From Sawmills to the Healthcare Frontline: Using Transferrable Skills for Nursing

September 24, 2020

Mackenzie Kronemeyer checking that equipment has been properly shut down during one of her custodial shifts in Canfor’s Houston, B.C. mill.

By Mackenzie Kronemeyer

Working weekend nights in a Canfor sawmill and wood pellet plant for the first time while I was in high school gave me confidence that I was cut out for a career in nursing. The night shifts, the teamwork, and the focus on safety at Canfor were challenging but gave me important skills that I knew I would be able to apply once I became a nurse.

In the fall, I’ll be back studying nursing for a second year at the College of New Caledonia’s collaborative program with the University of Northern British Columbia.

Sustainable forest products

This summer, I’m lucky to be back working full-time at the Canfor mill in Houston, B.C., which is about 300 kilometres east of Prince Rupert. Canfor is an SFI-certified organization, and the mill produces superior SPF (spruce-pine-fir) lumber from sustainably managed forestlands.

The mill also converts sawmill residues into sustainable wood pellets. This reduces waste and creates a green energy source. The industrial-grade fuel pellets provide clean biomass energy to customers in Europe, North America, and Asia. The pellet facility in Houston, B.C., — owned and operated in partnership with Pinnacle Pellet and the Moricetown Indian Band — produces 217,000 tons of industrial wood pellets annually.

COVID-19 set the schedule

I was originally supposed to start work at the end of April. Then I was informed mid-April that start-up would be delayed until May 7, and then it was delayed again until May 25 because of COVID-19.

I feel really fortunate that I started back May 25. I have a great job when other young people I know are struggling to find work and keep busy this summer. Plus, I’m making $29 an hour, which is great pay!

Transitioning to nursing from a green job

I spend a lot of time thinking of frontline workers like nurses during these tough times. My work at Canfor involves a lot of cleaning and locking down equipment to make sure everything is safe. It helps me imagine what my future as a nurse might look like.

The teamwork aspect of working at Canfor is also great. I work with a group of people I went to high school with, and it makes things fun because we can joke around with each other but also know each other so well that we have a high level of trust.

That team feel and knowing you have to rely on others to do their jobs seems like a natural fit for what nursing will be like. It just goes to show that career paths aren’t linear. You can learn really useful things wherever you go, as long as you work hard and keep an open mind. I’m looking forward to using some of the skills I’ve learned in my green job as I get ready for my career as a nurse.

PLT Canada’s Green Jobs program is supported in large part by our employer networks at the Canadian Parks Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Check out the PLT Canada Mentorship Program for Youth in Forestry and Conservation and PLT Canada’s Green Jobs E-Summits. PLT Canada is an initiative of SFI.



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