Smoky River Regional Economic Development

Dan Dibbelt
Smoky River Regional
Economic Development


It may be time to
spread the work around


It is an unusual time in Alberta.
I have lived in Alberta for more than 40 years and pretty much during that entire time the economy has been relatively stable. Indeed, we have had our ups and downs, but never in that 40 years has the economy been as unstable and unpredictable as it is today.
For older folks like me, we don’t necessarily panic. We have been in the workforce for awhile, hopefully have a bit of a nest egg or pension set aside and have developed enough skills we can likely weather the storm.
But for young people, especially the ones that will be graduating this year, it will be a challenge in the process of deciding what you are going to do with your life.
When my friends and I graduated from school, we chose careers and jobs that interested us with out a lot of consideration of whether we would get a position somewhere. We just assumed we would. I have never been unemployed: I could always find a job. Admittedly, my age group was a lot less picky than the younger generation. I have cleaned slaughterhouses, sold eyeglasses, stocked shelves, worked a s a journalist and did a host of other jobs throughout my years.
I have never been laid off or fired and I have never worked for a company that shut down. These days, this is becoming much more common. So what is a young person starting out their post school years to do?
My oldest son is 21. He has worked at a butcher shop for the past four years. He makes a decent wage, works six days a week, owns two nice vehicles, both paid for and takes the occasional holiday. Last year he considered going to post-secondary to become a power engineer. At that time, the likelihood of job placement after graduating was 100 percent. A couple weeks ago he looked at this opportunity again and saw the likelihood of job placement was zero.
And in all likelihood, that figure won’t change much over the coming years. In the meantime, a number of oilfield workers have applied at the butcher shop were my son works looking for employment, in fact it is a weekly occurrence.
My son, hasn’t given up his pursuit of post secondary education, but he has certainly expanded the potential careers he will pursue.
As I write this, the price of oil is at $37 per barrel. Economists speculate this won’t change a whole lot over the next couple years. Even if oil does increase dramatically enough to kick start Alberta’s oil industry, there will be plenty of skilled oil workers out there to handle the available jobs. My son is thinking of becoming a chef.
Alberta has long been the province people lived in to earn good money and unless you are in the public service, that is not so much the case anymore. That’s a tough message for those of us who have lived through the good times. But perhaps this is a time we need to accept we are in a correction process. Jobs are not as plentiful, which will certainly ease the strain on employers who in the past couldn’t get workers.
We may have to accept regular work week hours and spread the work that is out there to more people. Working less hours means more leisure time for family, friends and personal pursuits. Post secondary traditionally sees an increase in registrations when the economy is down. All these are good, but little benefit to those who are losing jobs.
And for the students graduating this year, it makes the decision making process, on what career to pursue, a wee bit harder or perhaps a wee bit easier. My advice to my son was to pursue something he has a passion for. We cannot foresee (though economists may disagree) on where our economy will go – no one saw this one coming.

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