Canadians Are Moving West As Extractive, Oil and Gas Sectors Boom
By: Meirav Even-Har, Toronto
The 2011 Canadian census numbers released Wednesday, February 8, 2012 by Statistics Canada revealed what many suspected - Canadians are westbound. Western Canada, most notably Alberta and Saskatchewan, are experiencing economic growth in the mining, oil sands in-situ and petroleum services sectors. All while Ontario's economic muscles have weakened as automotive and manufacturing jobs are all but disappearing. A recent move by Caterpillar to shut its London, Ontario plant after workers refused to take an almost 50% pay cut, is one in a series of recent closures.
In Canada, population growth is strongly linked to immigration. According to an article by Joe Friesen in the Globe and Mail's February 4th print edition, "About two-thirds of Canadian population growth is due to immigration, the other third to births (the reverse is true for the U.S.)." Coupling the latest census news about migration from east to west to the fact that immigration is a key to the Canadian workforce, the result could be the changing face of western Canada - increased cultural diversity in cities and workforce.
Alberta, where the oil and gas industry dominates, according to Alberta Venture's "The 200 Highest Grossing Alberta companies 2011", companies such as Suncor Energy, Enbridge Inc., Encana, and Nexen Inc. all have strong diversity policies and employee engagement and retention programs in place. The four companies also ranked numbers 47th, 71st, 76th and 89th respectively, in the Corporate Knights 2012 Global 100 list; a ranking of most proactive large corporations in managing environmental, social and governance issues. It is worth noting only a total of six Canadian companies were included in this year's list.
Encana's 2010 CSR Report details the new on-boarding process including market pay competitiveness, leadership development and third-party feedback mechanisms, among a slew of initiatives. Enbridge also reports annually on its social indicators in terms of employee health and safety, diversity, engagement and community relations for its corporate and operations staff around the world. Nexen measures employee engagement by participating in the AON/Hewitt Best Employers in Canada survey, which is then used to improve company programs around worker satisfaction and retention.
While the oil sands have traditionally attracted many from Atlantic Canada, in addition to newcomers, competition for labour is still fierce. "The current labour market environment remains extremely competitive, particularly as many growth locations are in remote areas where it is difficult to attract workers," said Cheryl Knight, Executive Director and CEO of the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada, in a media News Release, December 13, 2011 for the Petroleum Industry Q3/Q4 HR trends report.
Oil and gas, while the dominant industry, is not the only one attracting a new labour pool in resource-rich western Canada. Extractive sector companies such as Agrium Inc. an Alberta-based major retail supplier of agricultural products and services, and Saskatchewan's Cameco and PotashCorp are all expected to see continued growth. Agrium and Cameco have both been recently ranked in the "Ten Best Companies to Work For" according to the Financial Post's 2012 survey. In a press release, Cameco's President and CEO Tim Gitzel is quoted: "The competition for people is fierce in Canada's resource sector... The fact that we place consistently near the top in these competitions shows that we are well positioned to succeed."
Indeed, achieving success in maintaining a happy, productive labour force in the western economic engine of Canada will require a thoughtful, strategic approach to employee recruitment and retention. And with Canada's continued reliance on immigration for its population growth, recruitment plans must also target diversity.
Image Credit: Calgary (by Kevin Saff)