The Book of Jobs

Oil prices go down and then they go up again – and the jobs fol­low. In our an­nual re­port on en­ergy busi­ness ca­reers, we take a look at to­day’s in-de­mand skills, re­ces­sion-proof sec­tors and what stu­dents and new grad­u­ates are do­ing to get ahead in the ene

Alberta Oil - - CONTENTS - By Nick Wil­son

In to­day’s tough job cli­mate, we found the in-de­mand skills, the down­turn-proof pro­fes­sions, and the new en­trants who are mak­ing in­dus­try ca­reers work for them

STU­DENTS LEAVE CLASS­ROOMS BRIM­MING WITH QUAL­I­FI­CA­TIONS, AS­PI­RA­TIONS AND DREAMS. But some­times the wider world can seem im­mune to all that. Those grad­u­ates with the in-de­mand skills that the oil in­dus­try needs know that they can still en­joy a re­ward­ing, chal­leng­ing ca­reer. They just might have to wait for to­mor­row’s mar­ket, rather than to­day’s. Start­ing off in a down­turn, the chal­lenge is get­ting your feet se­cure on that first rung of the cor­po­rate lad­der.

In “Start­ing From the Bot­tom,” we ex­am­ine ex­actly that – how to start a new ca­reer in the middle of a deep slump. We talked to a cross-sec­tion of col­lege grad­u­ates look­ing to en­ter the in­dus­try, and sur­veyed them on their ex­pe­ri­ences and hopes.

And then there’s the view from the top of the cor­po­rate lad­der. It’s never easy to lay off staff, es­pe­cially those who have been with the com­pany for many years. In “Break­ing Up Is Hard To Do (Right),” we look at how en­ergy firms should – and should not – make those most dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions.

Fi­nally, “Mind The Gap” ex­plores how the evolv­ing oil in­dus­try has cre­ated open­ings – and even booms – for cer­tain niche pro­fes­sions as com­pa­nies change their ex­pec­ta­tions to match mar­ket moods and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances. Strangely, even oil-loathing en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and the en­ergy re­ces­sion have played key roles in cre­at­ing the cur­rent skills gaps and the hope that shines through them.

When the sun shines full again on the oil patch, job seek­ers and switch­ers will once more en­joy the warmth of a boom­ing job mar­ket. We took a peek ahead to see which pro­fes­sions will be most in de­mand when this year’s first-year stu­dents grad­u­ate.

THE CANA­DIAN OIL IN­DUS­TRY SHED TENS OF THOU­SANDS OF JOBS in 2015, and it’s ex­pected to cut even more this year. Yet, there are still some ar­eas in the sec­tor that are rel­a­tively un­scathed – and even grow­ing. The key fac­tors that cre­ated this skills-gap safe haven are the rapid ad­vance­ment of oil­field tech­nolo­gies, the con­stant drive to­wards cost-cut­ting in­no­va­tions, and some new sec­tors open­ing up. “The in­dus­try has changed dra­mat­i­cally in the past few years,” says Carol Howes, the vice pres­i­dent of Pe­tro­leum Labour Mar­ket In­for­ma­tion (PetroLMI). “The ex­pec­ta­tions of oil com­pa­nies have changed.”


The re­ces­sion is dec­i­mat­ing some pro­fes­sions but it is also driv­ing ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy that boosts op­er­a­tional ef­fi­cien­cies. PetroLMI, the hu­man re­sources divi­sion of oil and gas safety as­so­ci­a­tion Enform, has pub­lished a re­port high­light­ing th­ese changes. It iden­ti­fies in­creased use of mea­sure­ment-while-drilling and log­ging-while-drilling tools, which col­lect data to im­prove drilling ac­cu­racy. An­other ca­reer-open­ing new tech­nol­ogy is mi­cro-seis­mic mon­i­tor­ing of frack­ing, which col­lects and an­a­lyzes data to map ge­o­log­i­cal im­pact, boost out­put and min­i­mize the num­ber of wells and frac­tures re­quired. “Th­ese types of tech­nol­ogy will drive the need for work­ers with back­grounds in field op­er­a­tions, geo­physics, ge­ol­ogy, and reser­voir and com­ple­tions en­gi­neer­ing,” the re­port says.

Frack­ing brought other seis­mic shifts to the la­bor mar­ket. NGLs out­put has leapt dra­mat­i­cally and is still in­creas­ing, re­quir­ing process oper­a­tors. It also boosts the waste­water and de­sali­na­tion sec­tors. The re­ces­sion is in­creas­ing the need to cut costs for truck­ing in wa­ter, boost­ing re­cy­cling tech­nol­ogy de­mand. So de­spite spud­ding slow­ing to a near stand­still, throw­ing drillers out of work, fracked wells are still cre­at­ing new jobs for some pro­fes­sions. “Dis­posal wells and process re­cov­ery dis­posal units are some­what re­ces­sion proof in that they do typ­i­cally han­dle both drilling wastes and pro­duc­tion wastes,”

says Gib­sons En­ergy spokes­woman Amanda Condie. “The drilling vol­umes have def­i­nitely come off for our­selves and all of our peers, but the pro­duced wa­ter vol­umes are hold­ing up very well. We have only seen a min­i­mal num­ber of shut-ins to date and over­all pro­duc­tion is still grow­ing, which helps to sus­tain ac­tiv­ity lev­els in this por­tion of the busi­ness.” For those in the wa­ter sec­tor, not only is it sta­ble work, but the re­train­ing and skills build­ing is con­stant and on­go­ing. Each wa­ter or waste­water op­er­a­tor is re­quired to com­plete ed­u­ca­tional units ev­ery year to en­sure they re­main up to date.


Iron­i­cally, pro­tes­tors who dis­like the oil in­dus­try have helped cre­ate and ex­pand pro­fes­sions within it. In­creased pub­lic scru­tiny of frack­ing and pipe­lines has cre­ated new growth in the reg­u­la­tory, stake­holder and abo­rig­i­nal re­la­tions fields within the en­ergy busi­ness. Qual­i­fi­ca­tions re­quired to en­ter the lat­ter typ­i­cally in­clude a de­gree or diploma in pub­lic re­la­tions, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, jour­nal­ism and/or busi­ness. Pub­lic scru­tiny has co­in­cided with the search for new mar­kets, such as for LNG and for crude ex­ports to Europe and Asia. To­gether those have ex­panded the num­ber of en­vi­ron­men­tal off­shore mon­i­tor­ing jobs. This is in ad­di­tion to the spe­cial­ist en­gi­neer­ing, busi­ness and mar­ket­ing roles that new mar­kets bring. Part and par­cel to pub­lic scru­tiny are the ever-in­creas­ing reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments on the in­dus­try, which drive de­mand for reg­u­la­tory and com­pli­ance roles. To com­ply with reg­u­la­tions, as well as to pre­vent oil spills, pipe­line in­tegrity spe­cial­ists keep a keen eye on the sec­tor’s ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture. Chris McNelly, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Hu­man Re­sources In­sti­tute of Al­berta, says that pipe­line main­te­nance and mon­i­tor­ing ca­reers are only grow­ing in im­por­tance. “There’s an in­cred­i­ble amount of pipe­lines in Al­berta,” he says. Fur­ther­more, the con­stantly ex­pand­ing pipe­line net­work also raises de­mand for mid­stream pres­sure welders at a time when up­stream struc­tural welders are be­ing laid off. An­other area of growth is crude by rail. In Al­berta, rail­way ter­mi­nal hubs are boom­ing, re­quir­ing ter­mi­nal at­ten­dants, tracks men, con­trol cen­ter oper­a­tors and land tech­ni­cians.


The slump in tra­di­tional en­ergy pro­fes­sions will bot­tom out. And in ad­di­tion to the re­bound cre­at­ing fu­ture jobs, there is a very large per­cent­age of baby boomers who will re­tire over the next few years,

which, Howes says, “is help­ful for young stu­dents think­ing four or five years out.” PetroLMI did a sur­vey of a num­ber of com­pa­nies in the in­dus­try and 50 per­cent of re­spon­dents said that those staff who are el­i­gi­ble to re­tire will re­tire. The sur­vey found there will be in­creas­ing de­mand growth among ac­count­ing and fi­nan­cial pro­fes­sion­als, heavy equip­ment oper­a­tors, geo­sci­en­tists and en­gi­neers.


Many laid-off oil veter­ans are re­train­ing, join­ing as­pir­ing first-time en­trants back in the class­room. In 2015, Cal­gary’s South­ern Al­berta In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (SAIT) saw a three-per­cent in­crease in ap­pli­ca­tions for train­ing com­pared to 2014. The school has oil and gas ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees to de­ter­mine what’s needed now in the in­dus­try, and what will be needed in three years. “The cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents to look longer-term and train for the fu­ture so they are ready to make an im­pact on the work­force when the la­bor mar­ket im­proves,” says Rand Ayres, SAIT’s in­terim dean of the MacPhail School of En­ergy.

Ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions are ris­ing to the chal­lenge to re­flect the rapidly chang­ing la­bor mar­ket. The use of ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy makes com­puter lit­er­acy es­sen­tial to nearly all jobs in the patch. David Schneider, an education man­ager at CDI Col­lege in Cal­gary, which of­fers a diploma in Oil & Gas Ad­min­is­tra­tion, says the school rou­tinely sees es­tab­lished in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als en­rolling to up­date their dig­i­tal lit­er­acy. The pipe­line in­tegrity in­dus­try does much of its own in-house train­ing be­cause there are no pipe­line en­gi­neer­ing de­grees. Right now, in­spec­tion com­pa­nies are see­ing a lot of job ap­pli­cants but very few have the spe­cific skills needed, such as non-de­struc­tive test­ing (NDT) pipe­line in­tegrity tech­ni­cians with up to 12 months of train­ing. Some firms say that most roles need in­di­vid­u­als with elec­tri­cal, me­chan­i­cal or in­stru­men­ta­tion tick­ets, in ad­di­tion to a high school diploma. This spring, SAIT will launch a new pipe­line tech­ni­cian course. Mean­while, Ed­mon­ton’s North­ern Al­berta In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (NAIT) is in the process of de­ter­min­ing how much de­mand ex­ists for a fu­ture pipe­line in­spec­tion course.

An­other growth area in the down­turn is for steam power en­gi­neers who op­er­ate in­dus­trial boil­ers such as those used in the oil sands. “In­dus­try keeps say­ing we need more,” says NAIT busi­ness man­ager, Todd Sum­ner. Those oil sands plants will keep run­ning, re­gard­less of whether the ex­pan­sion of the oil sands has slowed or not.



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