New bid to attract workers to Alberta

Help may soon be on the way for the province's growing energy sector in the form of a collaborative approach addressing labour shortages.

A Workforce Strategy for Alberta's Energy Sector, developed by 37 energy associations, labour organizations and employers developed, was announced Tuesday. It contains 46 new actions to inform, attract and develop the workforce.

But while government and industry is heralding this strategy, labour unions are disappointed with the "business as usual" plan.

Alberta obviously needs an answer to the overall high demand for skilled and unskilled workers, according to Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"Yet we see nothing new in this document, nothing innovative. It's really business as usual after you get through the PR and promises to study various issues," said McGowan in a statement.

Describing the strategy as lacking in substance, he added it includes "vague intentions and promises."

The strategy was kick-started by the Alberta departments of Energy and Employment, Immigration and Industry, the Alberta Chamber of Resources and the Construction Owners Association of Alberta.

Brian Maynard, vice president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said 400,000 new jobs will be created in the province between now and 2015 but it leaves the province still 100,000 workers short.

Between 150,000 and 200,000 of the jobs will be in the oil and gas industry, he said.

''This is the biggest issue we face,'' he said. ''We can't do this without people.''

A highlight of the strategy includes a one-stop website about entering and working in the energy sector and living in Alberta to attract out-of-province workers, he said.

The purpose of the program is to develop ways to attract skilled workers to the whole industry through, for example, education and immigration, said Cheryl Knight, executive director and CEO of the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada.

''It's more proactive and long-term,'' she said.

Energy Minister Mel Knight called the program ''a road map'' to ensure Alberta's energy sector continues to thrive and contribute to the province's economy.

''All of the pieces that have been brought together are certainly very valuable and can work in concert to get us to a goal,'' Knight said.

Fort McMurray Today, Page A1, Wed July 11 2007

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