Canadian oil companies are bracing themselves for further labour shortages as the country starts to display strong signs of economic recovery.
New spending commitments from all over the world have been pouring into the oilsands region and experts are bracing themselves for unheard-of levels of labour shortages – even more so than during the 2008 record production times.
“Everybody’s got a bit of a guess at all of this, but the numbers are like nothing we’ve seen before,” said Flint Energy Services Ltd’s Brent Gurthrie. “Whereas Flint was bringing in hundreds in 2008, an expectation of going to 1,000 is not unheard of going forward … The local market gets burned out quite quickly on these major projects, and then everybody’s scrambling.”
The Alberta government is predicting a shortage of 77,000 workers in the coming decade, while some analysts in the oil sector are throwing out even larger numbers, like 130,000, considering the impending baby-boomer retirements in the coming years.
Employers see the potential of foreign workers to help ease these shortages, and are already planning on how to get them to Canada. It can take anywhere from three to six months for a temporary visa to come through, so for many companies the process has already begun.
“We’re looking at the 1,000-person mark [of foreign workers] for a prolonged period, probably peaking in late 2012,” said Gary Truhn of PCL Industrial Contractors Inc, one of the top builders in the oilsands region. “We think there are some major projects that are going to be there for quite a while.”
Already, from January to April of this year, nearly 10,000 applications for foreign workers have been filed by Alberta companies, and that number is sure to rise as the economy grows stronger.
Still, the process of importing foreign workers remains marred in controversy and the Alberta government claims that it is exploring other options, including incentives to workers from other provinces, and more autonomy over provincial powers to nominate certain workers for fast-track immigration.
Source: Globe and Mail