Prepare to have staff in place for a 2017 upturn
BY ANDREW SPEERS
Perhaps no oil-producing country has suffered more keenly from the oil price slump than Canada, losing around 100,000 direct and indirect jobs in the sector since the start of the downturn.
Things certainly look bleak, but let’s be clear here: The oil price will increase again and, as projects become viable, the labor market will heat up as demand for skilled workers increases. The B.C. government, for example, estimates that up to 100,000 jobs will be created if the province’s five LNG projects are all realized. That’s the industry’s total number of jobs lossed across Canada reversed by one sub-sector in one province alone. Recruiting skilled workers will then become even more difficult, with labor demand in each province having a knock-on effect on the others.
It may seem counter-intuitive given the current state of the industry, but now is the time that Canadian energy companies need to think strategically about recruitment, and come up with a plan for the upturn.
The global oil industry has, for a long time, struggled to ensure continuous succession of human resources as older generations look to retirement. This makes the job market particularly competitive and good people difficult to attract and retain. While in its current trough, the Canadian oil sector has to do what is necessary to survive and there are continued forecasts of job losses in the country. Indeed, Canada offers one of the lowest ratings for job security in the oil and gas sector. Such swift and brutal job cuts make employees nervous and can drive them to look to other industries as a more secure source of income. It certainly means that, even if they have loyalty to the oil and gas sector, they will have little allegiance to individual employers and most are highly geographically mobile. And who can blame them?
B.C’s planned LNG facilities will mean the potential for tens of thousands of jobs to be created. Finding the right people with the right technical skills in the right location will be vital to both recovery of the traditional Canadian oil industry and the success of proposed LNG projects.
Access to a global network of industry specialists is fundamental to giving the Canadian oil and gas sector the flexibility it needs to ride through the challenges it continues to face. This will help ensure rapid response to growth opportunities by quickly finding the right people and skills when needed. The fluidity of the market in terms of geographical competition and volatile market influences makes recruitment versatility and agility a crucial factor for long-term success. Finding personnel with particular experience in production from oil sands adds further challenges.
Although recent job losses may obscure the reality of skills availability, the global energy industry faces significant skills shortages for the future. Talented individuals will come at a premium and competition to attract them will be high. The current proposed investment in LNG gives an opportunity for B.C to be ahead of the curve on this drive to recruit.
Companies that are loyal to their employees now and invest in recruiting the right people may well have a clear advantage in the future. And while strategic projects such as LNG may help to smooth the volatility of the job market in Canada, they will not stabilize it completely.
The energy industry is renowned for its volatility and will struggle to recruit the right people into the right place at the right time. In an industry that is truly global, with employees that are equally global and willing to travel for the best positons, operations in Canada face more challenges than most.
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