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The West beckons
More than 20 years ago, I decided to move west — though by this I don’t mean out West (the Prairies) — I mean Toronto, which is west of the Maritimes. At the time I was working as a small-town (and underpaid) reporter in southern Nova Scotia before the fisheries industry went belly up. Although the fishermen seemed to be making a lucrative living then, without a boat, inclination or aptitude for hauling cod, I was out of luck on that front. But, as a life-long Maritimer accustomed to a scarcity of jobs, the truth was I felt fortunate to have a job at all, especially in my field. (After leaving university armed with a degree in what is considered now to be the seventh most useless major [English literature], like many an unemployed grad today, I returned for more practical training, ironically, pursuing a degree in what turned out to be the eighth most useless major [journalism] ... sigh.) Irony aside, a good deal of my decision to move westward was based on a desire to progress beyond the poverty level.
Since moving to Toronto, I have found better-paying jobs, but given the current tight labour market, I still feel lucky that I am working in my field, one that has suffered a devastating number of cuts as of late. And writing for a magazine geared to job seekers I am well aware of the many qualified and bright people in any number of fields who are unable to find a full-time job.
Earlier this spring, while at The National Job Fair, a place where I often meet those bright, educated and jobless people, I was startled to hear the sound of fiddle music coming from what turned out to be the New Brunswick Recruitment Zone. Yikes! I thought to myself, was the Toronto job scene at such a low point that a chronically job-starved province like N.B. (where, I had been born and raised) could have jobs on offer for us? (A little research afterwards showed that the job situation in N.B. is still nothing to brag about unless, perhaps, you’re talking about Moncton, where there are apparently skilled jobs to be had.)
Truth be told, the down East contingent wasn’t where the real action was happening. The big story at the job fair revolved around the recruiters from out West. This time by “out West” I mainly mean Saskatchewan and to a lesser degree Alberta. As I walked around the cavernous convention centre I spied small swarms of job seekers huddled around booths like SaskPower or Enterprise Saskatchewan — recruiters who seemingly took the time to examine resumés.
The scene at the job fair seemed consistent with all the buzz I’ve been hearing about the burgeoning job opportunities in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Curious, I did some research and based on the following I have to agree — the odds of finding a job are likely higher in Alberta or Saskatchewan than in Toronto.
Exhibit One: Strong demand for labour
“Alberta is likely heading into its most severe labour crunch in history,” says the Edmonton Journal. (According to Alberta’s Occupational Demand and Supply Outlook 2011-21, over the next decade, Alberta could experience a labour shortage of approximately 14,000 workers.) Not surprisingly, the oil and gas industry is seen to be the sector that will be hardest hit by a skills shortage.
And in Saskatchewan, that province will be challenged to meet construction labour needs over the next decade, according to the Construction Sector Council (CSC). Even in tourism, an area well outside of the growing construction or natural resources sectors, shortages may loom.
Exhibit Three: High economic growth
A March 2012 RBC Economics report says that growing demand for Saskatchewan's natural resources and increased spending in mining and utilities will help Saskatchewan’s real gross domestic product to grow 4.6 per cent, the largest provincial increase this year. As well, The Conference Board of Canada forecasts that Saskatchewan’s mining industry will “grow by 2.7 per cent this year and by a blistering 9.2 per cent in 2013.” In a special report from TD Economics, economists Derek Burleton and Sonya Gulateri predict Saskatchewan will have a growth rate of 2.3 per cent between 2016 and 2021, putting it slightly behind frontrunner Alberta.
Exhibit Four: Increasing immigration
The TD report also points out that immigrants are increasingly heading out West. “If we rewind the clock back 10 years ago, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal were home to four out of every five new immigrants to Canada. Now, that statistic has slipped to three in five; Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg are successfully vying for a larger slice of the total pie.” This (Regina) Leader Post article says that the number of immigrants to Saskatchewan from 2004 to 2012 was almost three times higher than the number who immigrated there from 1998 until 2004.
Exhibit Five: Overseas recruiting
In March, following the lead of an Alberta-B.C. delegation, a host of Saskatchewan businesses and government reps went on a recruitment mission to an economically devastated and job-scarce Ireland. Saskatchewan employers ended up hiring more than 280 Irish skilled workers.
Quick wrap up: I think it’s fair to say that the centre of economic activity is shifting westwards, something that likely means more jobs for now and the near future. I’m not saying you should move to Lethbridge or Saskatoon — moving is a major life interruption, something that depends upon your circumstances (like what type of field you are in, whether you’re married or single, etc.). But if you’re not getting any callbacks ... maybe it's something to consider.
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