What the pipeline jobs of tomorrow will look like

Adapting to change is nothing new to Canada’s oil and gas sector. Since its beginnings, the sector has embraced technology to make systems safer and more efficient, from drilling to pipeline transportation.

Today, the industry stands on the cusp of a yet another revolution, spurred by societal changes and government regulations. And that means companies are seeking a new set of labour skills.

To learn exactly how the labour market in oil and gas is about to change, Energy Safety Canada, through its labour market division PetroLMI, conducted research into what tomorrow’s jobs might look like and what skills people working in the industry will need. The resulting report, which was released in June, looks at where the opportunities lie for future careers in oil and gas.

3 trends affecting the labour market

Breanne O’Reilly, advisor, communications and outreach for PetroLMI, says three trends are causing the labour market shifts:

  1. Regulatory changes, notably a framework to address climate change issues at the federal and provincial levels, and new Impact Assessment Act (IAA)
  2. Automation and data analytics
  3. Standardization of manufacturing processes


“It doesn’t change the jobs, but shifts the jobs to where the demand will be,” says O’Reilly of the manufacturing aspect. “We’re always interested in how technology can improve worksites; where can we get machines that will keep people safer? What else can we automate that might make our people less repetitive in their jobs and take away the mundane pieces so they can add value to their organizations?”

A lot of the traditional, more hands-on mechanical jobs will still exist, but will require people to be more digitally literate, with more IT professionals required to manage the machines.

What other changes are coming?

Regulatory changes will also affect job descriptions, particularly because companies will require strong stakeholder and communication skills, says O’Reilly.

The IAA calls for expanded Indigenous and public input into all projects, so skills in consultation, communication and expertise in Indigenous issues will be sought after.

Analytics and data collection are also increasingly crucial to the oil and gas sector. In recent years, as the oil price dropped, companies have begun to take their data even more seriously.

“We had collected a lot of data but never used it to the full extent. We hear more and more about how big data is being used, and I think the oil and gas industry is looking at how they can use their data better,” she says.

“In pipelines, for instance, you look at how much digitization has increased in the last few years. We can monitor everything easier and make our jobs easier.”

Next up: attracting young workers

O’Reilly says the study suggested that the industry should focus on attracting young people to create the workforce for the future.

Previously, the industry used financial incentives, but a lot of young people have more interest in a diverse work-life balance than previous generations. The industry will have to look at how they are recruiting young people.

“We used to have 15 per cent of the workforce under 24 and now it’s half that,” says O’Reilly.

For more information on how the oil and gas industry’s workforce is shifting, you can find the report here.