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Moving to Alberta
I am 26 and have lived in Toronto my whole life except when I went to college for a forestry program. It was okay but I found a summer job working in a warehouse and I just kept on working there and never went back to school. The plant shut down two years ago and all I have been getting since then is part-time security jobs that don’t pay very well. I moved back with my parents to help make ends meet and I am feeling desperate. A guy I know is planning to go out to Alberta to find work on the oil sands and he’s asked me to go with him. I am thinking about it but I’m not sure. Do you have any advice for me?
Although I can feel your frustration with your situation, I’d suggest you stand back a little and look at the bigger picture — making a decision when you’re feeling desperate isn’t usually the wisest course of action.
Actually, at this point, I have more questions than answers for you, such as:
- What type of job do you expect to get out West?
- Have you given thought to the kind of career you really want?
- Have you considered finishing your forestry diploma or retraining in some other area?
Consider taking a look at the CAREERinsite website, where you can explore various career options, do self-assessments and make a career action plan. It’s also never a bad idea to talk in-person with a career counsellor.
In the long run, I think that having some sort of marketable skills or training under your belt would serve you better than moving to find a high-paying unskilled job. Unskilled labourers may be in demand during boom times but otherwise these types of jobs are becoming increasingly scarce. I feel fairly confident that skilled trades positions, for example, will be in demand for many years to come.
However, if you don’t want to look at retraining right now and making money is your main goal, I encourage you to at least get clear about the types of jobs available in Alberta and which ones you could reasonably perform.
I did look at this Fort McMurray-Alberta Labour Market Information page, which has the following sobering words: “[I]f you are thinking you will find a job immediately after you get here, you are mistaken. It takes time to get work here too. Contrary to popular belief, employers are not waiting at the airport recruiting. The employers in the RMWB [Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo where the oil sands are located] are looking for skilled and trained workers. There are generally not high-paid positions for unskilled labour.”
The Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce lists some career resources you may want to look into. As well, you could read the career sections of online newspapers such as Fort McMurray Today to get a sense of what jobs are available and who the employers are. Also Fort McMurray Online contains job postings as does JobsinFortMcMurray.ca. As most companies do online hiring you could always apply to jobs before leaving Toronto.
Another thought: I don’t think it would be terribly wise to move without having a bare minimum of three months worth of income saved up. And bear in mind that living expenses can be high in the areas surrounding the oil sands and even finding a place to rent could be a challenge.
Also, take into consideration that you will have the added stress of moving to a place where you may not know anyone except your friend. Finally, moving out to rural Alberta may require some adjusting for someone who has lived decades in a big city.
Best of luck with your decision,