Earlier this year, Higher Landing conducted a survey of over 400 of our professional clients, who had backgrounds in disciplines ranging from engineering and geosciences to accounting and supply chain. The vast majority of these people had been downsized as part of the ongoing oil and gas jobs crisis ravaging Alberta. 85% of our respondents were mid-and-senior professionals over the age of 35. As well, 33% were landed immigrants, many of whom were lured to Alberta during the oil boom.
The biggest takeaway from this survey was that a full 80% of our respondents were ready to leave oil & gas forever.
These people are not holding out for a return to boom times. They’re ready for a change.
Significant Barriers Loom
Increasing unemployment and job redundancies in the energy sector combined with breakneck transformation of the industry has left thousands of professionals with similar skillsets on the sidelines, vying for the same jobs. And with tens of thousands out of work, there aren’t enough job openings to absorb them.
And that’s BEFORE you consider the biases against oil and gas workers.
From my experience working with this demographic for the last several years, I’ve noticed a tremendous stigma attached to hiring oil and gas professionals: they are entitled, want too much money, will leave as soon as oil prices return, etc, etc.
Additionally, I have found that many non-oil and gas employers do not want to hire these people due to lack of practical experience in their industry. Hence, short-term skills training is usually not enough to get them back to work. And the problem is much worse for people with over 20 years of work experience.
Our survey revealed some interesting trends. In addition to wanting a purpose driven career, the majority expressed an interest in working outside of the oil and gas sector, and did not feel a transition to the tech industry would be a good long-term fit.
Most disturbing, however, was that they said the two largest barriers hampering their job search efforts were history in the oil and gas sector and age.
40% of our respondents felt their history as an oil and gas professional was preventing them from finding a job. This is incredible, given what they have contributed to the country over the past twenty years. Many are high achievers and have track records of creating significant value that could seriously benefit other industries. If those industries were only open to it.
“I’m 45 and I’ve been told twice that I’m too old. I’d hate to be 55”
Age-ism is alive and well. 48% of the survey respondents felt that age was preventing them from finding a job.
The idea that 45-year-olds have outlived their usefulness in Alberta’s labour market is alarming. The people I’ve worked with in this age group are in the primes of their working lives. They’re experienced but energetic, ready to learn but also ready to lead. They’re great fits for new industries, new companies and new jobs.
Is tech really the answer for our displaced workers? Many of them say no.
Everyone is talking about technology and retraining. But 53% of our respondents did not feel that a transition to the tech industry would be a good long term fit for them, even if they could gain the skills through ‘bootcamp’ training. And many employers are still not confident hiring them for jobs where they can apply these new skills.
The bottom line: these are people in search of a purpose.
An 88% majority of our respondents said they wanted a purpose-driven career that aligned with their value.
But here’s the problem. Where do they go? And who’s helping them get there?
I am acutely aware of the stigma looming in the minds of many employers towards people from the oil industry, but Alberta would not have built its wealth and economy without them. As a matter of fact, Canada wouldn’t have, either. And they’re getting increasingly left behind and forgotten about.
What do we owe so many of the people who have built this country’s wealth and economy?
Right now, all they’ve got is hope. But hope is not a good strategy.
President, Higher Landing