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Fossil Recovery Won’t Bring ‘Huge Spike’ in Jobs

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With the fossil industry largely in recovery—and the Trudeau government under intense pressure to amp up its support for new fossil infrastructure—North Americans had best think twice before assuming that more oil and gas activity will translate into a jobs boom in the oilpatch.

The oil and gas industry is in a recovery, but companies are still operating with the ‘do more with less’ approach, simply because this time there won’t be a huge spike in labour increases,” industry newsletter Rigzone reported late last month. “Ensuring the existing work force is right-sized with the right talent becomes the priority for talent managers.”

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“We want to make sure we don’t have ‘drilling professionals,’ but ‘professional drillers,’” said Shelby Bybee, manager of competency development for Luxembourg-based Pacific Drilling. “That means a core group of not only qualified and capable individuals, but individuals who have strong leadership and communication skills that set themselves apart from those people who are just capable people in the industry.”

Our industry’s career paths have been very linear,” added David E. Williams, the company’s director of training and organizational development. “For example, a roustabout—regardless of what their aspirations might be—takes the career path they feel they have to because the driller did it, the tool pusher did it…everyone’s followed the same path.”

Now, companies will be looking for job development processes “to show how to matriculate from one discipline to another,” Williams said. “From a talent management standpoint, having a system in place empowers us more to make those strategic decisions.”

The upshot is a leaner, more streamlined fossil sector looking to keep costs down and hire fewer, more versatile workers. For some of the less-skilled jobs in the industry, like heavy truck operators [2], the industry uses the curious language of “de-manning [3]” to describe the future [4] it sees ahead.