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Untapped Potential: Opportunity to Transition
For decades, the oil and gas industry has attracted the best and brightest. This skilled, educated, and experienced workforce bolstered strength in operations, pursued technological advancements, and found safer ways to work day-to-day. In more recent years, the industry has faced declining oil prices, accelerated use of digitization and automation, and, a COVID-led slowdown of the economy. With these realities, companies have learned to do more with less. Oil and gas industry layoffs have left an untapped pool of talent who can not only lend knowledge, education and experience to other industries across Canada, but can also help lead the way to a resilient economic recovery.
Like the oil and gas industry, many of these other industries in Canada are undergoing their own transition, which is driving the need for different skills and new roles. This transformation makes it an ideal time for employers to implement a workforce strategy that both finds and optimizes an available talent pool.
Having a robust workforce strategy that includes leveraging these workers in transition to new careers and other industry sectors, can help mitigate “brain drain” between regions. According to ATB Financial, Alberta lost residents to other parts of Canada for the third quarter in a row and most residents moved to British Columbia. Albertans also left for Ontario, Atlantic provinces, Quebec and the Territories.
Figuring out where skills fit
To be successful in the marketplace, unemployed and underemployed workers need to explore ways to redirect their careers, upskill and reskill. For organizations, upskilling and reskilling workers also makes business sense. These workers can reduce the need to fill in-demand positions from outside the organization that may result in inflated wages and talent costs, particularly for highly sought-after talent.
Upskilling is about more than just providing access to training. It’s about identifying the experience that will be most valuable for these new roles, understanding skill gaps and identifying the right people for those roles. Upskilling also makes financial sense. In a recent publication, PwC found that companies could expect a return on their investment of at least US$2 in revenue or savings for each dollar invested in upskilling.
Workers, industries and governments will all need to do their part to close the gap in addressing the required skills for the future.
What the Untapped Talent survey tells us
To gain a better understanding of the oil and gas talent available to support a workforce transition, PetroLMI completed an Untapped Talent survey. The survey gathered detailed information from over 2,000 respondents from across Canada who had previously worked in the oil and gas industry and were actively seeking employment at the time of the survey (between October 1, 2019 and December 29, 2020).
The survey found that they tended to be a more mature and experienced labour force with 42% of participants over the age of 55 and 77% indicating they had over 15 years of experience., This talent pool was also highly educated, with 86% of respondents indicating they had post-secondary education. In Alberta, most of the respondents held a university degree (including bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral), while trade certification was most cited by others in the rest of Canada.
The layoffs that occurred among respondents were broad and impacted a wide range of job families and occupations from trades, truck drivers, technologists and technicians to geoscientists, engineers and information technologists. The talent pool also included occupations that tended to be transferable across industries including finance, accounting, human resources, health and safety, sales, marketing and business development. They also included field operations and drilling workers with transferable skills such as working in safety-sensitive workplaces, critical thinking and problem-solving. As a result, construction and renewable energy companies have begun hiring from this talent pool.
Further, the survey results showed this workforce has a history of successfully transitioning between industries. On average, respondents indicated they had worked in two industries in addition to oil and gas, demonstrating an ability to adjust to career change, adapt to market demand and leverage their skills and expertise across sectors.
When asked about other industry experience, the construction industry was cited most frequently, but it varied based on the region and differing provincial economies. Those in the Alberta oil and gas talent pool, for example, also had experience in natural resources and technical sectors such as agriculture, mining, healthcare and education. Those in British Columbia, meanwhile, said they had experience in forestry, utilities and agriculture.
PetroLMI consultations with non oil and gas industry representatives show an increased interest in the skills, knowledge and expertise offered by the available oil and gas talent pool. They recognize these individuals already know how to manage and execute complex projects as well as operate in a safety-sensitive environment – important skills to bring to their organizations. Further still, organizations are beginning to recognize that as they undertake activities the oil and gas industry has been implementing for years, such as cross-functional integration, process improvement and production optimization, they can tap into a talent pool with skills to solve complex engineering and scientific problems, analyze data, assess risk and navigate strict regulatory environments —allowing them to move their organizations forward using proven skills and knowledge.
There is an opportunity, therefore, to view layoffs in Canada’s oil and gas industry as a vehicle for other industries, particularly emerging sectors, to leverage talent with deep expertise with transferable skills and who can support a broader recovery and economic growth.
Through collaboration between government, training organizations and employers, Canada can transform and diversify its economy while improving the economic contribution of these highly-skilled unemployed or underemployed workers.
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