Report warns of ongoing labour shortage in oil and gas sector

CALGARY — A report warns an aging workforce and a booming energy sector are going to pose a serious challenge for oil and gas companies looking for workers over the next few years.

CALGARY — A report warns an aging workforce and a booming energy sector are going to pose a serious challenge for oil and gas companies looking for workers over the next few years.

The Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada says the industry will have to fill at least 9,500 jobs by 2015.

“We have moved from a world in which these workforce shortages were cyclical to where we think they’re chronic, so this is an issue we’re going to have with us for a long time and we’re going to have to work through for a long time,” said Tom Huffaker, vice-president for policy and environment at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The report says the energy industry is at risk of losing about three per cent of its workforce overall because of persistently low natural gas prices.

But it says growth in certain operations and age-related attrition will offset any job losses and lead to increased hiring needs.

“We had a bit of a reprieve with the downturn in that lots of people postponed their retirement plans,” explained Cheryl Knight, executive director and CEO of the petroleum council.

“Age is a factor that you just can’t tinker with too easily and we’ve seen how retirement rates are meeting what we would expect, so it is serious. It’s a loss of skilled and experienced workers and you just can’t replace that seasoned person with someone fresh out of school.”

The outlook projects employment in Alberta’s oilsands to jump by 29 per cent over 2011 levels, or roughly 5,850 jobs. The pipeline sector will add about 530 jobs over the same time period.

The president of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada says many companies still haven’t recovered from the 15,000 layoffs that occurred during the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009.

“Simply put there’s going to be no reprieve from the current hiring challenge in the oil and gas services,” said Mark Salkeld.

“We’ll need to hire more than 5,000 new workers by 2015. It’s a vibrant and very exciting industry and we’ve had challenges before and we’ll overcome them again.”

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