With Alberta suffering hardships regarding the economy, jobs are easy to lose but not as easy to find.
According to economicdashboard.alberta.ca, the unemployment rate for Alberta was 5.6% and has since increased to 7.1%. Although most of the demographics in Alberta, which includes youth, men and women, have been affected; statistic show that men are most effected as their unemployment rate has gone up from 5.6% to 7.7%.
With jobs in the oil rigs harder to find, many families are finding it difficult to make ends meet, but one man has devoted his time to a hobby, now that his job in the oilfield has been terminated.
Erwin MacLennan, a 59-year-old oilfield worker was laid off last year after being a part of the industry for two decades, and he has since found a way to occupy his time while being off the job and still make some money on the side through woodworking.
MacLennan, since being laid off, has turned his own personal garage into a spectacular woodworking shop, where he spends most of his days cutting out birdhouses and pet dishes from his own designs, or based on customers’ wishes. Bird and bat houses include unusual styles such as bird outhouses, bird churches, bird benches and much more.
Since he turned 20, working closely with his father to create new things with wood, the hobby has always been an interest for him. But until now, he never had the time to pursue it full-time.
“Back then, I was probably 20-years-old when I got into woodworking, I was into building barns, a lot of hay sheds and then I got into the concrete part of things, a lot of highrises. When I came out here I was in carpentry with ACL and I worked from there, went to a funeral home and then went to the oil patch. I’ve been doing this for almost a year now.”
When MacLennan first turned his garage into a shop, he had no idea what to start making and began with simple feeders, but soon, due to growing interest and new design challenges to face, he has started creating new items.
“I started making birdhouses and dog stands and what’s next? I don’t know, we’ll see.”
In an interesting turn of events, MacLennan and his wife of 22 years, Carol went to a market in Red Deer where they tried their hand at selling Erwin’s creations, but instead found a business inquiry from the Girl Guides. Leaders had seen Erwin’s interesting packaging of birdhouses and how he managed to create them in ‘kits’, with separate pieces ready for children to assemble with the help of adult supervision.
These kits were sold to the Girl Guides and a number of schools in neighbouring communities where students will build the birdhouses and some schools sell them in order to help with fundraising initiatives.
“Some of them I sold to them were all kit bird houses so they put them together if they have a night where mom, dad or grandpa or grandma could help them build it and assemble them. Then they spend another night painting them and fixing them up.”
Erwin creates all different kinds of bird and bat houses with different kinds of birds in mind. Some houses come with smaller holes for chickadees or larger holes for blue jays, but no matter the difference of birds, the houses are always simple enough for children to assemble.
Since being laid off, Erwin devotes much of his time to the hobby and has found that neighbours surrounding his home in the Village of Clive have supported his endeavours. His business relies on word of mouth rather than traditional advertising.
Erwin’s wife Carol faithfully supports her husband in his goals to continue keeping busy and teases him about being a perfectionist and constantly working.
“He’s fussy. It’s not your job but lately it’s your job because you’re unemployed. You enjoy it and that’s why he’s got the microwave and fridge out here,” Carol laughs. “Soon he’s going to have a bed and a toilet because his hobby has become 24-7.”
A seasoned oilfield veteran, Erwin explained that it’s important for those that were laid off to stay busy, because worrying about when jobs will be available again or waiting for the employer’s call to come through is pointless.
“If you’re used to getting up at 6 a.m. or 6:30 a.m., it’s a long day if you don’t go to bed until 10 at night. It’s just something to keep a person busy because I believe you have to have something to look forward too or else you’ll go crazy. It’s something to get up for.”