Speaking with Kyle Hujdic: Career Options at and Working for WCMRC
We sat down with Kyle Hujdic, a Base Operations Supervisor, to discuss working for Western Canadian Marine Response Corp. Kyle speaks on watching 20 spill response vessels from both sides of the border deployed in a major spill response simulation while helicopters circle overhead. He talks about a passion for environmentalism, what it takes to work for WCMRC, and being a multifaceted spill response technician.
What does an average day at WCMRC look like?
Kyle Hujdic: “Depending on what [the employee is] doing, an average day can be very different. Working on the marine side of things, we have deckhands, engineers, and masters. Their day-to-day job is going to consist of training, drilling, exercising and maintaining equipment.
A lot of the job consists of learning how to work safely and efficiently — we inhabit a unique space in the field. We work in the marine industry but it’s very different from a lot of other marine jobs.
We train more as an emergency response company that operates in the marine environment.”
Kyle touches further on the space that WCMRC inhabits in the workforce. He calls it “a merger of two industries” — emergency response and marine.
Is there a large variety of jobs?
KH: “Absolutely. We like to say we’re all spill technicians first. We all contribute how we can; maybe an engineer also does deck duties or a master may be working as a shoreline supervisor in a certain situation. We’re all spill technicians and emergency responders first and then we have our area of expertise.”
So, there’s a big environmental factor to all of the positions at WCMRC?
KH: “Our entire reason for being here is to mitigate the damage that any environmental emergency, in terms of pollution released into the marine environment would have on the natural ecosystems. In the event of an emergency, our job is to be trained, prepared, competent, and equipped to respond and mitigate the damage. Our job is to be ready.”
What does an average entry-level position that spends time out on the water look like?
KH: “Likely they will be deckhands. An entry-level on the marine side of things are hired as spill technicians who work on the deck. But only a part of the job, especially in a spill technician position, is on the vessel. Spill technicians will also do shoreside work like working with and deploying equipment or transporting equipment by driving trucks and trailers.
It’s not a standard deckhand position where you stay on the same boat for your entire shift, go home, and come back to that same boat. It’s much more multifaceted.
We’re in the emergency response industry as well as the marine industry. It’s like a firefighter — you need to be able to operate firefighting equipment and drive the firetruck. At WCMRC, you’ll work on the deck and you’ll work with equipment like small pumps and skimmers.”
Do the people who are coming into this position often have a lot of experience? Could it be someone who is simply interested in environmentalism and marine life?
KH: “We take people from all kinds of different backgrounds with different levels of marine experience and different levels of education. We provide a lot of on-site and on-the-job training.”
Can you tell us about a notable day you experienced at work?
KH: “Fortunately, we have very few large spills. Recently, we performed a joint exercise with the US called the CANUSPAC. We mobilized our large assets to a simulated incident in our shared waters. So, we do a lot of training and planning with the US because we share contiguous waters. It was a very large scale deployment of equipment and resources out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
It was impressive to see all of those assets and all of that effort and planning come together to make sure that if there was ever a large scale spill that we are communicating efficiently, our equipment can work together and our crews know what type of equipment each other has. Their skimming vessels can offload to our barges, our skimming vessels can offload to their barges, everything works in unison so we can work together efficiently.”
Here, Kyle is referring to the Canada-United States Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan, Pacific Annex (CANUSPAC Annex). The two-day, cross-border drill involves twenty marine vessels containing, recovering, and storing oil in a simulated drill while helicopters circle overhead. The drill practices communication protocols and border-crossing processes for ships and equipment.
Do you have any advice for somebody who is just graduating in regards to a career at WCMRC?
KH: “This company has the potential to offer quite a lot to someone entering the marine field. You can gain a variety of skills at WCMRC — almost disproportionate at the entry-level positions — few new hires have actually worked in spill response before. You get your hands dirty and learn a ton right away so you can apply emergency response skills in the marine environment. You’ll gain skills on the marine side, technical skills with the equipment, and you’ll develop a mechanical aptitude. Here, you can develop all of the skills necessary for the common goal of an emergency response.
It’s tough to find an employer where you may get to develop all of those skills in one place. We provide the training to do so — I think that’s a unique offering.
Young people are keen to learn, get experience on the water and work with a lot of different, interesting equipment. It’s a very good position.”
There’s room to grow here, as well.
KH: “If you come into the deckhand position, there’s no reason why you couldn’t work your way into other roles or advance in a career on the maintenance side of things. There’s an entire training department where people might find a home for their skills. It’s such a diverse company and group of people that it takes to do this job, there’s a lot of opportunities.”