Oil has played a strange roll in my life and in the life of many people born between 1960 and 1965. A thin sliver of end days Baby Boomers and first year GenXers. Oil has been the bane of our existence in many ways but hit us first and hardest in 1980. All of us were graduating from high school into one of the biggest recessions of our lives. Back in the day the emphasis on hiring was on experience and unemployment in Quebec remained in double digits for the next twenty years sometimes going as high as 14%. That was general unemployment not youth unemployment which traditionally is about twice the rate of general unemployment.
Other than my friend Richard, who is a teacher, I know no one who ever worked in their chosen field. When we got out of school you scrambled to take what you could get to put food on the table and the wages sucked. By the time things started to turn around another tectonic shift had taken place in the job market, namely computers, and employers were turning more to inexperienced but tech savvy grads to fill new positions.
Every generation has to deal with something and I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with bullets or bombs but that doesn’t mean what I have was handed to me on a silver platter either.
These days oil continues to have an affect on my life. About a year ago I enrolled in a teach yourself Power Engineering program at NAIT. I chose NAIT because the program was in Alberta which meant that eventually I could write a certification exam in Alberta. Having Power Engineering certification in the oil patch isn’t a guarantee of a job but it makes finding work much easier than having a B.A. in English Lit and twenty years of computer tech experience does. All this effort to move to Alberta centers on one person: Donna. She is there which means my future is there. It is that simple and that complicated.
The price of oil in the middle of the summer was brutal and the price at the gas pumps was as well. The one upside I would think about while filling the tank was that as long as the price is high then the oil sands will be producing and there will be work when I get there. That’s how a blue collar man thinks. Life is always a trade off of some kind. Then Saudi Arabia decided to make a grab for a larger share of the Asian market and the price of oil started to fall and it kept falling. Husky pulled 3.5 billion out of Alberta, Suncor is pulling out 2 billion and laying off 1000 employees, BP is relocating 300 employees and the Conference Board of Canada has made it clear Alberta is headed for a major recession which will hit by the end of this year. For a working man the word recession means one thing: there are more workers than there are jobs. For employers that survive the pool of available talent will grow and those in the pool will be willing to take less money. For the working class who are just now starting to recover from the banking debacle that threw so many out of work in 2009 it means going back to treading water instead of getting out onto shore.
For me? I have no idea. I’ve been following the Alberta jobs market for the last year. Edmonton is a little better insulated from the coming crunch than Calgary and Fort McMurray but no one is immune.
I am moving to Donna, not to a career or a job per se but the idea of not being able to find work is scary. No one wants to be unemployed.
The trouble with choices is that you have to make them, they are never easy and you never know if you are making the right one.
The good thing about choices is that regardless of the ones you make they almost always work out in the long run.
I’m still moving to Donna, I’m just a little more nervous about it than I was before.