Report projects 98,000 jobs to be generated in oil sands construction, maintenance, and operations in the decade ahead

A new report reveals that an estimated 98,000 oil sands construction, maintenance and operations jobs will be generated over the next decade, a projection that further confirms the oil sands sector as a key economic and employment driver for Canada.

Released today, the Oil Sands Construction, Maintenance and Operations Labour Demand Outlook to 2023takes a unique approach to assess demands for skilled workers by presenting data and insights from the construction sector, the oil sands sector and government.

“Accurate labour market information gives us a clear understanding of the workforce issues affecting oil sands development, and helps ensure that $172 billion in wages and salaries continues to generate economic benefits right across this country. This new information helps government and industry make the best possible decisions, and helps Albertans and Canadians make informed choices about their careers,” said Kyle Fawcett, Minister of Alberta Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour.
For the first time, the Petroleum Human Resources Council (the Council), a division of Enform Canada; BuildForce Canada, formerly the Construction Sector Council; the Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA); and the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour (GoA) have partnered to produce a comprehensive report which brings together the detailed labour demand projections and analysis developed by each organization.

The Labour Demand Outlook report looks at occupational demand within oil sands-related construction, maintenance and operations workforce requirements. The collective findings, assessed and compiled in a single report, highlight the need for the construction and oil and gas industries to work together to ensure the supply of skilled workers support future hiring needs.

“While Canadians can access many different workforce projections, this compilation of data represents some of the most reliable information about workforce requirements for oil sands construction, maintenance and operations,” said Carla Campbell-Ott, executive director of the Council.

The report’s projections underscore the significant workforce challenges facing oil sands employers. Alberta, already facing a tight labor market with an unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent, is increasingly competing for key trades and occupations as other resource, infrastructure and engineering projects across the country get underway. Specific construction occupations under pressure are boilermakers, carpenters, electricians and labourers.

According to the report workforce demand for oil sands construction and operations will reach 98,380 by 2023.

Oil Sands Construction and Operations Workforce Projections to 2023

E = Estimated; F = Forecasted
Source: Petroleum HR Council and Buildforce, 2014

The oil sands sector will generate about 72,810 direct construction and operations jobs in 2014. Approximately 46,260 of those jobs will be within aggregated oil sands construction, which includes new and sustaining construction, maintenance, and operations. The remaining 26,550 jobs are direct oil sands operations jobs, supporting in-situ, mining and upgrading production. Occupations facing the greatest job increases due to industry activity in oil sands operations are power engineers, heavy equipment operators and petroleum engineers. More than 10,000 new jobs are projected for in situ operations, a 91 per cent increase over 2014 employment levels.

Over the next decade, employment within oil sands operations is expected to grow by 15,330 new jobs, for total employment of about 41,880. Construction jobs, meanwhile, are expected to dip slightly after 2019 by 6,180 jobs if no additional oil sands expansion projects are announced.  

The report says that as workers retire, attrition has the potential to drive a significant number of job openings over the next decade. Alberta could lose 37,500 construction skilled workers and 6,400 in oil sands operations due to retirements over the next decade.  

“To enhance the supply of skilled workers, oil sands employers will continue recruiting workers from across Canada and abroad, improve productivity through advances in procurement and training and the use of fabrication facilities and modular assembly yards, and by providing career development and succession planning programs that shorten learning curves,” said Campbell-Ott.      

Oil Sands Construction, Maintenance and Operations Labour Demand Outlook to 2023 is now available at no charge at

This project was funded in part by the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour (JSTL).


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