Despite the high number of layoffs that have occurred in Alberta’s oilpatch the last few years, there happens to be a oilpatch labour shortage taking place at the moment in Alberta’s north according to Bruce Covernton of Big Fish Staffing. Bruce’s firm concentrates on connecting employers with suitable employees in Alberta’s energy industry.
“Field workers are in short supply right now as the Alberta oil business, from producers to service companies, experiences a much anticipated turnaround,” says Mr. Covernton. “I’ve also seen an increase in temporary office jobs, not only field work.”
With the prices of both oil and gas on the recent rise, there has been a sharp year over year increase in wells spud. Along with drilling activity comes the need for oilfield services. The oil business is subject to volatile commodity price cycles. The current labour shortage, which may seem hard to believe, is symptomatic of how fast activity can turnaround once projects become economic again.
“For a field worker, there is tonnes of work right now, already this year, I’ve been approached by four different service companies asking if I have able workers that are willing to work field jobs and have the right certification.”
However for former oilpatch workers, returning to the industry may be a decision that garners more thought than in previous years. And this would help explain why a shortage is even taking place right now to begin with.
With wages largely not what they once were prior to 2014, workers have to decide whether they want to leave temporary jobs they may have found since being let go, or if still unemployed, go back to the industry knowing full well how cyclical it can be.
“Contributing to the challenging shortage is the fact that many people have left the province or the industry and the sustained downturn is leaving some reluctant to return as people are uncertain how long the uptick with last,” says Mr. Covernton. “What’s more, having the uncertainty of future work is greater when not hired as a full time employee, and when there are mouths to feed and mortgages to pay, that uncertainty becomes harder deal with.”
Yet as northern Alberta’s unemployment rate continues to stagnate, despite jobs available, Mr. Covernton thinks this gap will inevitably narrow – provided prices and activity show increased signs of stability and certitude.
“If there’s anything I have learned over the years is that activity will come back, and once that does on a larger scale, jobs will be filled. Until that time people looking for field work should know that yes, there are plenty of good paying jobs available.”