Surge of unemployed Alberta oil professionals seek work

As Alberta's oil patch continues to feel the pinch from plunging oil prices, some Calgary staffing agencies say there is an unprecedented spike in energy industry professionals looking for work.

Employment experts say an unprecedented number of oil patch professionals are looking for work

Andrew Ward with Diversified Staffing says he has noticed a spike in the number of oil patch professionals looking for work. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

As Alberta's oil patch continues to feel the pinch from plunging oil prices, some Calgary staffing agencies say they have noticed an unprecedented spike in energy industry professionals showing up at their doors.

This one feels a bit different than previous years.- Andrew Ward, Diversified Staffing

The agencies say they are seeing more people with backgrounds in engineering, geology and accounting looking for permanent or temporary work.

"Thirty seven years as an organization we've seen this, but this one feels a bit different than previous years," said Diversified Staffing Director Andrew Ward. "We're seeing quite a few candidates who are highly marketable, highly skilled, highly trained."

Ward believes many who were laid off before the summer are now starting to explore the job market, while another wave of recently laid off workers is also in the market to find employment.

Last week the province released data indicating mass layoffs in Alberta so far this year are nearly double the number over the previous two years combined.

Andrew Nicol knows the scale of job losses among oil industry professionals in downtown Calgary first hand. He was employed as a geophysicist at a large oil company, when he was among four hundred people laid off last spring.

"It's the technical staff, engineers, geologists, geophysicists as well as the support staff, the finance, the technology, the IT and supply train," said Nicol.

Nicol is still unemployed and looking for a new job on his own but says it isn't easy finding work in his field in Calgary right now.

"It's unbelievable how many people have lost their jobs in such a short amount of time," he said.

Some willing to take lower-paying jobs

Chris Massie, an operations manager with About Staffing says he has also seen a surge in highly skilled applicants over the past two months.

And Massie has seen a significant drop in job orders over the past year, reflecting what many are calling an employer's market.

He says some of his clients are now accepting temporary work in lower paying positions.

"Now I think people have really amended their expectations. They've survived for as long as they can, and now they're willing to make the sacrifices that they need to," he said.

Still, some staffing specialists say there is some employment hope amid the stories of downturns and job losses in Alberta's oil patch.

Massie says sectors like retail, manufacturing and transportation are hiring professional level and permanent staff.

Andrew Ward of Diversified Staffing says there are still some engineering, IT and midstream energy companies that are hiring as well. He says now is the time to focus on how to stand out in a crowd.

"You realize now when you apply for a position, where there might have been limited choice before, you have a lot of marketable individuals who will be competing with you for those positions."


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