Alberta's oil sands to increase workforce by 73 per cent by 2021: Report

Supply of skilled workers ‘very tight’
||Last Updated: 04/05/2012

Alberta’s oil sands sector, which employed more than 20,000 workers in 2011, is projected to grow its workforce by 73 per cent by 2021, according to a report released by the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada.

Some oil sands operations and occupations are expected to add more than 100 per cent of their current workforce by 2021, according to Oil Sands Labour Market Outlook to 2021, funded by the government of Alberta. The report provides oil sands labour demand projections and analysis based on data for 55 core occupations within three facility or operation types: in situ, mining and upgrading.

Technological changes, as well as shifts in the regulatory and business environments, impact the way the oil sands sector does business and the types of workers required, it said. For example, employment within in situ operations will experience the greatest growth, driving demand for occupations such as steam-ticketed operators and petroleum engineers, while increasing reliance on the oil and gas support services workforce. Increases in mining and upgrading activities will also contribute to the sector’s employment growth.

“The oil sands sector entered 2012 with a healthy dose of optimism, with all indicators — notably stable oil prices and strong international investment — pointing to continued expansion,” said Cheryl Knight, executive director and CEO of the Petroleum HR Council.

“Demand for more workers is being driven primarily by growth in the sector. However, our research tells us that the supply of skilled workers remains very tight. Going forward, age-related attrition and competition from other industries will further escalate labour and skills shortages faced by the sector,” she said. “In fact, the sector may need to hire 116 per cent of its current employment levels due to industry expansion, retirements and turnover.”

Industry will also be challenged to manage workforce costs in an employee-driven labour market. Cost management — a key element of sustainability — will be another major business factor impacting the oil sands sector, said Oil Sands Labour Market Outlook to 2021. For example, companies are now hiring — rather than contracting out — project management and other construction-related occupations, in order to streamline the development of major capital projects.

The council will release a second outlook, Canada-wide Labour Market Outlook to 2015, on May 1, 2012.

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