The past two years were among the most difficult for Canada’s oil sands sector. Low oil prices, cost-cutting and restructuring resulted in a loss of approximately 2,400 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs. Added to all of that, was the Fort McMurray wildfires, which brought many operations to a temporary standstill.
With the worst of the downturn thought to be over, the oil and gas industry is cautiously optimistic. A modest recovery of about 3,450 net new jobs in oil sands construction, maintenance and operations is expected by 2020.
Over the next four years oil sands companies are expected to shift their spending from expansion and growth to the maintenance, repair and optimization of their oil sands operations. The construction workforce is expected to contract by over 6,500 jobs as current construction projects come to an end and there are no new major oil sands projects on the horizon. At the same time, there will be approximately 6,350 new jobs to maintain the plants and facilities and other equipment and with oil sands production expected to grow, 3,600 new jobs to support company operations.
In addition to the workers required for industry activity, there may be more required due to age-related attrition — retirements. In oil sands operations, where jobs are typically permanent and the workforce is older, that is especially true. Assuming workers who are eligible proceed with their retirements, an additional 3,200 openings will need to be filled.
In total, therefore, there is an expected need for an additional 6,650 workers within oil sands construction, maintenance and operations over the next four years. For detailed projections on oil sands employment and hiring requirements, see the Oil Sands Labour Demand Outlook to 2020 Update.