the general public it means they might be driving on unpaved roads or waiting in a long lineup longer than they should have to!
Outside of work I
I spend a lot of my time renovating a 1957 Chevy. With an old car like this, there’s a lot to do! I also do yard work and like to travel.
My advice to others
If you are interested in this type of work, I would advise you to do a Mechanical Engineering Technology program rather than a certification program. A 3-year mechanical engineering technology program will give you a lot more opportunity for advancement. With this type of program you have a broader and deeper understanding of the principles. This means you are qualified for a lot more jobs as soon as you graduate.