Companies operating in the booming oil sands are addressing a manpower shortage head on – with pro-active human resources departments leading the way.
Given evolving technology and a continued focus on sustainable development as well as cost management, HR staff are adapting to trends that affect the oil sands workforce.
Organizations such as the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada compile employment information that lists job categories and labour outlooks. Research is also conducted on future growth projections.
A recent survey by the council showed that attraction and retention of workers in hard-to-recruit locations topped the list of pressing workforce challenges. That was followed by labour and skills shortages, employee turnover/retention, and managing productivity and employee engagement.
At Cenovus Energy, a Canadian oil company with head offices in Calgary, attention is always given to bridging the labour gap, says spokesperson Jessica Wilkinson. Making sure Cenovus has the appropriate staff needed to expand its operation is an important part of corporate business planning, she explains.
“Cenovus has developed a long-term workforce strategy to address these issues,” says Ms. Wilkinson. “We currently have a staff of about 4,700 people. By 2021, we expect that number will rise to about 7,000.”
She says that Cenovus has a robust recruitment program, and features a strong student and new-graduate initiative to ensure that talented, skilled people are attracted to the business.
“Internal promotions, succession planning and retention are also important elements of our plan,” she explains. “We are also able to offer long-term work for our contractors, greatly reducing the seasonality that is often the norm in the oil and gas industry.”
“We’re trying to come up with industry-wide solutions, so Devon isn’t just hiring from competitors. It’s about tapping into other available pools of skilled workers across Canada and supporting them to make the transition to industry.”
Jackson White, manager of talent acquisition at Devon Canada, an oil and natural gas exploration and production company, says the sector is trying to address some of the challenges associated with drawing from a limited talent pool.
“The industry currently faces the challenge of addressing abundant opportunities with limited labour supply,” he says. “We’re trying to come up with industry-wide solutions, so Devon isn’t just hiring from competitors. It’s about tapping into other available pools of skilled workers across Canada and supporting them to make the transition to industry.”
He says the federal government has done a lot in a short period of time to help the sector with its HR challenges.
“That’s been done by reducing some of the barriers and time it takes to bring foreign workers into the country,” Mr. White says, “and still doing it in a very responsible way, where we are protecting the needs of Canadians, making sure we have jobs for Canadians.”
From an industry-wide standpoint, there needs to be effective collaboration between industry, government and labour supply stakeholders in order to close any labour and skills gaps, says Cheryl Knight, executive director and CEO of the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada.
Ms. Wilkinson notes that the most important thing companies can do is to create an environment where people enjoy going to work.
“Once we get top people, we want to keep them,” she says.