Canadian Rig Worker Shortage Prevails, Despite Innovative Training

The jobs are plentiful. They pay very well, $29 per hour entry-level and up. No college degree is required, not even always a high school diploma. Training is provided, beyond prerequisite basic drilling and first aid classes.

Yet Canada expects limited growth in drilling next year, due to a severe shortage of rig workers.

"The greatest limiting factor when examining overall utilization rates will be the shortage of skilled rig workers," said the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC) in a November statement. "Industry suffered a great loss of skills and knowledge during the downturn of 2009 and it has struggled to attract these experienced workers back," CAODC continued. "While the numbers of new workers joining industry is encouraging, it will take time to develop their skills. In addition to outside labor competition, the drilling rigs lose many skilled people to positions within industry – particularly specialized positions like directional drilling."

The association's recent forecast projects only a 1 percent increase in drilling in 2012, due in large part to the worker shortage.

Land Rig - Taqa Canada

However, rig training is in anything but short supply in Canada.

The country's industry-sponsored Enform provides dozens of safety courses for rig workers, along with the required basic drilling course for newcomers.

"They have a fully functioning drilling rig here in Alberta and pretty much everyone that comes out is guaranteed a job," said rig worker Alan McDonald. "The industry really promoted the school or they would be in a worse shortage without it."

In addition, CAODC sponsors RigTech, a website full of training and background information for current and hopeful rig workers, and ServiceRigDrive, a site bringing attention to the need for service rig workers as a distinct career path.

Canada is the first country in the world to introduce formalized apprenticeship training for more experienced oil and gas drilling rig crews.

The CAODC-sponsored Rig Technician trade program is a combination of documented on-the-job training and classroom technical training. The three-year program covers the three senior positions on the rig crew – motorhand, derrickhand and driller – and is available in Canada's Alberta, BC, Saskatcheawn and the Northwest Territories.

For each level of training, the apprentice logs 1,500 hours of on-the-job training and completes a four week technical training course.

"Recognizing the rig hand as a tradesperson identifies what every rig hand knows: operating a drilling rig is a highly skilled job," said CAODC President Don Herring. "With trade designation, they will receive standardized, high quality training and the recognition they deserve."



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.

SimWorld_Intl  |  October 26, 2012
Simulation technology can provide comprehensive rig training to a wider number of workers and in less time than traditional methods. Younger, entry-level workers also seem to prefer the technology-driven learning approach. At the SimWorld Conference in November, we will explore the innovative role of 3D simulation in developing a new, stronger energy workforce.
Danielle  |  April 10, 2012
We keep hearing about shortages but my husband has applied and sent in his resume to nearly 20 companies. Only one response saying they arent hiring right now. The applications were filled out over 3 weeks ago. He has his H2S alive certificate, First Aid and Drivers License. Where are all these jobs for entry-level workers?
Steve  |  December 03, 2011
Its about time the workers got the recognition they deserve and some formal training.
darrel  |  December 02, 2011
There are a lot of articles speaking of shortages finding employees yet Ive posted my resume to dozens of jobs willing to start on the floor although I have my drilling cert. Not one phone call yet even with over eight years experience. I love what I do and if you have any promising leads my email is
Floyd  |  December 02, 2011
wow, I been trying to get hired.
Tobi  |  December 02, 2011
Nice thread keep it CAODC! I live in Cyprus, I have my first degree in Materials and Metallurgical Engineering. But I will like to start a new career in oil and gas. Please can someone help me to undergo this training in Canada (Drilling). My email is i will really appreciate it if i get a positive response from someone. Thanks
Noel  |  December 02, 2011
Please let us know how to attend those OTJ training and we can spread the info to others that are looking for job. Here is the contact emailL
Mike  |  December 02, 2011
Below is the website for the rig training course. From there getting a job is pretty easy. A word of warning for anyone entering the oil patch though, currently there are just under 500 rig running in Alberta I would not be surprised to see 650 running in January but come April to June we will probably have less than 200 for a few months so be smart and save some money over the winter since you most likely have a pay cheque for a few months.
George Henry Pennings  |  December 02, 2011
I started working in the Canadian oilpatch in 1977, started at the bottom, a 3500 ft gas well a day. No formal training, just butt up, head down..... a lot of what everyone is saying is true.... boom and bust... but a union?.... used to be a push and driller hired their crews and the job got done...quick and in a hurry.... they really messed up the natural order of things with that apprenticeship thing ...I work and live abroad now.... way more relaxed... but if you know your business this is still a good way to make a living.... do not spend all your money as you make it.... if you are not paying your credit cards off every month.. burn them!!! Plan a head, live with in your means... words to live by...
webi  |  December 02, 2011
Typical?....... it'll happen else where soon! too much Bull stops getting the job done! certificate for this certificate for that, you can't do that it's not safe? your cant do that your not qualified ? too much c now, its another era, me, 20 years overseas, when you got a problem with downtime, you use experience and common sense to get on with the job "hey the rigs costing $50 a minute!!!!!! and your in the middle of the "Sahara desert" hey no driver for the D8 caterpillar or kenworth to move a mud tank, you can't be stamped on your tour with downtime, you go learn to drive the "cat" or kenworth" ..... to get the job done! even the forklift... not qualified ... who moves mud sacks etc out there??
joel  |  December 02, 2011
this is a great opportunity for those who don't have experience in oil field, if the said company offers and accepting to those no experience or the beginners in this industry i am also hoping that someday i will join or i will work in the oilfield. please advice if how can we start or where and who is the contact person. i am willing to start as an apprentice... thanks and god bless....
Do you wonder why  |  December 01, 2011
How about the rest of the services that no one pays any attention to with the shortage of any service personal we still are worse than 2005-06. Why do people work in other industries(maybe a steady pay) promises from people don't pay bills or rent shortage. do you blame the guy who lost his house or can't feed his kids works 4 months a year with promises and gets laid of for his hard work same old story.
Barbara Saunders  |  December 01, 2011
Thanks for all your comments! Of the resources in the article, had the most information on how to get & advance in a rig job. I am currently looking into rules on employing foreign nationals for another article. Stay tuned and thanks again for your readership.
Victor  |  December 01, 2011
well hot doggy...I've been trying to get a job in the oil rig for over bout a year...I'm an experience structural ironworker and welder and love strenuous work like oil rig pays better than ironwork. Would like to know where I can go or what I need to due to fix this shortage of rig is
Binuyo Babatunde  |  November 30, 2011
These sponsoring of Rigtech website and trade program are a great and encouraging commitment on the part of CAODC. I will like to work at a drilling site at entry level in Canada, though, I'm a Nigerian and staying in Nigeria. How do I go about this? Pls, prompt response will be highly appreciated;
J Veltman  |  November 30, 2011
great idea for the young and middle aged man for some job security and training i wish they would do something like this in Australia
Gerry McCrindle  |  November 30, 2011
It looks to me like, the industry gurus, created a nightmare, with the BS apprentice thing. Good on 'em
Richard Morales  |  November 30, 2011
Will love to get more information about your company. Looks that its a interesting field and looking forward to start a new career that pay well for the hard work.
Chester Coen  |  November 30, 2011
How do I get more information.
dennis  |  November 30, 2011
Wonder why??? Bust your butt for 4 months than starve that's why. I did it for many years, and went to service industry, where there is salary and day rate. The drilling rigs should too .
Tom Tinacci  |  November 30, 2011
I think its great. I'm fowarding the info to my son who is need of better employment. I only need to find out which area is best for him to apply since he lives in BayCity, Michigan
jeff adams  |  November 30, 2011
Apprenticeships and training are a myth in this article. Rig workers are treated like garbage in the Canadian Oilpatch. I have been in the oilfield for 45 yrs and discouraged my son from following. He was working for Ensign and Precision and drove many hours and miles only to be told when he arrived they were rained out. No per diam, no hours paid, no mileage paid. This happens to all the hands. He had to get his own H2S ticket and first aid on his dollar. When a rig lays down, the hands are finished that minute. And yet, the contractors all expect the guys to sit and wait for a phone call with no standby. You can not support a family only working three months a year. There is no guarantee or work, etc. i hate to say it but the oilfield in Alberta needs a union. Put the guys on a monthly salary with field bonus and at least they have some money coming in. Also, they could be better trained. As long as the Oilpatch stays the way it is, more will get killed and they will be understaffed. Most of the contractors are paid full standby for their rigs but the hands receive nothing. It is too one sided. I would discourage anyone from working the rigs in this day and age.
JOHN  |  November 30, 2011
apprentice is the reason for losing hands and the top workers coming out of grade 12. If the kids coming out of grade 12 have to go to school anyways they should just get a real trade something they can use in there everyday life. I am a rig hand for 20 years now and I have 2 sons that are almost ready to enter the work force. They will never go to a rig because a real trade will pay them just as much and even more when they get there ticket. Keep up the good work CAODC as we loose experience hands and can not replace them with young hands.
Tom Okurut  |  November 30, 2011
I wanted to find out, if training and jobs are open to other national. I am from Uganda, East Africa and currently working as a Health and Safety Coordinator in an International Thermal Power Company. I am interested in joining the oil ad gas industry and wouldnt mind being trained and employed within the same industry. The only question is, are other nationals accepted?
Jose A. Saenz  |  November 30, 2011
I think that what the Canadians are doing is in training there personal is good. The American companies need to follow their lead. Training the workers before they go work on a rig is the best thing for the safety of the worker, and in the long run the company it self.
dollar  |  November 30, 2011
is it really? the rig worker is shortage, is the drilling engineer and drilling supervisor are also sever shortage, does it mean the drilling engineers can get a job easily there? how about the payments for engineers and supervisors?
DOFFOUR KODUAH EMMANUEL  |  November 30, 2011
If Canada is short of rig workers why don't they give some chances to other foreigners who have all that it takes and are seeking to work on rigs? For I have applied for an entry level job as rig worker with my quantifications in Alberta on Nov 7 but I haven't heard from them to date.
ogbebor  |  November 30, 2011
Well, Canada is a great country and as a skilled foreign oil rig worker, I hope to work there someday, I think the Canadian government should look towards bringing in experience oil workers to work for Canadian employers. Thanks
ampomah  |  November 30, 2011
Yes thus very encouragement, pls keep it up. Am try to figure out to sent my son for these wonderful training CAODC and the entire group are initiating. Thank.
Anatoly POLYAKOV  |  November 30, 2011
I wish we had the same kind of training in Russia. A lot of young people willing to join the O&G Industry but they don't know how. NEFTEGASKADRY is launching the NEBOSH training course and plan to add other standard O&G safety courses. Anybody plan going international? If your company has Russia in sights drop me a line at to discuss joint training set-up here.
Greg Novik  |  November 29, 2011
The oilpatch doesn't deserve any good rig hands. I am an ex rig hand and know first hand what I am talking about. Every 3 -4 years all the works dries up and you starve. If you bought anything during the good times you end up giving it back to he bank. The difference this time around is you now have a generation of pissed off people who got axed in 2009 and they are not going to bother to come back for 4 months of work to just face layoffs again. Every time this happens the industry makes working on the rigs sound like a adventure to attract workers but I think this time around it will be a hard sell.
Michael Phillips  |  November 29, 2011
Please send me the information on the training program. Who do I need to talk to in order to start training.
Gary Prest  |  November 29, 2011
Great innovation well overdue for the industry worldwide. Bring it down under
OilWell Driller  |  November 29, 2011
They wouldn't lose so many skilled rig workers to specialized service companies if the drilling contractors would pay higher wages to skilled drillers or try to retain them when the industry is slow. We go where the higher pay-cheques are.
James Cody Norris  |  November 29, 2011
Would love to go and work