Due to being the fifth and fourth largest producer of oil and gas respectively, Canada has been providing hundreds of thousands of jobs to people from across the globe for decades, fueling its own economy in the process. The last 3 years has seen over $65 billion taken out of Canada’s oil and gas industry due to a decline in capital investment and plummeting crude oil prices, resulting in extreme cost-cutting, mass job losses and the cancellation of dozens of projects. Sixty-five percent of oil and gas companies have reduced their staff, resulting in approximately 100,000 workers being made redundant.
Many skilled oil and gas workers have relocated abroad or to new states in search of work, not only due to redundancy, but also to the collapse of oil and gas training programs which could have provided them with the retraining for related jobs. Any new investment, whether project- or technology-related has therefore followed them. Job creation in this sector has been tight throughout Canada.
’The suicide rate in Alberta climbs 30% in wake of mass oil patch layoffs’ CBC News, December 2015
‘Saskatchewan, another energy-dependent region, has a higher rate, and it’s seen 19% more suicides this year’ The Guardian, December 2015
By the end of 2015, requests to the Calgary Distress Centre for counselling services had increased by 80% according to counsellor, David Kirby (CBC News, 2015). He claims the issues people are facing are vast, including substance abuse, financial collapse, anxiety, depression and relationship conflict. For those lucky enough to still be in employment, longer working hours are causing high levels of stress and fears that complaints will result in their lay-off too.
According to the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the oil and gas crisis in Scotland has “critically undermined rig safety, as workers fear reporting issues in case it results in job loss, causing serious health and safety implications – and there is fear a similar issue could be uncovered in the Canadian industry. As in Canada, workers are facing redundancy, shift pattern changes, wage reductions and loss of colleagues, and are being expected to take on their work.
We caught up with David Kirby recently to talk about the impact of job loss on mental health, how job loss can affect the family unit, and the work of the Calgary Distress Centre.
“In general our agency has seen about a 15% increase in service use over the past two years that we relate to the recession and impacts of it in the energy sector in Calgary. Certainly, we’ve had many more calls related to resources for emergency financial assistance to pay for rents, mortgages, utility bills, and even to put food on the table. The amount of suffering created by the recession and sector slowdown in Calgary and across our province has been unfathomable. Anecdotally, we can say that this is certainly the worst we ever seen it locally.”
Commenting on how the Distress Centre helps those facing job loss to cope, David said:
“In general we encourage people to reach out and talk to someone (i.e. our 24-hour crisis lines) when they’re feeling stressed about their future. We know that the sooner people reach out for help, the more likely the psychological impacts can be lessened. We encourage people affected by job loss to use their support system, focus on what they can control, develop an action plan for creating some positive change, and use the time to evaluate their values, priorities, and focus time and energy on self-care.
Many people find the prospect of having to ‘start over’ very much intimidating and difficult to cope with. We often encourage people to use the time to reconnect with their values and reconsider other hopes and dreams they may have had at earlier points in their lives, essentially trying to turn a negative into a positive.”
“Unless you have strong mediatory factors in place – such as good supervisors and HR support, chronic stress can be very negative, not just for the individual but also the organisation.”Margaret Crichton, Managing Director of People Factor Consultants (PFC)
Fortunately, the Canadian oil and gas industry is forecast to recover this year. Employment will grow steadily between 2017 and 2020 as new investment is placed in projects including a large two-train LNG facility in British Columbia. Market prices will increase from US$40 per barrel to US$71 with profits reaching 2010’s level of $13 billion by 2021. This is clearly positive, but because of the effects of the recent downturn, employers should put preventative measures in place and provide support for those showing signs of stress.
‘’5,200 wells are expected to be drilled across the country this year, an increase of 975 wells projected in November’’ Calgary Herald
Downturn relocations, baby-boomer retirements and technological advancements are causing an urgent need to appeal to younger workers from across the globe. With recent mental health campaigns such as Canada’s, ‘Not Myself Today’ and England’s, ‘Time To Change’ the younger generation are becoming more aware of its potential impact, explaining their greater likelihood to take part. They are also expecting a more open approach to mental health, demanding their employers account for this. Therefore, oil and gas companies should act, not only to attract new workers, but to give much needed support to their current ones.
When you’re living with mental illness, external circumstances that would normally be stressful for anybody are even more stressful. Job loss and unemployment certainly fall into that category. When faced with such a scary situation, it is more important than ever to make sure you’re using healthy coping mechanism, sticking to a routine as much as possible and staying productive, maintaining any treatment and also seeking additional help if necessary. Counseling and therapy can be beneficial in particularly difficult situations, especially as a supplement to other treatment methods and self-care.
Chelsea Ricchio, Communications Manager,Healthy Minds Canada
In recent years, there have been examples of the industry becoming more aware of mental health and its importance, Continue reading “Mental Health in the Oil & Gas Industry”
A review of the employment environment in the energy sector by Petroplan has found that, despite a major contraction in the value of the energy employment market over the past two years, global oil prices are now around the level where demand for talent looks set to pick up again.
Respondents from thirty-five organisations from across the major global oil and gas hubs participated in the survey, the aim of which was to gain insight from the industry’s employers on the prospects for recovery, and how this would impact on hiring in the near future.
Contract staff are likely to be in the vanguard of any recovery, with over two-thirds of respondents expecting greater use of contractors, bringing with them the flexibility and cost control which are critical in the current business environment. The use of Western expat contractors – long seen as a mainstay of the oil and gas industry – looks set to decline however as lower-cost local talent upskills and nationalisation targets take effect.
Activity is expected to pick up on onshore rigs first (in the US, then Middle East, Asia and Africa), followed by shallow water projects. Experienced technical talent, as well as those with a combination of technical and financial skills, look set to be most in demand in any recovery. Mechanical and chemical engineers, project managers and IT experts were among the shortage roles cited in the survey.
If anything, the oil price downturn since mid-2014 has increased the demographic challenge the industry faces, with experienced middle managers laid off and millennials put off entering the industry. While two thirds of respondents recognise the challenge as a major obstacle to growth, there was a feeling that multi-skilling and up-skilling the existing workforce will help to address it.
Rory Ferguson, CEO of Petroplan, said: “After a very challenging couple of years, our review reflects a cautious optimism for the future among energy employers. This is feeding through into hiring strategies that are focussed to a greater degree on cost efficiency and flexibility – but not at the expense of quality”.
“Something that came across very strongly from the review is that, whilst employers want to fill roles quickly, they also want to find the right candidate in terms of technical and business culture fit. Reconciling these two is where specialist recruiters such as Petroplan play a key role, even more so with the reduction of internal recruitment teams in many organisations”.
Full findings and analysis from the ‘Energy Talent Explorer Review’ can be found at: https://www.petroplan.com/about/energy-talent-explorer-review/
Matthew Branch didn’t embark on his career with a view to working in the oil and gas recruitment industry. He graduated with a degree in Accounting and Law, but quickly concluded that it wasn’t for him. “I had friends working in recruitment, making a good deal of money whilst enjoying the job” Matt says, “and I thought – if they can do that, I can too.”
Matt secured his first role as a trainee recruitment consultant and soon found that it suited his personality. “It’s all about mixing and matching people to roles” he says, “I found this hugely satisfying.”
Eight years on he was introduced to Petroplan, and considered the benefits of working in the energy industry: “I had some prior exposure to the world of oil and gas via my uncle, who works out in Romania in drilling and exploration. I had a real desire to travel and work in foreign climates and I knew from my uncle’s experience that the oil and gas industry is very global, affording its workers a lot of opportunity to do exactly this.”
After landing the job with Petroplan, Matt quickly found other distinct benefits to working as a specialist oil and gas recruiter: “It’s different to the other forms of recruitment I’ve had exposure to. You’re working to place intelligent people – experts in their field– which keeps things interesting and provides great experience in developing business relationships. You also take a bird’s eye view of an entire project as you’re responsible for sourcing talent at each stage, and feel very much a partner to the client. General recruitment is often much more narrow, you’re replacing roles without needing to understand the client’s operations or aims. The former is far more satisfying.”
Matt saw his desire for travel fulfilled in 2013 when he moved to Petroplan’s Canada office as a senior recruiter. “The role is a little different to what I was doing in the UK; instead of looking after one specific client, I place a wide range of candidates with various companies. I like the more hands-on nature of this work.” Matt’s current role sees him working regularly with major energy companies placing candidates into a host of contrasting positions from senior planners to engineers.
Why Canada? “Canada was always high up my wish list”, states Matt, “Margins on successful placements tend to be higher in this market while living costs are around the same as in London, meaning I have a lot more disposable income. Also, in Canada you’re fishing in an especially small pool of workers due to restrictive labour laws, so the work is much more of a relationship-based, headhunting exercise. This is precisely the work I enjoy as it has more of a personal edge.”
What skills have allowed Matt to get this far? “Tenaciousness”, he explains, “You need a go-getting attitude, and a willingness to persevere. Some weeks you’ll get nowhere, and then a bunch of leads will suddenly come at once. The key is to stay motivated. Given the importance of relationships, a thick skin and flair for diplomacy are also major pluses.”
Matt is now looking to use his newfound earnings to buy a house. And what of his future career? “Above everything else the travel aspect appeals to me”, concludes Matt, “eventually I’ll probably want to see where else my career takes me – South Africa is an attractive option. The great thing about working in oil and gas is that I’ve no doubt such opportunities will come my way.