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Resident Field Technician Talk with Dennis Peyton
Dennis Peyton completed an 8-month general mechanics course at Fairview College in 1997. He obtained his 1st-year Automotive and Heavy Duty tickets in 1998 and continued his education at NAIT in Edmonton, completing his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years. Dennis successfully passed his red seal tests in 2021 and, due to the urgent need for technicians to perform CVIP inspections at his workplace, he was granted early completion of his Red Seal Heavy Duty Technician Ticket, three months ahead of schedule.
In addition to his apprenticeship training, Dennis received model-specific courses from Caterpillar and Waratah. He has completed courses covering various aspects such as Caterpillar hydraulic, powertrain, engine, and electrical systems, Advanced hydraulics, applied failure analysis 1 & 2, 797A/B haul trucks, D7E and D11T dozers, E/F and next-gen excavators, 500 series skidders, 500 series logging carriers, Waratah B/C series forestry attachments, Small wheel loaders K & M series, M series Motor graders, New Gen product link systems, Tier 4 intern emissions systems, Tier 4 final emissions systems, and Machine Electronic Controls.
After passing his 1st year, Dennis secured a job at Risley Hydraulics in Grande Prairie, Alberta. His responsibilities included troubleshooting, disassembling, assembling, and assessing hydraulic cylinders, valves, pumps, motors, and complete hydraulic systems. He worked at Risley Hydraulics until he passed his 2nd year apprenticeship exam, as he wanted to broaden his knowledge to avoid being confined to a specialized sector of the industry.
He was then recruited by Cenalta Well Services, a service rig company, in April 2000. He started as a field technician and was responsible for repairs across a vast area spanning from Grand Prairie up to the North West Territories border, over to Fort Liard in British Columbia. The experience exposed him to various challenges and equipment, and he was grateful for the help he received from his Journeymen and other colleagues.
Over the years, Dennis worked for several companies, including Ideal Precision Machining in Grande Prairie, Layne Christensen Company in Northern Mexico, Leo Roberts Ent. in Fort McMurray, and finally, Finning. His journey involved various shifts, locations, and roles, with his passion for troubleshooting and customer service remaining a constant driving force throughout his career.
Dennis prioritizes safety at work and is eager to try new systems and procedures. However, his remote location limits his involvement in most safety committees.
Community and Volunteer Involvement:
Before the pandemic, Dennis volunteered his time at the Edson Trade show for Finning, showcasing products and services and answering questions about the Heavy Duty Trade. He also volunteered at a local event called Peers Gold Dust Days every August, involving children’s events, a ball tournament, and a community dance. Dennis made significant efforts to support vocational education by securing engine donations for a high school shop class.
Leadership and Team Building:
Dennis demonstrates leadership by being readily available to assist others with constructive input. He has mentored multiple technicians and apprentices, and he believes that the best technicians care deeply about their customers and the quality of their work. Dennis advocates for efficient systems and procedures to empower technicians and improve overall performance. He actively engages in the development of new procedures and systems, believing that constructive participation leads to positive outcomes.
Heavy-duty equipment mechanics repair, troubleshoot, adjust, overhaul and maintain mobile heavy-duty equipment used in construction, transportation, forestry, mining, oil and gas, material handling, landscaping, land clearing, farming and similar activities. They are employed by companies which own and operate heavy equipment, and by heavy equipment dealers, rental and service establishments, railway transport companies and urban transit systems. Apprentices are also included in this unit group.
The employment outlook will be good for Heavy-duty equipment mechanics.
This is what you typically need for the job. Completion of a three- to five-year apprenticeship program or a combination of over four years of work experience and industry courses in heavy equipment repair is usually required to be eligible for trade certification.
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Complete Episode Transcript
Coming up next.
I’ve got nothing but good things to say about my trade.
The sense of accomplishment.
At the end of the day, you help somebody, you got to do something and you can physically see and feel what you did.
it has done wonders for me and my family.
Welcome to the Job Talk Podcast, where we talk with people who love their jobs.
Our guests open up about their challenges, surprises and secrets to success in their industries.
Through conversation, we explore their careers, past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
Today’s guest is Dennis Peyton.
Here’s our job talk with the resident field technician.
I love to jump right into the conversation.
So when you were graduating from high school, did you know that you were going to pursue skilled trades? So that was a career counselor at at your high school? Well, I hope today’s high school counselors are giving the option to kids to look at the skilled trades.
I mean, this is a late nineties.
Was it, like, $15 a barrel? Nothing was really going great.
There weren’t many apprentices being hired, and they had been indoctrinated in university.
That trades is a less than career and kind of funny cause we do a really good now.
So which which education did you pursue and how did you enjoy the education It was fun.
You spend the morning in the classroom and the afternoon actually applying and doing what you just learned.
And I learned with my hands.
The best way to learn is to take it apart.
Look at it, and know maybe that it’s it’s fun.
I really enjoy it What was your first job after getting your ticket? as an apprentice.
My first job after getting out of school.
So I was first year mechanic They were a hydraulics shop that worked on pretty much anything.
Their main bread and butter was actually processors and delivers for forestry.
But on the side we worked on it.
Yeah. Was oil fields.
You’d work on anything from a blending unit for fracking to a farmers tractor.
So where were you based when you were doing this first show? The Grand Prix.
And you spent how many years working there in that position for that company? there two years, so I did my first and second year hours there, and then I got a call from a customer that I’d fix some of their units and I needed to diversify because all I was getting there was hydraulics experience, which is really good. But you need transmit power, train, engine, electronics, electrical oil.
You need a little bit more to be a well-rounded technician.
And I was only doing one of which doesn’t really cut it.
my first day I walked into the office and the branch manager handed me the keys to my service truck and said, We don’t buy manuals, we don’t supply tools.
Uh, you’re on call all the time, every day of the year.
Here’s your truck, Here’s your pager, there’s a cell phone or there is a bag phone in the truck as well.
I expect all of them on at all times.
That was it.
And then they put me to work around a journeyman for about two weeks because I’d never actually worked on a service rig before doing inspections for six months.
CBP inspections. It’s like an inspection before the inspection scene breaks, you know, basically a lot of breaks and breaks all the electrical, all the air systems.
Just make sure everything was working properly so that when it come in, it wasn’t going to be down for a month and a half while you’re doing repairs on it for commercial vehicle inspection.
That was that was a really good experience.
It was a little hard on the body at first and it was an eye Yeah. I’m just curious to know, what was the mentorship like from veterans working in the industry? Where did you find The people were quite helpful.
It’s the only reason I succeeded in that in that role.
You don’t need to know everything.
And it’s important. An apprentice knows.
You don’t need to know everything about Everything you need to know is one guy who’s really good at one thing and then never forget that name and never lose that number.
And you can learn from them and apply it to what you’re doing until you either specialize or you become extremely well-rounded.
And in my case, there was a lot of the during and I worked with, there was three of them.
They were fantastic.
you’re struggling, you’re stuck.
You don’t know what to do or how to go about it.
And all you need is just one person to go.
That’s because you didn’t lift this out of the way before you took that bolt out and let you go.
But it was having a support program.
I don’t think it matters what career you and having a mentor of some type or mentors is even better is integral to your success.
Your experiences with the positive mentorship, has that inspired you to pay it forward yeah, I always answer the phone for any and everyone.
It’s it’s us.
I find it very important, especially for apprentices for sure.
Can we talk about some of the places that you’ve gone in in the world? Where where has your career taken you? I started around the Edson and then I went up to Grand Prairie for seven years and I spent eight years in the oilsands or before sorry, before I went to the oilsands I did a small stint in Mexico that was You don’t realize how good we have it here until you’re in the middle of nowhere.
And I mean, like Reagan Trail, Ian three landlines in the entire community and that’s it.
And you literally have to go in, give you a number and wait for them to tell you to hop in the phone booth.
They do all the dialing, everything.
And it’s quite complicated, ordering parts and you’ve only got 5 to 7 minutes to do it.
And the person on the other end, there’s a language barrier and you’re just not you’re just not hitting it.
They’re not understanding.
You’re not communicating exactly what you need in their language.
And it just it it was a real eye opener.
Why did you decide to come back to Canada? well, I’d been married for I spent my first and my first wedding anniversary down there.
It was, I want to say, six or eight weeks in and then two weeks out.
And it wasn’t it wasn’t for me.
It it wasn’t a good fit.
The equipment that I was working on, I’d never seen before.
That makes it a little complicated to begin with.
You’re flown in by plane and then taken on in a pick up and then literally walked up the side of a mountain and they tell you that you’re going to have everything you need to fix the equipment when you get there.
They’ve got a £5,000 pressure gauge and you’re trying to shoot a pilot system with £600 in it. That’s not even accurate.
You got a 9/16 wrench and a 15 inch crescent wrench and a screwdriver.
That’s all they had.
It it got pretty frustrating, extremely frustrating.
And my wife was tired of me being gone.
Let’s get to your career with Finning.
How did you come to join Finning? And what attracted you to the company? back in the eighties.
I might be wrong on my numbers here, but finning was one of the main employers for apprentices.
Like all of the really good mechanics I’d ever met as a kid were all trained and scored by finning.
So it you get an association going.
He’s good, he’s really good.
They went here ten foot one and two together.
So it was always an it was always my goal to work there.
But at first it wasn’t working because there was a stint there in the nineties in the early 2000s where nobody was hiring apprentices.
It was extremely hard to get on with a job as an apprentice and it was that short sightedness by the industry as a whole, not one or two companies, the whole industry.
Nobody hired apprentices and then all of a sudden things went.
Things blew up.
In about 2001, 2002, the price of oil just kept doubling every couple of years and all sudden there’s no apprentices.
And you had a lot of people getting out of the trade because of age and wear and tear in the body What’s the company culture like at Finning? My experience with finning, I’ve been with them 19 years.
It started in 2005, so eight years done and on my 19th year now.
And they have treated me extremely well.
When one of my first daughter was born, she had a collapsed lung and I had only been with the company over not long under a year.
I didn’t have holidays yet to stick it that way.
So we took I was working a six day on six day offshore.
We went to Grand Prix to visit my wife’s parents and she was born a month or two before she was supposed to be before her due date and my daughter come out and then my wife hemorrhaged.
There was there was a lot going on I have a mortgage payment that’s due.
We used our savings to move up to with money and we hadn’t had enough.
We didn’t have enough saved yet.
And I didn’t like, do I leave my wife and kid as my daughters getting on a plane to go to Edmonton and my wife isn’t healthy enough to leave Grand Prairie? I go, Obviously I’m the one with my daughter.
We’d talked about this beforehand, but I still have to go back and pay the mortgage.
I was going to say that that would create some loyalty to the company.
That’s great to hear.
And how’s your daughter now? Okay, good.
Can you talk about some of your biggest challenges that you’ve experienced working on equipment? The biggest challenges are all right now it’s parks, it’s cold and everything.
Getting parts is a challenge.
It doesn’t matter on the brand or what color it is.
Everybody’s at a loss.
It’s getting better.
It’s just it’s not where it used to be and it’s not where it needs to be.
That would be our biggest challenge.
The other ones, most of the challenges actually dealing with people is when you short on site and you’ve got a customer who only has four pieces of equipment and the order that’s keeping everything going or the excavator that’s loading the rock truck that the dozers spreading when that excavators broke down, he’s got four or five pieces that aren’t making money.
He’s paying two or $300 just in wages alone per hour.
And there’s other ones where on a drilling rig, for example, they’ve got an excavator that mixes off the tailings.
Well, if that excavator breaks down it, they’ve got a 2 to 3 hour grace period for you to get up there and get it to the point where it runs or they have to switch it out.
getting they’re being confident enough to figure out what’s going on and get it running sometimes not the way it should be, but enough that they can get what they need done for a little bit.
are you usually on your own in these situations or what’s the support like for you.
You can obviously call back to the office if if you need help with something.
goes, we’ve always got phones, boosters, all the rest of it.
It’s really important if I have a person or two that you can bounce ideas off of, because sometimes it’s not necessarily that you need somebody to tell you what to do.
You just need to talk through the problem and have somebody listen.
What do you love about your career as a heavy equipment technician? I could be working on a powertrain problem rebuilding an engine one day or taking a talk out of a unit one day and the next day dealing with basically the router system and how the different ECM sort of computers talk inside a machine.
So a greater, for instance, with grade control has 13 ECM, so 13 separate computers, every one of them talks and every one of them has to be getting that digital signal back and forth.
It’s here’s your problem.
They can figure it out, fix it.
It’s a lot of I enjoy it.
It’s fun. It’s a challenge.
I see a lot of opportunity for people moving forward.
What would you say to somebody that is considering a career with skilled trades? Don’t even hesitate.
It is it’s rewarding.
It’s fun. It’s challenging.
you don’t have to go to the gym because by the time you’re done your day, you’ve got your thousand steps in or whatever it is, and you’ve been using your arms, your hands.
And Most days you come home with a sense of accomplishment, which a lot of jobs you don’t get and you feel good about what you did.
It doesn’t matter if you’re on scaffolding or plumbing or mechanic, It doesn’t matter.
The end of the day, you built something.
You physically have something that you took that wasn’t working or wasn’t there.
You fixed it or you built it and you can stand back and go, I did that.
That feels good. Really good.
Well, Dennis, congratulations on your career and thank you so much for coming on the podcast city to share some of your stories.
I’m pretty passionate.
I’ll get my other people into my trade.
It’s it has done wonders for me and my family.
and it shows.
Thank you so much.
For information about careers at finning, please visit their website: finning.com/jobs Thank you for tuning in to the Job Talk podcast.
For more information, please visit us at thejobtalk.com Our podcast music was created by our friend Mike Malone in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.