Monday, December 08, 2008

Talent Demand Forecast

During the onset of the economic storm, articles about talent shortages were hard to find. Looming layoffs put unemployment on the front page. But the gloomy labor forecasts were an aberration:

After spending the past three years dangling carrots and scouring the globe to lure employees, energy companies may now find themselves in the sticky position of having to potentially lay off employees in coming months, according to recruitment experts who are seeing a rise in the number of out-of-work clients.

"If the capital expenditures for facilities or those plans are curtailed by the oil and gas companies, then they will not need the support of the (engineering, procurement and construction) firms, the (information technology) firms and the individual consultants, so it will have a direct impact in the first quarter (of 2009)," says Bruce Green, a managing partner with business advisory and career services firm Cenera in Calgary.

"But companies will do their very best to reassign the talent because it took them so long to find (workers)," he adds.

Dealing with the boom-bust cycle of resource commodities is tough. The demand for labor can crash just as suddenly as it spiked. However, attracting talent is expensive. But demographics, not the return of high oil prices, are driving the efforts to retain the human capital currently toiling in places such as Alberta:

The good news is that the downturn in demand could be somewhat offset by the aging population, which led to the labour shortage of recent years. Highly qualified and experienced people are still in strong demand overall, [Green] says.

Concerns about looming talent shortages has returned to the news stream. Boomers retiring, not a possible depression, remains the dominant labor narrative. Regions that can weather the downturn relatively well should cultivate a strong edge in attracting skilled labor.

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