Edmonton

Lay-off fears inspire Fort McMurray man to launch oilsands jobs site

Mike Vickers knew he was about to lose his job. He was working in the oilsands north of Fort McMurray, but the once booming oil and gas industry was headed for a bust.

'All these people I worked with didn't even know where to begin. They didn't even know where to start'

Thousands of workers who work in the Alberta resource industry have lost their jobs over the past couple of years due to the low price of oil. (Norm Betts/Bloomberg News)

Mike Vickers knew he was about to lose his job.

He was working in the oilsands north of Fort McMurray, but the once booming oil and gas industry was headed for a bust.

Thousands of people were losing their jobs as the price of oil plummeted. Rumours of pending lay-offs flew around the job site.

He found a new job before the cuts came down, but not without a struggle.

Vickers says he, like so many industry workers, didn't know where to begin his search.

"It was extremely difficult. And not only difficult, but very time consuming," Vickers said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"The biggest struggle I found is I had to go to six major websites across the internet to find the jobs that were related to me."

And it was that apprehensive search six months ago which inspired Vickers to create a new job listings website dedicated solely to the industry.

"They were about to give a lot of layoffs and all these people I worked with didn't even know where to begin. They didn't even know where to start," Vickers said.

"I've touched base with so many families out there that have been affected by this downturn and there are so many hurt families and the money is not where it needs to be. So I really wanted to develop something to help these guys."

'It's starting to pay off' 

Oilfield Job Shop is a self-populating site which allows job seekers to easily search for openings in their specific field, and more closely match their qualifications to active postings in the oil and gas sector.

It's a service Vickers says hadn't existed before.

"It's been going on for so long now but it's never been an issue before because we had an abundance of jobs," said Vickers.

"Employers would pretty much talk to an employee and hire them on spot … there was never a need for something like this before, and I'm really hoping it will help people out during these downtimes."

The website has become a labour of love for Vickers, who works long shifts in the oilsands, only to come home and work late into the night curating the page.

"With my shifts here up north, I'm usually spending 12 hours on site, two-and-a-half hours on travel, and then the rest of the time working on the website.

"I'm only getting between four and five hours of sleep, but it's starting to pay off in the thanks that I'm getting."

'I know it's worth it' 

Vickers said the site continues to grow, and employers are now approaching him with listings.

And although the exact figures are impossible to track,Vickers says he knows for certain the webpage has helped Albertans find work during the downturn.

The strongest proof came from a stranger who was working alongside him north of Fort McMurray.

"This random person came up to me on site and asked who I was. He asked if I was Mike Vickers. And I said, 'Yeah what can I do for you?'

"And he stopped me right there and said, 'No what can I do for you?

"This guy had applied for a job that I had posted online and he got the job. He was so overwhelmed, which made me crazy overwhelmed. It made me break down right there.

"That made me say, I know what I'm doing is going to help and I know it's worth it."   

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