UNB Engineering Co-Op Student Takes on Big Responsibility at TransCanada Pipelines

Author: Engineering Alumni Office

Posted on Sep 5, 2018

Category: Student Spotlight

Civil Engineering student Riley Tanner just completed a 16-month co-op work placement at TransCanada Pipelines in Calgary and during that time he played an integral role in a team doing vital work for the energy giant: completing analyses on all pipeline crossing applications for the company’s 40,000 kilometers of Canadian oil and gas pipelines, stretching from Quebec to Western Canada.UNB co-op student Riley Tanner

Riley was one of three people on a team doing surface loading analysis for vehicles crossing the pipeline. They receive 1300-1400 crossing applications each year, ranging from field technicians and outside contractors using heavy equipment crossing on a temporary basis, to the Ministry of Transportation doing roadwork and building new permanent roads crossing the pipeline.

After brief training when he first arrived at TransCanada, Riley was soon thrown into the job and “learned by doing.” He jumped in, asked questions when he needed to, and quickly got up to speed. He became solely responsible for all crossing applications – ad hoc requests from field technicians, project managers at TransCanada, and, formal requests from external companies who needed to cross pipelines with heavy equipment. He performed surface loading analysis and determined if an area was safe to cross or if an alternate route should be suggested. “I needed to understand and manage the Canadian pipeline network and be able to think on my feet. There were often ‘drop-everything situations’ with people relying on me to get answers fast.”

Riley reports that it was a very different experience from learning in the classroom. “In school, you’re only responsible for yourself and doing well. On the job, people are relying on you and you’re responsible for their safety and productivity.”

He apparently rose to the occasion, since his supervisor stated that he functioned well beyond a student level in a demanding job. Riley believes that having previous experience in the construction industry helped him jump in quickly and do well in the role.  A Truro native, Riley had worked for two summers back home with a construction crew while he was on break from his studies in Fredericton.  He says that understanding how to see the big picture on a project was extremely helpful.

Riley first explored the idea of a co-op position during his third year in the UNB engineering program and approached the co-op office about opportunities for a different experience that would challenge him. He felt that in addition to his degree and construction experience, having office experience in a large organization would be a great advantage. He applied to several postings at the co-op office and was contacted for an interview with TransCanada Pipelines.  The company owns and operates the longest pipeline in Canada and delivers energy to millions of North Americans. “It was the perfect opportunity to reach out of my comfort zone,” Riley says. “Although it meant putting off graduation for a year, the experience of working and living in a different part of the country in a completely new industry was amazing and I’m so glad I did it. I made money, I learned a ton and I built out my résumé.”

Riley hopes more students will take advantage of co-op positions available to them. “Knowing what I know now will make the rest of my classroom experience even better. My co-op job has also made me a better team member, shown me how to collaborate across teams, and taught me how to meet expectations and respond positively to pressure.  I highly recommend it.”

The Engineering Co-op office provides flexible programs where students can work up to six co-op terms (one co-op term is 4-months) as part of their degree. Students are engaged in highly productive work, rather than just observing, and are paid for their efforts (often with government assistance programs). The Co-op Office is accepting applications from large and small organizations around the globe for student co-op positions – and we’d love it if our alumni were involved in hiring our students. If you’d like to learn more please get in touch.