Matt Youens – Community Ambassador meets Champion

By Becky Benoit

Matt Youens has come a long way in a short time. In 2007, Youens was leading tours of the Syncrude site and spending his evenings in a classroom at Keyano studying human resources and business administration. Today, a mere five years later, Youens is an HR advisor at Syncrude, with a much-read blog and a promising future in municipal politics.

He’s come a long way from that tour bus trundling its way through the mine. To what does he owe his meteoric rise to success? The answer, says Youens, is simple: hard work.

“I followed my wife here from Victoria with very little post-secondary education. At just over a year of working in the service industry in Fort McMurray, I resigned myself to the fact that I needed better education in order to take the next step in this amazing region,” he says. “Hard work has paid off for me. The opportunities here are almost endless; there’s no lack of brass rings to go after if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get the job done.”

“The trick is to know what you want and work at it — hard,” he adds. Youens took that motto to heart when he decided he wanted more from life.

After finishing his program at Keyano, he completed a graduate certificate in project management from the University of Alberta, and then went on to a compressed Bachelors program in professional communicationsfrom Royal Roads university, and capped off his education by adding a Certified Human Resources Professional designation.

Youens’ successful blog, myoilsands.ca, has been viewed 34,000 times since its 2009 launch. It evolved, says Youens, from a desire to tell the real story behind Wood Buffalo. “It was a response from someone within the oilsands tribe who wasn’t paid by a group or organization to talk about the region,” he says. “It wasn’t from some 24-hour journalist who had the story written before they hit the tarmac and it wasn’t from a private citizen who had never visited or lived in the region. It was an attempt to pick up our story and share it with whoever was open to it.”

Youens, a graduate of Leadership Wood Buffalo, recently embarked on a political career when he ran in the June byelection for a seat on municipal council. Though he didn’t win, he says he learned some valuable lessons that will serve him well in the future. “I learned a lot about myself and my team that will be put togood use when the next general municipal election is called, as I do plan to run again,” he says.

He adds, “I believe I have a great deal to offer my community and whether or not I will be called to council, I promise to continue making this a world-class community in which to live, play, work and lead.”