Secrets of the Job Hunt


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Update on Fort McMurray Job Market

Here's something for my Canadian friends out there. After I wrote about Fort McMurray several weeks ago I've had hundreds of hits to that post. I guess people are anxious to work there. From the article I just read it sounds like the conditions there are greatly improving.

The Oilsands production in Northern Alberta is motivating employers there to bend over backwards for their employees who work in subzero temps far from home. According to this article from, companies are building dormitories, flying workers home on the weekends and adding many new amenities. Here are a few excerpts of note;

* Rather than subject its shift workers to an all-expense-paid, six-hour bus ride home to Edmonton every 10 days for a four-day respite, CNRL opened its own airstrip in September. On a regular basis, nearly 25 percent of the company’s workforce is shuttled back and forth using a fleet of small aircraft.

* For those workers left on site, CNRL is building a convenience store, a recreation facility, an ice rink, exercise facilities and a training center so that students willing to forfeit their final year of college can serve as apprentices while completing their studies. Even the construction of a Tim Hortons--Canada’s largest doughnut chain and a national icon--is in the works.

* With plans to add 600 new hires to its oil-sands division this year, Shell Canada opted to focus on community, rather than high-cost commuting, to lure qualified candidates to its remote work sites. The company’s inner-city staff is eligible for free emergency day care passes and financial assistance with postsecondary tuition fees. Shell Canada’s oil-sands workers, meanwhile, may qualify for a $17,000 contribution toward a home mortgage. That amount is prorated over a three-year period.

* Providing adequate housing is one of the toughest hurdles that oil-sands companies face. Fort McMurray’s population has grown 70 percent in the past decade to nearly 70,000. According to the Fort McMurray Landlord and Tenants Advisory Board, apartment vacancy rates were as low as 0.7 percent in February, and the average cost of a single-family dwelling is $370,000--steep indeed for this community. By helping employees pay down their mortgages, Shell Canada aims to encourage homeownership as well as a sense of permanence among new recruits.

* Air taxis and housing allowances may attract candidates, but such pampering is also setting unrealistic expectations, according to Duke Anderson, dean of the MacPhail School of Energy at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary. Anderson says that it’s not uncommon for a welder to receive an annual salary of $100,000 fresh out of college, with an added four-year retention bonus that can easily equal a full year’s pay.

1 comment:

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