5 projections about the labour outlook for Canada’s pipeline industry

In a recent post about the 100-year old pipeline we learned that the expertise and experience of veteran pipeline professionals is crucial in keeping pipelines safe. In fact, passing knowledge from one generation of workers to the next contributes to the safety culture of the entire industry.

But who are veteran pipeline workers going to pass their knowledge along to?

According to a recent study by the CEPA Foundation, the pipeline industry is likely to experience a shrinking pool of new talent over the next decade. The purpose of the study was to help pipeline companies develop their workforce planning and talent strategies, and to help the industry minimize future skill gaps. Here are the five main projections, summarized:

Projection 1 – Labour pool will deplete

There are several reasons why the available pool of talent is decreasing. This includes:

    • An aging workforce. For instance, the average age of a welder in the Canadian energy and resources industry is 56 years of age. Attrition of the workforce as these people retire is expected to continue over the next decade.
    • A shortage of graduates with the required skill sets, from universities or colleges.
    • The loss of workers who were laid off and have moved to another location or industry.

Projection 2 – Demand will increase

Based on rising oil prices, and regulatory approval of proposed projects, there is projected to be an increase in capital projects. That means that workforce demand for critical occupations in the pipeline industry should start increasing in 2017, and is expected to peak in 2021.

Projection 3 – There will be  an employee shortfall

Many critical occupations within the pipeline industry will see a significant labour shortage over the next 10 years. But the report projects that most of the shortfall will be within relatively few occupations, specifically:

    • Construction trades helpers and labourers
    • Heavy equipment operators
    • Welders and related machine operators
    • Industrial painters, coaters and metal finishing process operators
    • Construction managers
    • Inspectors in public and environmental health and occupational health and safety


Pipeline Employee Shortfall

Projection 4 – The pipeline industry may look for alternative sources of workers

The study identified 13 comparable industries that use workers with similar skill sets and occupations. Some of these industries, such as the heavy and civil engineering industry, have a low projected growth and could provide a source of suitable employees. For instance, there is a projected shortage of 2,000 welders and related machine operators in 2021. But there is a supply of 50,000 welders in comparable industries.

Also, most of those workers in comparable industries are in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, where the demand is also expected to be the greatest.

Projection 5 – There will be an opportunity to further relationships with Aboriginal communities

It has long been our goal as an industry to engage and work with the Aboriginal community as much as possible. This need for workers in critical occupations provides an opportunity to partner with Aboriginal communities in skills development or educational programs.

You can read more about these labour projections in the CEPA Foundation’s Industry-wide Pipeline Workers Supply and Demand Outlook to 2025 (PDF).

You can also read about the kinds of talented young people who are pursuing careers in the pipeline industry in ‘How young pipeliners are shaping the future of the energy industry’.