Saskatchewan’s forward-thinking oil and gas companies are implementing effective strategies to employ and retain aboriginal workers, according to a report released on April 28, 2104 by the Petroleum Human Resources Council (the Council), a division of Enform Canada. Such strategies will grow in importance as demand for oil and gas workers continues to grow.
The report, HR Trends and Insights: Aboriginal Employment in Saskatchewan’s Oil and Gas Industry, is based on an online survey completed by companies operating directly in, and supporting, the province’s oil and gas industry. It is also informed by interviews with employers and labour-force development stakeholders.
The report reveals that oil and gas employers with specific aboriginal recruitment strategies, tend to build programs that acknowledge and take into consideration aboriginal culture and practices. Employers that are hiring aboriginal workers also recognize that aboriginal employment is critical to their ability to grow. Examples of effective strategies mentioned by HR managers were:
- Partnerships with aboriginal employment/training centres
- Assistance with transportation and accommodation for employees working away from home
- Processes to assist new workers in transitioning to full-time employment
Companies with effective recruitment programs formed long-term, trusting relationships with aboriginal communities and set measurable goals for aboriginal employment. They also had retention programs that addressed cultural differences by incorporating practices such as multiple hires, mentoring, and cultural training.
Many oil and gas companies have yet to develop such programs. While most respondents to the Council’s online survey expected their staff to increase in the future, only a few companies indicated that they currently employ aboriginal people or have plans to implement aboriginal hiring programs. In addition, interviews revealed that most employers did not measure or record their precise level of aboriginal employment.
Aboriginal recruitment programs will become increasingly relevant as the region’s aboriginal population continues to grow. The most recent census numbers indicate that aboriginal people will represent 21 to 24 per cent of Saskatchewan’s total population by 2031, but they currently comprise just 7.5 per cent of the province’s oil and gas industry workers.
Looking ahead, there will be as many as 3,450 direct job openings between 2012 and 2022, as conventional oil production in the province is expected to increase by 5.4 per cent between 2013 and 2018. Industry spending will also generate as many as 20,500 indirect jobs per year by 2022.
All of this growth will occur in a province that already has the lowest provincial unemployment rate in Canada, at 4.5 per cent (as of March 2014). In the face of this, aboriginal recruitment strategies will need to become a key focus for Saskatchewan’s oil and gas companies.
Carla Campbell-Ott, executive director of the Council, remarks, “Results of the survey highlight the tremendous opportunity for more companies to employ the recruitment and retention strategies already in practice by some of Saskatchewan’s oil and gas employers. Engaging a local pool of labour will benefit the province’s growing aboriginal communities, while helping employers to fill labour needs in Canada’s second largest oil producing province.”
The Council is the primary resource to address workforce development and labour market issues in the Canadian petroleum industry. Funding for this report was made possible by the Government of Saskatchewan, Ministry of Economy.
The Council’s current and past labour market reports are easily accessible and free to download from the Careers in Oil and Gas website.