Fort McMurray has seen its unemployment rate more than double in the past year as oilsands operations laid off staff, meaning a lot of skilled workers are sitting on their hands waiting for work. 

Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding says they should consider heading east.

Irving was awarded a $25-billion contract with the federal government to build new combat vessels and Arctic offshore patrol ship. That work starts in the fall and Irving will be in Fort McMurray on Wednesday to look for skilled trades and others who are willing to work at its Halifax shipyard.

"We're looking for over 200 skilled journeymen, welders, pipefitters, fabricators and iron workers," said Mary Keith, vice president of communications with Irving Shipbuilding. "And in addition, JD Irving Limited is looking to hire professionals in the area of finance, human resources, engineering as well as supply chain." 

Fort McMurray is famous as a temporary home for workers commuting from the Maritimes. Irving is hoping to bring some of those workers permanently home.

"We know there are a number of Maritimers certainly making the commute," said Keith. " We held a job fair recently in Halifax and actually had a number of people who were driven by their family members directly from the red eye coming into Nova Scotia to the job fair that we had."  

Morgan Perry

Morgan Perry is a welder and pipefitter who attended the Irving Shipbuilding job fair looking for work. The Albertan says he's willing to move to Halifax. (Terry Reith/CBC)

Morgan Perry is a welder and pipefitter who is looking for work and attended the fair. He didn't bring a resume, but was asked to do some testing on the spot.

"I wasn't quite sure what to expect," said Perry. "Myself being an Albertan moving all the way across the country felt a little weird. But it was something that was intruiging."

Perry said he's willing to move. "I've been to every province. I thought Halifax was beautiful."

According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in the Wood Buffalo region (Fort McMurray's municipality) has more than doubled in the past year from 4.2 per cent to 8.6 per cent. There are 8,000 people in the region looking for work.


  • A previous version of this story said the unemployment rate in Fort McMurray had risen to 8.3 per cent this year from 4.7 per cent last year. In fact, the unemployment rate in the Fort McMurray region has risen to 8.6 per cent this year from 4.2 per cent last year.
    Jul 07, 2015 5:22 PM ET
With files from Briar Stewart