Alberta looks at big picture

Boom-bust economy faced with labour, productivity challenges
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/29/2010

Alberta is ready to vault back to the top as a booming economy but the province is facing several challenges that include an upcoming labour shortage, the attraction and retention of workers and weakening productivity. To plan Alberta’s future workforce and the next evolution of its labour force development strategy, more than 130 officials representing employers, industry associations, labour and professional organizations, educators and government gathered in Edmonton at the end of October.

Alberta was slow to turn but the recovery is now gathering momentum, according to Glenn Hodgson, senior vice-president and chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada. With firmer oil prices, oil sands investment is slowly strengthening and the province will become a preferred employment destination once again, he said.

“It’s really (about how) to get back on that strong growth track they were on before, ideally, to take some of the bumps out,” said Hodgson, who was the keynote speaker at the Alberta forum. “It’s a boom-bust economy — they said ‘never again’ and it happened again. Their single biggest challenge, in fact, is to have enough skilled people to sustain the strong economic growth that they could have. They have to get the combination right between investments and skills in the workplace and what happens in terms of the global crisis… and they’re well-aware of that.”