Oil Industry Labour Shortages Remedied with Newcomers to Canada


The oil industry in Alberta and Calgary is booming. As a result, Alberta Immigration is demanding more and more workers to meet increasing labour market demands. Luckily, many people from around the world are interested in enjoying and contributing to the resource-founded economic prosperity in Alberta. Canadian immigrants are becoming essential components of the labour shortage solution for Canadian oil and gas companies.

Canada has come under fire for using newcomers to close labour gaps when there are still unemployed Canadians. But as inter-provincial immigration remains low, it is becoming necessary to bring in Canadian immigrants with the proper skillsets to meet industry labour needs. Labour shortages are only expected to increase within the next 10 years. Projections indicate that the oil and gas industry will need between 125,000-150,000 additional workers in the next decade due to demand and baby boomer retirement. Further, oil companies are actively recruiting skilled engineers from other industries, fueling a broader and country-wide labour need for skilled newcomers to Canada.

In 2010 Calgary’s immigrant population was estimated to be 304,000—about 30% of the population. By 2020, the visible minority percentage of the city’s population is expected to reach 40% according to forecasting from Statistics Canada’s last census.

According to Cindy DeVouge, Chief development officer for Canadian immigrant services, “In terms of the immigrant population, 80 per cent that come from abroad are educated, so that is definitely a benefit to the Calgary community.”

Newcomers face several barriers upon their arrival for work in Canada. Though many immigrants are very skilled and qualified in their field, those who lack crucial language skills may find it difficult to establish grounds for communication between them and their colleagues. Canadian immigrants are also faced with the challenge of getting their degrees and qualifications from their country of origin accredited in Canada.

There have been measures to address these obstacles. DeVouge’s organization has introduced an “integrated mentorship program” that provides matches between newcomers and employers who assist the newcomers with resume-building, mock interviews and other job skills.  

The labour shortage crisis has also prompted oil and gas companies to implement “work-share” programs where the companies open offices abroad, usually in India or China. Skilled labour is easy to find in these countries but the quality of work tends to suffer as the local engineers are not familiar with Canadian work conditions, regulations and building codes.

Overall, it would be better for Canadian companies and the economy if newcomers were brought to Canada as opposed to having the companies outsource labour abroad. For this reason, continuing to welcome high volumes of skilled immigrants will fill labour gaps in Alberta and benefit many sectors across Canada.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For the latest updates on Canadian immigration and Canadian diversity, follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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