Saturday, June 2, 2012

Oilsands initiative launched for skilled trades

English: Plot of Canadian oil production from ...
English: Plot of Canadian oil production from 1960 to 2005 generated using Excel using data from the Canadian National Energy Board (NEB) and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) ‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Graf over Canadias oljeproduksjon fra 1960 til 2005, generert ved hjelp av Microsoft Excel, med data fra Canadas nasjonale energibyrå og Canadas Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
BY MARIO TONEGUZZI, CALGARY HERALD

CALGARY — Canada’s Building Trade Unions and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers announced Friday a joint agreement to advance long-term competitiveness of the oilsands industry, with particular focus on developing a stronger skilled trades workforce.

“The oilsands industry is the largest employer of skilled trades workers in Canada,” said Dave Collyer, CAPP’s president. “The oilsands industry is working closely with the Building Trades on initiatives to improve labour availability, including workforce mobility skilled trades training and apprenticeship opportunities, and immigration. Ensuring Canada has a strong skilled trades workforce benefits all Canadians.

“We as an industry have an interest in making sure we have the skilled labour we need to grow the industry going forward . . . There’s no one solution to this challenge. We’re going to work on quite a number of things. Examples of that would be training, including apprenticeship programs, making sure that we’ve got the right sort of training programs in the education system and the funding to support that, workforce mobility is important, getting people into the workforce that are currently under-represented, aboriginal groups would be an example of that . . . Part of the solution to this is also going to be immigration.”

Robert Blakely, director of Canadian Affairs for the Building and Construction Trades Department, said the country’s oilsands industry provides more than 200 million work hours annually for 14 unions with locals from coast-to-coast.

“Ongoing responsible oilsands development is our goal, working with the industry to ensure Canada has the skilled people needed to grow our economy over the next several decades,” he said.

According to the federal government’s Construction Sector Council latest forecast, by 2018 construction employment will rise by 180,000 jobs and about 200,000 skilled trades workers will retire. While about 170,000 new entrants are expected, a 200,000-worker gap is forecast. Worker shortages have inflationary implications, including cost increases for construction projects and increased project execution risk, and could impact the industry’s ability to attract investment, said a joint news release from the two organizations.

“Canada’s skilled trades labour unions train 80 per cent of construction apprentices, including 40,000 trained annually in concert with the oilsands industry and our employer partners,” said Blakely. “With co-operation between oilsands companies and unions, oilsands will be Canada’s skilled trades training super-highway, deliver good paying jobs, the next generation of skilled trades people, and grow our economy.”

Under the CAPP-Building Trades agreement, the two organizations will promote careers in skilled trades and work with governments on initiatives to improve workforce availability.

Collyer said workforce availability is one of the key challenges for the energy sector in the future.

“We need to work jointly to attract more Canadians into the skilled trades, provide more classroom and employment-based training opportunities, improve incentives to move within Canada for work, and as needed, increase both permanent and temporary immigration. More skilled people who are mobile, certified and ready to work is a win-win,” said Collyer.

Meanwhile, Alberta’s new Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, Stephen Khan, will announce a partnership with SAIT Polytechnic on Monday to help address the looming worker shortage. By 2014, the Alberta government estimates that approximately 16 per cent of its construction workforce will need to be replaced.

mtoneguzzi@calgaryherald.com

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