Friday, April 6, 2012

Oilsands Growth Challenged by Labour Shortfalls

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This is the type of story that has become increasingly prominent in downtown discussions.  Around the coffee machine, at lunch or after work conversations gravitate towards work loads and efforts to find the right people.  And it is not only engineers.  Across the board professional support and brainpower is required.  Service and administrative support.  The labour crunch is being felt and makes one wonder what the best path forward is.  Put restrictor plates on the growth?  Open immigration? Fast track re-education?  One of the main issues is that the 'experienced' cohort remain  in short supply.  And working in the energy business in western Canada, and particularly in the Fort McMurray region, there are some complex challenges.  So while skill and knowledge transfer is a reasonable expectation, people with hands on experience are unique.

As Alberta's oilsands developers get set to expand or launch new projects, recruiting firm Randstad Canada is telling them to expect a tougher time finding the seasoned engineers and managers they so desperately want.

"Pretty much every category now is in yellow working toward red (extreme shortage) because the expansion in Alberta is just massive," said Mike Winterfield, president of the professionals division for Randstad.
The most in-demand engineering positions include civil, mechanical and electrical with expertise in areas such as pipe design, instrumentation and project management.

Randstad rates the shortages by how much time and effort it takes to fill a position.

"If we work for a client and one job takes us five hours to fill and another 48 hours or longer, that is a signal. The number of people we can find per job order is the metric that we look at," said Winterfield, who notes his firm will use its job-seeker files, referrals and links throughout industry to approach potential candidates.

And the toughest task is finding mid-career engineers with 10 to 20 years of experience.

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