The annual industry night at SAIT Polytechnic drew big crowds of students graduating from oil and gas-related programs eager to boost their job prospects in the slumping industry.
Thursday's event was a chance for students to get face time with energy sector leaders and network with potential employers.
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"There's definitely a subdued atmosphere here at school," said Matthias Warkentin, who will graduate from the petroleum engineering technology program in April.
"But there are still a lot of fields within the industry that are looking for people right now."
Warkentin says he is optimistic about finding work, but for now he plans to stay a few more years to get a full engineering qualification.
"I want to end up doing something environmental, hopefully something on the emissions side. I want to change the world," he said.
Marsha McInnis, who will return to her job in the industry after she completes the program this spring, says she has noticed other students taking a similar approach.
"Not everyone is feeling very positive about going out into the industry because the jobs just aren't there right now. So a lot of them are taking the route of becoming engineers and continuing on with university after this course," she said.
"Whereas six to seven years ago, coming out of this program, you had an amazing career waiting for you."
Doug Ramsay, vice chairman of Cal-Frac Oil Services, says his company has had to scale back the internships and practicums it offers students.
"I think everywhere where we have people, of course, it's really bad. This is a very difficult time in the business."
Ramsay encourages students to further their education, even outside the industry or to consider field-work over corporate positions.
"Because that's very, very important to success in the oil and gas business, is field experience," he said.
The program chair at SAIT says 90 per cent of graduates have found work in the past.