Workplace Wire

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Oil, Gas and Potash game changers for the fight over global talent pool


Global demand has voted and the results thus far have produced clear winners and losers.

While Canada’s manufacturing sector continues to struggle under intense global competitive pressure, the commodities sector has found itself in the middle of a grand party, awash in new investment and  experiencing exponential growth.  This has resulted in increased job opportunities in western provinces as compared to their central Canadian compatriots. 

How big are commodities?

According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Canada already produces approximately 3.2 million barrels of oil per day from a variety of sources.  This amount is forecast to increase to almost 5 million barrels by 2020, virtually all which will be produced in Western Canada.  Canada is already a major player in world oil production out-producing, among others, Venezuela, Brazil, Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Norway. 

Canada has also attracted a significant amount of investment in other commodity sectors.  For example, Canada is currently the largest producer and exporter of Potash and also the third largest producer of Natural Gas in the world. 

How is this growth affecting the labour market?

As Canada’s manufacturing sector loses ground to commodities, unemployment rates in both Ontario and Quebec  (along with all eastern provinces for that matter), continue to be significantly higher than western provinces.  To this end, the lowest rates of unemployment at present in Canada are Alberta, followed by Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 

At the same time, despite the rise in unemployment as a result of the last recession, there remain significant shortages of skilled labourers across a wide variety of industries.  Meanwhile, rapid expansions in natural resource production has led to growth in the underlying demand for skilled workers.

Crudely put (no pun intended), competition for skilled workers is heating up, and the commodities sector is becoming more aggressive at finding this talent wherever it can be found.

Given this environment, employers should be prepared for the increasing likelihood that they will be hiring foreign workers, either directly from a source country or from those who are already present in Canada.  As more companies hire foreign workers they will need to incorporate immigration matters, including hiring practices, into existing human resource policies.

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