Drew Ackerman: My Journey from Childhood to a Tolko Employee: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program

Drew Ackerman
September 3, 2021

Hello readers,

This is my fifth and final blog of this summer. I truly have enjoyed sharing my experiences within the Forest Products industry. Today I will be talking about my journey so far at Tolko- Meadow Lake OSB Division.  

Growing up in a small town, I developed many common small-town hobbies such as hockey, fishing, golf and basketball. As a young kid I would always tell my parents that one day I was going to play in the NHL. As I got older, I started to realize that there were other things out there for jobs besides professional sports that interested me.  By grade 9 I was starting to think about what I wanted to do when I graduated from high school.

The first profession I was looking at was teaching. My dad, Greg, is the Principal at Gateway Middle School in Meadow Lake. I enjoy working with children, so teaching seemed like a great fit. However, as I got older, my interest in education was put on the back burner as I developed a curiosity for business.

My dad and I after placing first in a local tennis tournament.

My mom, Kim, is the branch manager at RBC (Royal Bank of Canada). I decided to ask her questions about jobs in banks and other business-related jobs. Some of the things I was hearing about Commerce programs really had me wanting to learn more. After researching various jobs in the field of Commerce I had determined that Human Resources and general Management were my best fit. Two of my biggest strengths are communication and leadership. I wanted to find an area of study that would lead to me leading and working with other people. On a side note: I don’t think it is a coincidence that my two main job interests were both of my parents' jobs.

My family and I at the National Championship in Fredericton.

Now let’s fast forward to 2020. At this point, COVID-19 is in its first wave, and I am celebrating my 18th birthday. I decided to search for a job that offered business experience. At the time, my mom was working in Human Resources for NorSask Forest Products. She told me about how the mills in Meadow Lake were not just about the operation and logging, there was a business side as well. I guess I had never really thought about business related jobs in the Forest Products industry until then. After doing some research and hearing about Tolko’s Youth Recruitment program from my friend’s sister (Taiya Paylor, HR Coordinator at Tolko), I knew it was the perfect fit. I applied and was asked to attend a virtual interview (because of the pandemic). After my interview with my current supervisor Sherri Roger (HR Business Partner) and Glen Rodrigue (Maintenance Manager), I spent 3 days in complete worry about whether I got the job. Luckily, I was hired and accepted into the Youth Recruitment program.  

On the first day of the job, I was nervous. I had no idea how Oriented Strand Board (OSB) was made, and I was intimidated by the size of the building and machinery. Luckily, the team at Tolko was very welcoming and helped me gain awareness and understanding of our plant. One of the first things I noticed was how much value Tolko puts on their employees’ safety. I got to spend my first week at the finishing end. I feel that the first week really made me feel more comfortable on the floor. After the first week I was placed in Stores.

Working in Stores gave me a good insight as to how our mill’s maintenance department runs. I got to participate in many common business functions such as inventory cycle counts, shipping and receiving parts, and data entries. One of my biggest takeaways was that “up-time” and efficiency in the operation is fundamentally affected by continuous maintenance work.  

This summer, I had the privilege of working in Human Resources. Coming home from university, I couldn’t wait to start and was curious as to what my responsibilities would be. I assumed that my job would consist of setting up interviews and conflict resolution. And while that might be some of what I experienced; it was just a small fraction of what I actually did. The majority of the Summer I spent working on two main projects. The first one was revamping our mill’s internal website, TNet. I spent time fiddling around with the site, looking for ways to make it more efficient to navigate. I am proud to say that the site now looks awesome!

The other main project I worked on this summer was Tolko’s Indigenous Youth Engagement Program. With the help of Sherri Roger, Michelle Mercer, (HR Advisor, Diversity & Inclusion) and Project Learning Tree, we developed an 8-week summer program for our Indigenous students. The students got to meet with a mentor from our plant once a week, and they also gained experience in areas of our plant that they found interesting. I am very proud of how the students developed throughout the summer!

Indigenous Youth Engagement Program students: (left to right) Triston Mirasty, Taylor Mistickokat, Connor Chaillee.

As the summer rolled along, I had the privilege to plan some events such as employee appreciation meals and the Indigenous Peoples Day celebration.

Sanmi Davids, Darren Austin, and Sherri Roger serving ribs for employees during our Length of Service celebration.

Anyways, that is how I came to find my home here at Tolko- Meadow Lake OSB! It has been a pleasure to share my journey with you. I hope this gives you an idea of what a job in the forest products industry is like!


For more information contact:
Kerry Patterson-Baker
Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
Follow FPAC on Twitter: @FPAC_APFC
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