Australia trolling for Canadian skills – by Jameson Berkow (National Post – May 4, 2012)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

CALGARY — Control over scarce resources has spawned more than a few wars throughout history and the fight for skilled labour is simply the latest.

This weekend, dozens of Australian companies will be taking part in a Calgary jobs expo to woo Canadian-trained scientists and engineers to relocate Down Under. The expo, which will move on to Vancouver and Edmonton next week, comes as Canada’s resource sector is struggling to keep skilled workers.

“Right now there is a global war for talent in any resource or mining industry,” Rupert Merrick of Working In Ltd., the Australian company organizing the expo, said during a Thursday news conference. “The skills that they need are not present in sufficient numbers within their own country.”

Australia alone will need to recruit 100,000 skilled professionals to develop more than A$150-billion in mining and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects set to roll out in the near future. With domestic labour extremely limited, local firms have turned to Canada for talent with great success.

More than 2,000 people attended the expo in Calgary and Edmonton last year, and 300 ended up accepting positions with Australian companies. Yet with major Canadian firms such as Suncor Energy Inc. and Imperial Oil Ltd. planning to nearly double domestic production over the next decade, Canada hardly has workers to spare.

“The Canadian labour force is not large enough or skilled enough or available enough to supply the needs of [Canadian] oil and gas, let alone other Canadian natural resource sectors,” said Cheryl Knight, executive director and chief executive of the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada. “So we’ve got a problem in Canada.- Internationally, I’m going to guess there is the same situations in other countries.”

Alberta’s oil sands region will require 90,000 new workers by 2020 just to keep pace with new projects as they come online, says a recent report published by global consultancy Deloitte Touche Ltd. and the PHRCC. That does not include the additional 40,000 recruits the industry will need to replace those planning to retire by that time.

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