Bringing Canadian O&G Workers Back Home

Bringing Canadian O&G Workers Back Home

Finding the right people for roles within the oil and gas industry is an increasing challenge throughout the world right now. Relatively high oil prices in recent years have led companies big and small to take on all kinds of technically challenging projects, often in remote regions, creating a great demand for skilled energy workers.

Oil and gas companies that operate in countries with tough immigration rules often have the additional challenge of only being able to recruit from a shallow pool of talent. However, one international recruitment business believes it has what appears to be a straightforward solution to this issue: scour the world for oil and gas workers who come from the country in question and bring them back home. In Petroplan's case it is focusing this approach on Canada, which Petroplan managing director Andrew Speers describes as a "very exciting market".

Petroplan has recognized Canada as being an opportunity for its recruitment business because its strict immigration rules can create delays for oil and gas operators as they wrestle with the practicalities of recruiting international candidates. So, Petroplan has built a business in searching the global job market for Canadian nationals living overseas and placing them with clients in their home country.

Speers explained to Rigzone that part of the problem Canada has when it comes to oil and gas recruitment is cyclical. When the oil price is lower, operations to find hydrocarbons are not as profitable so there is little demand for oil and gas workers.

"One of the challenges when the market sees the downturn is the qualified, skilled people, who are not serviced in Canada, go elsewhere," he said. "But as soon as the market comes back into profitability there is a huge search for people who can work inside the immigration laws."

That is happening now. A combination of an aging workforce and a booming energy sector means oil and gas companies that operate in Canada are going to face serious recruitment difficulties during the next few years, according to a report published in May this year.

The Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada report – titled 'Canada's Oil and Gas Labour Market Outlook to 2015' – stated that hiring due to age-related attrition "will be the driving force behind a minimum of 9,500 job openings the industry will need to fill over the next four years".

Last year there were some 186,635 workers directly employed in Canada's petroleum industry, representing an increase of 5 percent from 2009.

Indeed, it appears that thanks to Canada's vast resources of oil sands, the country is going to be a significant player in the global energy market for quite some years. According to the Canadian government, oil sands account for approximately 169 billion barrels of the country's total oil reserves of 174 billion barrels. Canada is third only to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela in proven global oil supplies.

'Canada Likes to Employ Canadians'

But in spite of this clear need for energy industry workers, Canada is unlikely to relax its immigration controls any time soon.

"I don't know why they are not being pragmatic. But the feedback we get is that if you open the floodgates regarding certain immigration rules it becomes very complicated across the board," Speers said. "In simple terms, Canada likes to employ Canadians.

Of course, highly-qualified immigrant workers are capable of working within the oil and gas industry in Canada. But given the speed at which companies often need to make new hires jumping all of the immigration hurdles can be a major problem for recruiters even if the non-Canadian candidate is otherwise perfect for the role.

"The ideal candidate in every instance is someone who's done it before, you hire them, your fee reflects that, they walk on site that day and they do the job," said Speers.

Spears pointed out that when a recruiter is operating in an environment where it really needs Canadians because they suit immigration laws much more swiftly, the straightforward solution is to bring back Canadians who are abroad.

"It's certainly something we're exploring and we've seen some success in pulling people out of other geographies into the home marketplace."

For instance, only this month the company successfully placed a Canadian who had been working in South Africa with a company back in his home country.

Petroplan, which has its headquarters in the UK, is exploiting its network of a dozen offices in 11 countries to help it get closer to Canadian expat workers that it hopes to recruit for its clients back in their home country.

"It's an exciting opportunity for us, for a firm that has a global brand," said Speers, who points out that being global is a definite advantage in the Canadian marketplace.

"There are a lot of Canadian recruitment firms providing Canadians within Canada but their reach is not outside Canada beyond Internet portals. But by actually having locations where you are right near contractors who may be Canadian by birth or by residence or whatever it might be means that we can talk to people and ask them 'Would you consider going back?'"

Speers also pointed out that Petroplan has an 18-part course on the oil and gas industry that the firm's recruitment consultants take in order to understand what is important to recruiters.

"We try and make sure that all our consultants are trained to understand what disciplines really matter," he said. "That's important for identifying transferable skills as well as identifying people in different non-Canadian markets that we can put back into Canada."

Meanwhile, the firm has a team of recruitment administrators who focus on the mobilization and support of contractors as they relocate to their new roles. As a consequence, getting an oil worker back to Canada within three months is typically achievable by the firm.

So does Canada's strict immigration rules mean it is an anomaly in the global market for oil and gas labor? Could Petroplan's approach of scouring the Earth for expat workers in order to bring them home work elsewhere?

"There are definitely other countries where this would work, but Canada is the biggest one for us," said Speers.

A former engineer, Jon is an award-winning editor who has covered the technology, engineering and energy sectors since the mid-1990s. Email Jon at


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Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
Rigspark77 | Sep. 16, 2012
I would love to return home and work in Canada. But I have to agree with most people posting about the crazy taxes being paid. I work in India for tax reasons, as I get a rebate. If the Canadian goverment realised that people working in the oilpatch work for the most part in remote places in tough conditions with little time off and they gave them a tax break because of it, then yes I would consider returning home. And of course the boom and bust. Being offshore for 7 years makes me glad the paycheck is steady, as it is something my family can count on. Oh, and of course winter... but Ill get off my soapbox now.

CW | Sep. 15, 2012
Collectively, the comments over the past 3 days, mention very similar themes, to which I concur. ~ Taxes "the big one", The Canadian Govt takes them, at a very high rate from Oilmen that are willing to work under very adverse conditions and in remote locations, and in turn manages to waste them on Lackies & Layabouts that know how to milk the wonderful Canadian welfare system! Maybe more Politicians should "throw chain" for awhile... ~ Dad always said "stay in school, so you can have a good job". He didnt point out that a good number of "pretty boys" that goof off having a good ole time in University instead of working their way up from a Worm to a Tool Push will automatically be in Management and therefore be your "Boss"...!! ~ Overseas, You are respected and, paid money that you get to keep (at least most of it), all for the very fact; that you did work your way up from catching samples in the cellar. ~ The patch "used to be managed by those folks who came up thru the ropes, now its the bean counters (and lets not forget the shareholders) who decide if & when youll get that pink slip. Not quite so, overseas. ~ Thanks, but no thanks, Ill stay in my digs right on the beaches of Thailand on my days off and let the "returnees" freeze their butts off in McMurray or wherever...

Neil | Sep. 15, 2012
Just like the other comments above, the most frustrating part of working in Canada is the sporadic work in the patch. I have worked overseas for six years now without missing a paycheck. I would love to work in Canada again but breakup is pretty hard on the bank account

David | Sep. 15, 2012
Great article and fellow comments. To be with family and friends, there are lots of us that do want to come home, suffer through the cyclical oil employment and pay the higher taxes. The biggest hurdle is the Cdn oil industry fixation on hiring only degree holders. I obtained a Petroleum Engineering diploma from SAIT after being on the rigs for ten years. Combined with a great track record and another ten years of experience in the oil service industry still can not get responses when submitting for Cdn jobs. Really why is someone who simply graduated with an Engineering degree, most often outside the petroleum scope, valued so much more than extensive relative experience, verifiable track records, proven resourcefulness and maturity I really hope Petroplans initiative is successful in providing a lever for expats wanting to come home.

David | Sep. 15, 2012
Some of usrwanda to go home, pay the higher taxes, suffer through the cyclical I sincerely agree that the Cdn oil field industry seems fixated on only hiring degree holders. I obtained a Petro Engineering diploma as a mature adult combined with a great track record and 20 years of oilfield drilling and services experience and still can not get responses to job submissions in Canada. Really how can someone with an engineering degree but no concept of reservoir or geology or downstream processes or a track record managing multi cultural employees or business plans be considered that much more valuable in todays industry?

Jean Paul Bourgeois | Sep. 13, 2012
All I am Canadian and have been working in the oil & gas industry fro over 25 years particularly in the LNG business where I am somewhat of a commissioning, start-up and operations specialist. I also hold a 1st class power engineer certificate from Canada, hence also have the educational and technical qualifications. When the Canaport was being built in St-John NB, I applied for Operations positions and never heard anything from them. Later working in Italy with the company that was actually building and designing the facility, some of the people working for me went to work on the project. Seems like many Canadian companies do not pay attention to the Canadian people coming back home with a wealth of expereince in all aspects of oil & Gas and as such I felt kind off turned off the Canadian oil patch scene. I for one would like to return to Canada and help in the deveopment of the Kitimat LNG plant, however this seems to be difficult to get or only becomes avaialble when the good positions are already taken or given away to other foreign nationalities.

Buster | Sep. 12, 2012
Ive been away for 16 years working around the world but living in the USA. I worked my way up all around the Canadian oilfield to get to Calgary just to leave. I havent looked back. My standard of living is well beter than what I could go back to for the same postion as I have now. Housing prices and the cost of goods is considerably more in Canada than elsewhere. Just think of parking in downtown Calgary. With the tax laws and cyclical work it makes it very dificult to ponder a return. This is especially true for one who does not hold a degree. Without the ring and being middle aged one can find themselves on the endangered specis list when it comes time for layoffs. Now maybe if the west would separate it might be different.

Link77 | Sep. 12, 2012
I have to agree with most of the comments already posted. Cyclical work - every time the Canadian O&G industry starts to take off, we shoot ourselves in the foot somehow - opposition to pipelines that will allow us to sell our abundance of NG on the world market, the royalty restructuring, it just goes on and on. Time off is another big one. Who wants to be a DD when you are expected to turn around on your way home from a job to go to one even further away that will last longer? Also, our industry is so full of associations that block anyone with any field experience from gaining a foothold in management its ridiculous. Blair made an excellent point - tons of people with highly specialized experience cant get work because they aren't engineers or even technologists. Our industry has developed an environment where a kid out of uni who has never seen a rig is employable - while someone with experience and no degree is unemployable unless they want to work in the field and be run ragged and never see their family. Good Luck Canada...

Dan in Dubai | Sep. 12, 2012
I have been out of Canada for the past 8 years . 43 years working in the petroleum industry in 6 countries. i would like to go back but the difficulties and loss of income is devastating.

Jeff | Sep. 12, 2012
The "on again, off again" approach of the Canadian oilpatch is making me think about going back to work overseas. Only in Canada do you find oil companies shutting down for a couple months for spring break, four weeks off at christmas time, two weeks off because of Calgary Stampede...etc. When I was overseas I had a steady rotation, equal time off and the pay was close to the same.

Gerry | Sep. 12, 2012
I left Canada to work overseas due to the excessively high taxation rates... today I am taxed both abroad and in Canada however the credit for overseas softens the blow.. It is really sad to work hard for your money and have to give it to a government who "you know" will absolutely waste it. I will not come back to work in Canada any time soon !!!!!!

Dan in Libya | Sep. 12, 2012
I have been away for 35 years and still not too keen on the high taxes and the low temps. However if the price is right, maybe....

andrew | Sep. 12, 2012
Show me equal time off and a salary i can count on every month! Then Id think about coming home.

Robert Green | Sep. 11, 2012
Like so many articles from or about Canada, this article does not say why so many Canadians work as expatriates. Only one part is the pay, especially if you have family in Canadas rural areas. The second part is the tax structure in Canada. Until the Canadian government pays attention to its citizens welfare as much as it does to its own funding then more Canadians will vote with their feet and wallets for overseas jobs.

John in Australia | Sep. 11, 2012
Ive been away for 40 years, will they bring me back? Or before you say it, will they have me back? LOL

blair seppa | Sep. 11, 2012
With twenty eight years of experance, in drilling and service sector. Will someone tell me why? I find it hard to get any responce for my ability,as a derrickman,topdrive tec,underbalanced operator,nitrogen operator,fluids tec,stripping dewatering tec.All this knowledge is idle waiting to be used.

Clive Banister | Sep. 11, 2012
One should consider not only the cyclical nature of the Canadian oilpatch when looking for the reason so many Canadians such as myself went overseas in the 1st place. In the 70s and 80s when many of the generation your article refers to left because of poor working conditions and dismal safetey records. High taxes also plays a huge role in why people leave Canada. Overseas workers usually get a schdule of equal time off whereas many service hands in Canada are worked until they drop. Never mind the weather - working derrick in -40 degrees is not much fun!


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