Looming labour shortage for oil and gas sector

130,000 workers could be needed by 2020: Report
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 04/01/2011

A labour shortage is looming in Canada’s petroleum industry, according to a report by the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada. Although the industry’s recovery from the economic downturn is slower than expected, Canada’s oil and gas industry is already experiencing challenges finding workers — which will continue to worsen over the next decade.

Companies report a chronic shortage of several positions, such as experienced engineers, plant operators, steam engineers and power engineers, production accountants, field operators and specialists, rig crews, and environmental and regulatory specialists. In addition, unconventional natural gas, enhanced oil recovery and in-situ oil sands extraction have increased demand for certain occupations and created a need for new skills and knowledge.

More than 30 per cent of the industry’s core workforce is also expected to retire within the next decade. Even if oil and gas prices and industry activity levels are low — which will mean job losses in the exploration and production and services sectors — there is still a need to hire about 39,000 workers to replace workers lost due to age-related attrition (retirements and natural deaths), said the council. And if oil prices are high and gas prices are low, industry will still need to hire more than 53,000 workers to replace retiring workers and staff new oil sands projects.

If energy prices are high over the next few years, activity levels will surge and significant labour shortages will hit the industry in 2012 and across all sectors and operating areas. In summary, the industry may need to add over 130,000 workers between 2010 and 2020 if increased activity levels occur, said The Decade Ahead: Labour Market Information Projections and Analysis to 2020.

The industry cannot wait until the end of the decade to address future labour shortages. Widespread labour shortages in the industry are set to occur as early as 2012 in the growth scenario, due to increased hiring requirements and a shrinking labour supply.

• Concerted, industry-wide collaboration and intervention is needed to ensure sustainable expansion of Canada’s petroleum industry, said the council. Managing the pending labour crunch will require a combination of strategies including:

• Communicating the petroleum industry’s labour requirements to key labour supply stakeholders, including governments and post-secondary and training institutes.

• Drawing talent from diverse labour supply pools that may not have been tapped previously, while continuing to tap traditional labour pools such as new graduates.

• Increasing collaboration within the industry sectors and with other stakeholders.

• Increasing productivity through employee retention, workforce training and development, innovation and technological advancement.

• Managing labour costs while addressing labour shortages

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