Just a few short years ago the technology world was alive with opportunity, the dot.com boom and the rise of the telecom industry created an excitement that had many positive … and a few not so positive affects. Currently the oil boom, particularly in Western Canada is creating a buzz, jobs are plentiful and wages are rising however “someone” once said for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction! The following are some of the challenges that arise in such times.
Three years ago CEOs of small companies in Ottawa were struggling to hold on to people, the “juggernauts” like Nortel and JDS Uniphase were offering such attractive packages that it was very difficult for the little guy to compete. The affect was not just in the tech industry, friends of mine in the hospitality industry had similar problems because their employees left the hourly paid shift work in restaurants to go to higher paid jobs that had “rich” benefits on the assembly line. Service industries were all struggling to keep people in an environment where everyone wanted to work for the “hot” companies.
Fast forward to 2006 in Alberta, or should I call it the “Wild West”, possibly! The oil sands projects in Fort McMurray are creating more jobs than can be filled. Companies are offering creative solutions … one company offers to pay new grads for five years, if they will work four years in the oil sands. The local Tim Horton franchise can’t keep staff despite paying reputedly $17 or $18 per hour. Some companies fly their workers in and out every day! Even in the cities there is a frustration for employers who want to hang on to their employees, let alone grow! Stories are now emerging about smaller Calgary companies relocating to other provinces because of the issues in attracting and retaining talent.
The answer should not be the ever escalating battle for a limited supply of candidates. I don’t think that the answer lies in more accessible education either, although that certainly can’t hurt as a Calgary report in January 2005 suggests. Now is the time for more creative solutions, the world is full of people that don’t have work … surely there is a better answer. One that will support the growth of this booming sector, create good long term employment and still allow everyone to play!