Laid-Off Oil Workers Should Look to Calgary Tech Sector

City’s business leaders urge unemployed workers to consult report about transferable skills.

Calgary faces the highest unemployment rate of Canada’s largest cities, a fact many might blame on the slump in the oil sector. But business leaders and educators are urging laid-off and underemployed oil and gas professionals to consider a new field: technology.

The skills needed for oil and gas jobs translate well into the tech world, and many people only need a course or two to upgrade. Some businesses are offering to help pay for those courses, or offer the training themselves. There are also grants available to assist with that.

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“Every single company cites the same problem: talent, talent, talent,” Mary Moran, CEO of Calgary Economic Development, told CBC News. “We have about 2,000 jobs open today, for software engineers, data scientists, coders, programmers — and then we have all of these unemployed people.”

Last week in Calgary, experts got together to help oil and gas workers find the opportunities they need to take the leap into the burgeoning sector that has struggled to fill open positions.

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Calgary Economic Development and the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) spearhead a report, Mapping Calgary’s Digital Future: Tech Employment Opportunities for Displaced Workers, that found Calgary’s issue isn’t a lack of work. Nor is it a lack of skills. It’s a gap between the two — one that’s possible to bridge.

“I call it a gold mine,” ICTC CEO Namir Anani told CBC News. “If you think about it, if we are able to transition that workforce into the jobs of the future and in-demand skills, you are not only creating the workforce of the future, but you are also able to attract investment.”

Calgary leaders are saying that oil and gas professionals would fit in well in tech jobs. Some businesses are offering to help train people so they can do that new kind of work.

It’s all the more pressing, they say, as Calgary’s unemployment rate stays steadily high at 7.3 percent. Only St. John’s, a far smaller city, had a higher rate at 7.4 percent in January.

The report compares oil and gas jobs with new tech opportunities and explains in-depth what kind of training would be required.

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