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Major increase in Alberta oil sands employment

05.01.2012  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX


Alberta’s oil sands industry, which employed just over 20,000 workers in 2011, is projected to grow its workforce by 73% by 2021, according to a new report released by the Petroleum Human Resources (HR) Council of Canada.

The report states that some oil sands operations and occupations are forecasted to add over 100% of their current workforce by 2021. The Petroleum HR Council’s outlook provides oil sands labor demand projections and analysis based on data for 55 core occupations within three facility/operation types: in situ, mining and upgrading.

It describes how technological changes, as well as shifts in the regulatory and business environments, are impacting how the oil sands sector does business and what types of workers are required.

For example, employment within in-situ operations will experience the greatest growth, driving a number of emerging occupations and an increased reliance on the oil and gas support services workforce, the report says.

Increased mining and upgrading activities will also contribute to the sector’s employment growth (Fig. 2).

  Fig. 2.  Alberta’s oil sands industry is projected
  to grow its workforce by 73% by 2021.
  Photo courtesy of Suncor.

“The oil sands sector entered 2012 with a healthy dose of optimism, with all indicators (notably stable oil prices and strong international investment) pointing to continued expansion,” said Cheryl Knight, CEO of the Petroleum HR Council. “Demand for more workers is being driven primarily by growth in the sector, however, our research tells us that the supply of skilled workers remains very tight. Going forward, age-related attrition and competition from other industries will further escalate labor and skills shortages faced by the sector. In fact, the sector may need to hire 116% of its current employment levels due to industry expansion, retirements and losing people to other industries.”

The report also states that industry will be challenged to manage workforce costs in this employee-driven labor market.

The oil sands sector will have to give considerable thought to effective and efficient strategies to work with the construction, maintenance, and oil and gas support services sectors, which are critical to the growth and sustainability of oil sands operations, the report’s authors say. The study was funded by the Government of Alberta.  HP

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