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Why Alberta's oil and gas workers are turning to tech jobs | Education

Why Alberta's oil and gas workers are turning to tech jobs | Education
Why Alberta's oil and gas workers are turning to tech jobs | Education

Why are Alberta's oil and gas workers turning to technology jobs?

As Alberta's oil and gas sector grapples with labor shortages, some former industry workers are turning to careers in technology companies.

For nearly seven years, Daniel Afkhum worked as a geoscientist in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria and the United States.  But after moving to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, Afekhume decided to change his career.

"Instability in the oil and gas industry, it's happening more and more rapidly," Afekhum said.

"It's hard for me to basically plan long-term for career growth opportunities."

Afekhum participated in the EDGE UP program led by Calgary Economic Development, which provides free training to workers transitioning from energy to technology.  More than 300 workers participated in the programme.

For the past two months, Afekhum has been working as a data engineer at Neo Financial, a fintech company.  He hopes to find more stability in the tech industry.

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"I needed a fresh start. I needed to transfer my experience, my skill set to another industry, and the tech industry was almost a natural fit for me."

According to commercial real estate and investment firm CBRE, Calgary had increased its tech sector employment by 17.9 percent between 2015 and 2020.  This promoted a total of 46,700 technical jobs in the city.  With multinationals like Amazon Web Services (AWS) setting up shop in Calgary, the city's tech sector is gaining momentum.

Talent contest

Vince O'Gorman, CEO of Calgary-based Vogue App Developers, said hiring is extremely competitive among tech employers.  His company is hiring oil and gas workers with applicable skills in the technical sector.

"There are a lot of people out there who have knowledge in project management and probably some technical background that is transferable," O'Gorman said.

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But with the oil and gas sector experiencing a boom due to rising prices, O'Gorman said it can be tough to recruit energy workers into tech.

Chris Reed, co-founder and head of technology at Neo Financial, agrees that despite positive growth in Calgary's tech sector, recruitment remains competitive.  In less than four years, Reid's company has hired more than 600 employees, but recruitment is still a challenge.

"Everyone wants the best talent. So, it's always going to be competitive," Reid said.

Companies like AWS are turning to post-secondary schools for recruitment.  The company partnered with Mount Royal University in November 2021 to create a training program that prepares workers for entry-level jobs in cloud computing.

The recruiting power of large companies like AWS may be another factor that makes it difficult for smaller tech companies in Calgary to hire top talent.

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Transition skills to technology

Felipe Moreno, 46, is a mechanical engineer by trade, but has worked as a technical analyst at Neo Financial for the past year.

Moreno worked for a sustainability company that was involved in projects in the oil and gas industry.  He said that the skills he has acquired in his former job are somewhat similar to what he does in his current technical job.

"It's basically a different type of problem solving, using computers and data to analyze problems," Moreno said.

But working in technology isn't always easy.  Moreno said the IT industry is always changing, so workers like him need to constantly learn new skills.

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Afekhume also said that the biggest challenge to exiting the oil and gas sector was the number of new tools and technologies they had to learn.

"You need to be prepared for the pace. So, it keeps you on your feet, but the good side is that you're always learning... your approach is always growing and broadening every day."

Source: CBC News, Direct News 99