--The Skills Drain
FTLComm - Tisdale - October 28, 2000
Though Tisdale has its new welcome signs up the trend is toward, "thanks for coming back." A growing number of skilled workers are choosing to leave their work here or seek new work in the oil fields of Alberta. Since the oil field work is highly transient from site to site workers can maintain their home in Saskatchewan and work on the portable worksites in Alberta.
We have seen this trend in the past but the present crude and natural gas prices have risen to almost unprecidented levels as Canada has become the US's major supplier of petroleum products. Though the mideast and Russia provide crude for much of the world the North American market has decided to redevelop and concentrate on its own supplies and this has stimulated extreme redevelopment in oil fields that at $18 a barrel were not worth producing but at $30 these sites are big money makers.
This means that skilled workers, welders, equipment operators, the flexible and adaptable farm hand is just what the industry needs and they are paying excellent wages for these workers. The oil service companies are in dire need for people who can get out there and do the job and as things stand right now the demand for these skilled workers exceeds supply many times over.
Northern Steel has pumped up production rates to meet the growing demand for their high quality underground storage tanks as they scramble to meet a huge number of orders.
This morning I talked with one worker who had left a good and reliable job here in Tisdale to work three weeks on then one week off in the Provost and Grand Cache areas where he has taken his skills as a heavy equipment operator and is now a vacuum truck operator. We often to do not realise that the skills that a person develops on heavy equipment of one kind are completely transferable to other kinds of machinery. Hydraulic systems, power transfer, pumps and plumbing systems are the same on virtually every machine and this worker with his background in operating a backhoe, front end loader and assembling water and sewer lines is exactly the combination of skilled worker that the oil field service companies are crying for.
What is interesting about this present work boom
The former site of TUCs is all but cleaned up as the town fixes up the site this past week.
is that since the work goes to the job, which is in one field for a few weeks and another for a few more weeks, you can live in civilised Tisdale and have a reasonable life. A surprising large number of workers are doing this commuting and we can expect there to be a labour pinch here if the trend continues. Northern Steel has been actively campaigning for skilled and trained steel workers and the competition from the oil fields is putting pressure on manufacturing and other skilled work here as employers are faced with loosing good people unless they meet the wages of the oil field service industry.