This is part three of our mental health series. In parts one and two, we explained how stress and financial worries can affect the emotional well being of people during an economic downturn, and how that can have safety implications for everyone. This week we’re turning to our labour market information division, PetroLMI for some insight into the prospects for our sector, and some advice on weathering the downturn.

Cenovus, Christina Lake

Cenovus, Christina Lake

When the Canadian oil and gas industry is in recession, it affects everyone in the country. The financial implications of an economic downturn have a ripple effect that extends far beyond those employed directly in the industry. And, as we learned in ‘Mental health in the workplace: what to watch for, how to help’, the depression and anxiety experienced by many people in tough economic times can affect people’s relationships, their job performance and even the safety of themselves and their co-workers.

We spoke with Carol Howes, vice president of communications and Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI), to ask about the prospects for an industry recovery.

Carol explained, “in 2014, Canada’s oil and gas industry directly employed 226,500 workers in the fields of exploration and production, oil and gas services and pipeline operations. According to PetroLMI, estimates for 2016 are somewhere between 173,900 and 181,800. That leaves up to 52,600 people looking for work, and dealing with the stress that inevitably entails.”

But the news isn’t all bad.

Positive outcomes and tough lessons

They say adversity makes us stronger, and this downturn has proven the resiliency and creativity of people in our industry. Carol gave the following examples:

    1. Despite the magnitude of the job losses, crude oil production output from the oilsands is relatively stable. In other words, output has stayed steady with fewer workers, which signifies increasing productivity and performance.
    2. Management from a number of companies have approached their employees for cost-saving ideas; and through collaboration in difficult times, have helped increase or maintain employee engagement.
    3. Many people have found themselves doing more work, but have found that they are becoming more adaptable in the current environment, learning about multiple roles within the company.

In a PetroLMI article, ‘Petro Prices to Petro People, Part Three (pdf)’, Mark Salkeld, president and CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC), said: 

If you’re job sharing, or have enough cash flow to keep people on and do some job shadowing, you can start to break workers out of their silos. The beauty of this is that not only did you keep these employees, but they now understand two or even three jobs.

Industry forecasts

What can we expect for the industry in the upcoming months? “We expect to see further workforce reductions in 2016 and some companies going through mergers, acquisitions or bankruptcies,” said Carol. “However, some companies are actually hiring as a result of new projects coming on stream. Overall, industry will continue to shed jobs in 2016. We expect things to begin to turn around – albeit at a slow pace – sometime in 2017.”

Weathering the storm

In earlier posts we talked about the measures some people have taken to survive a loss or reduction of income. These include retraining, transferring their skills to other jobs or trades, or upgrading their qualifications in order to be ready for the inevitable recovery.

PetroLMI is developing an online career planning tool that will be launched this fall and will help job seekers looking to transition to different sectors of the oil and gas industry, or to other industries.

Here are some useful links to also help those looking to broaden their employment opportunities:

Training grants:

Canada job grant – training grants for workers

Canada/Alberta job grant – training grants for employers

Canada/Saskatchewan job grant – training grants for employers

Job search:

Government of Canada – job finding resources

Government of Canada job bank

Support, workshops and resources:

Human Services Alberta employment and career resources

Government of Alberta family and social support

Government of Canada EI

Government of Alberta job fairs, workshops and information sessions