Calgary at a Crossroads

Frustrated by the job hunt and uncertain about the future, hundreds of out-of-work Calgarians came out to Mount Royal University on Wednesday evening in search of help.

An information session titled "Boom, Bust and You" attracted 250 people, most of them recently — or not so recently — laid off from the oil and gas sector.

Janelle Dabisza was let go from her position as a land administrator nine months ago, and said her efforts to find new work have so far been unsuccessful.

It's a demoralizing process, she said, but she was hopeful that the seminar would offer new avenues for employment, and new confidence that there's life after oil and gas.

Janelle Dabisza cardkit

Charles Webber, dean of continuing education at MRU, said the last few months have seen fewer and fewer prospective students registering for courses in oil and gas related fields.

"Part of that is due to the fact that a lot of our business and professional education is funded by employers — about 80 per cent of the people in those courses have their fees paid for by the employers," Webber said.

"And of course, businesses and corporations are laying people off and saving every penny they can by not funding professional development."

At the same time, he said more and more Calgarians are seeking training in communications, personal fitness, massage therapy and even the funeral industry.

Maureen Jarvis may join those ranks.

After working for years as an engineering technologist in oil and gas, she was laid off in September and has been unable to find work in the field since.

Maureen Jarvis

Jarvis said she doesn't want to go back to school for an extended period of time, but she's seeing few options other than retraining.

"There's really not a lot out there. And what there is, there's a lot of competition," she said.

"Even when times are good, people are applying for jobs that they really aren't experienced with, but they're hoping they can get their foot in. So I know that for every position that I'm applying for, I can guarantee there's hundreds and hundreds of others that are also applying for the same role."

For Shikha Khindri, who used to work in the financial industry before emigrating to Canada, retraining is more a matter of ensuring she has the necessary certifications required by employers here.

Shikha Khindri

After spending most of her Canadian life raising her daughter and then going through a messy separation, Khindri said she's now hoping to break into the working world but it comes at a particularly challenging time.

"I don't have any direct experience here, plus I don't have any education or certification from here," she said.

The information session at MRU was the first of a series that's planned to help people who are looking for a career transition.

Calgary at a Crossroads is CBC Calgary's special focus on life in our city during the downturn. A look at Calgary's culture, identity and what it means to be Calgarian. Read more stories from the series at Calgary at a Crossroads.


  • An earlier version of this story said that Maureen Jarvis had sent out hundreds of resumes but received no job offers. To clarify, Jarvis actually said she knows that for every position she applies for, the company will receive hundreds of applications from other job hunters.
    Jan 22, 2016 11:00 AM MT