What's happening in Northern Alberta? (economy related)

This week, I’ve heard numerous ads on Seattle radio stations for craftsman’s jobs in Northern Alberta. Now I vaguely know the entire province has boomed ever since oil prices skyrocketed, but I’m still stunned the demand for jobs is so high they can afford big market ads in another country. What exactly is going on economically in Northern Alberta? Anyone else heard these ads? Do you know anyone either in Canada or the U.S. who’s moved to this area?

I’ve heard that companies are having trouble finding people in the province or in Canada, so they’re actively recruiting Americans.

ETA: http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/Alberta+could+feel+impact+shortages+fall+revcruiter+says/6951642/story.html


Not much demand for tech writers, though, unless you also know mechanical engineering and have experience with engines or hydraulics. (Ask me how I know.) Actually, anything mechanical/pneumatic/chemical is in high demand there. And if you’re a truck driver, you’re gold.

I know (and have known) a number of people who have gone to northern Alberta to work. And I’ve also known a number who have left there, vowing never to return.

Part of the problem is that such work is not for everybody. It can play hell with family life, for example–few people move up there with the plans to stay permanently, so families stay (say) in southern Alberta while the breadwinner gets a room up there; or shares a place with other workers since living accommodations are quite expensive. Typical work schedules are along the lines of “ten days on, four days off,” which sounds great until you realize that it takes a lot of time to get back to your family in the south for only a couple of days before you have to start the slog back to work.

But it can be a great job for some; and for the right person, it can be quite lucrative. The ones I’ve known who liked it and were successful at it tended to be single guys in their 20s who only planned to do it short-term, primarily for the money. With very few exceptions, they did not plan to move there permanently or make a career out of it, unless they were getting the necessary engineering qualifications, or intended to.

Yes, you are correct the oil boom and the Tar Sands inparticular have lead to a booming economy which has lead to a shortage of qualified tradesmen. Now take Fort McMurray for example, this is the center of the Tars Sands and it is actually quite nice if you like the great outdoors, it is also very rugged. Because tradesmen are fetching big dollars the price of everything up there is also keeping pace, housing, food, entertainment etc is also very expensive. You also have to remember the more you make the more you pay in taxes up here in Canada as well and you will likely be shocked and how much more we pay in wages taxes compared to the U.S.

Compared to Seattle you will find the climate (especially the winters) a lot more taxing as well if you are not used to real cold weather and I’m talking -20C and lower at times. I spent a decade working in Fort McMurray one year :slight_smile:

When looking at the comparatively-expensive taxes, remember that they include health care, which is a separate expense in the US. I think it works out to be around the same total expenditure.

True enough, but remember that Alberta has no provincial sales tax, which helps to ease the burden.

Good points about the cost of living too,** johnbatt**. Everything is more expensive up there.

Yeah, the jobs up there are probably nothing you want to do long-term or have a family for. The people I know have it a little bit better then the people Spoons knows - a couple weeks on, a couple weeks off, paid airfare between where you work and where you live. I know a guy who currently keeps 3 residences: one in Toronto, where his wife and babies are, one in Saskatchewan, where he’s from/where his mom is, and the one he stays in when he goes to work. He’s making money hand over fist as a plumber (IIRC), but at some point he’ll have to give it up and get a slightly less lucrative job in one city.

Saskatchewan has been doing a lot of job fairs in Ireland and bringing people over to work as well.

It’s not just northern Alberta - in our last boom a couple of years ago, the construction company my husband works for was recruiting from Mexico and Ireland. If they can’t get enough workers in a big city like Calgary, imagine how hard it is to get enough workers in the ass end of nowhere northern Alberta.

I lived in Fort Mac for 36 years so ask away. Think small town but big city troubles. Its not for everyone thats for sure. Most people are just there for the money, we used to laugh at the guys from the “Rock” who were going home anytime now (25 years later). I loved it for the outdoor activities, if you like hunting, fishing or camping then its great. If you expect big city stuff like plays, art scene or fancy dining then you might be dissapointed. So basically anywhere from Calgary north needs workers but mostly in the trades. i heard on the news we were going to be short 180,000 workers in the next decade. A site supervisor I know in calgary cant get labourers for love or money. If you walk in his door you have a job. maybe some else can chime in, is the shortage beacuse of the aging population?

Pity I have no talents or skills. :frowning:

I work in oil and gas, but in the head office. We’re doing an appraisal drilling program for shale gas in central Alberta right now and have a lot of trouble with turnover and poor performance on the rig. A lot of the issues lie with the aging population, as old_joe mentions. Combine that with the booming industry and we have young (mostly) guys coming in with little to no training who are expected to remain safe in the field. It’s a huge issue - rushing to get people on the rig equates to poor safety (and environmental) performance.

Working on the rigs or in the oil sands in Northern Alberta means you’ll make a lot of money, but it’s not comfortable work. You’re generally working 12 hour shifts, you’re in for a couple of weeks at a time, and you stay in a camp. Depending on the company, you may or may not be in a nice camp. Food and transportation is paid for by the majority of companies (our company, for instance, charters a plane to fly Calgary -> Edmonton -> Whitecourt and back for crew change once a week).

My husband used to work on a rig and it almost destroyed our relationship. It’s not a good career for someone who is married or has kids. You’re away from home a lot, you sometimes don’t have phone or internet, and you’re tired all the time. But, if you’re young and single, it’s a good way to make a lot of money. My husband was bringing home about $4500 every two weeks (that’s take home - after tax money).

Wow, that sounds like a dream… any job prospects for females? What about a female who isn’t yet skilled and not in great shape? Is it a pretty misogynistic environment? I’m single and don’t mind putting up with cold weather and long shifts in exchange for ample compensation, but if the jobs all require you to already have skills or be pretty fit, I’d be SOL.


If you don’t have the skills to do work as, say, a field engineer, or an HES Specialist, you are SOL. The labour/unskilled jobs require a huge amount of fitness.

Ah well, maybe I could use that as a motivator to work out. Is there any chance of repatriation with any of these jobs, or not so much?

My bil called me a few days ago, a buddy of his need a shuttle bus driver. Didnt need a class 5 just come up and drive. They must be pretty desperate to call me!:smiley:

Thanks to old_joe, I found some indeed.ca listings for a couple jobs I’d be qualified to do. Not sure if they’re desperate enough to import a US citizen, but it does say entry-level and they provide the training. Relocation costs would be a concern, and I obviously don’t have a Canadian driver’s license or any kind of certification. But hey, might as well apply, right? Job apps get emailed directly to people with company email addresses, so it seems like a pretty direct process.

Thanks for the tip, old_joe. Crossing my fingers :slight_smile:

I cannot speak to other certifications, but your US driver’s license would be valid in Alberta for a period of time (I believe it is three months) after you relocate. After that time, you would have to have an Alberta license. Of course, it is best to change your license over as soon as possible (if you come from the US or another Canadian province, no test will be required), but you do have a reasonable period of time, should you need it.

Thank you Spoons, great to know.

I found another website with jobs in that area, a whole SLEW of them from a bunch of different fields (even child care!). Not all are oil-related, and I don’t know if they’re all recruiting internationally, but it doesn’t hurt to shove out a few extra resumes.