With the “last in, first out” youth workforce declining and the “grey wave” of baby boomers heading towards retirement, Canada’s oil and gas industry will be challenged to replace its workforce should a significant rebound in hiring occur.

The decade 2006-2016 was remarkable for Canada’s oil and gas industry – periods of rapid growth followed by sharp contractions transformed not only the industry, but also its workforce, according to the latest report from PetroLMI, a division of Energy Safety Canada.

During the 10-year period, the workforce employed directly by Canada’s oil and gas industry expanded by 15 percent, or 25,000 workers, to almost 190,000.

Demographic analysis by PetroLMI has found the industry made some strides in becoming more diverse: Representation among immigrants and non-permanent residents, visible minorities and Indigenous Peoples increased over the period; The oil and gas industry’s workforce grew older and became more educated; The proportional representation of young workers declined by more than half; The share of women and persons with disabilities working in the industry remained relatively unchanged.

According to the report Diversifying Canada’s Oil and Gas Workforce: A Decade in Review, by 2016, 17 percent of oil and gas workers were 55 or older, up considerably from 10 percent in 2006. The share of young workers, those under 25, declined from 15 percent to seven percent of the workforce.

Not unlike Canada’s total workforce, oil and gas workers were also more educated – the proportion of workers without a high school diploma was cut in half to eight percent, while workers with a university degree increased from 19 to 26 percent. Meanwhile, immigrants and non-permanent residents made up 16 percent of the workforce and visible minorities 13 percent, up from 12 percent and seven percent, respectively.

By 2016 the oil and gas industry’s share of women was little changed at 22 percent of the workforce. Women made up 34 per cent of the pipeline workforce, 25 per cent of the exploration and production workforce and 17 per cent of the oil and gas services workforce.

More than half of the women working in Canada’s oil and gas industry are employed in occupations related to business, finance and administration. These roles tended to be impacted by merger and acquisition activities, particularly in the exploration and production sector.

While the growth of workforce representation of Indigenous Peoples grew relatively slowly during the 10-year period, from 5.6 to 6.3 percent, it remained proportionately higher than other trade-intensive industries and the total Canadian workforce.

“During the most recent downturn, many younger, less experienced workers were let go. Several employers interviewed for this report expressed concern about reversing these losses over the longer term,” said Carol Howes, Vice President of Communications and PetroLMI for Energy Safety Canada. “There have already been skill shortages in oil and gas services — a sector that lost many young workers in the last three years. Going forward the industry will need to refocus on improving the overall work environment and culture to continue to attract and retain the best talent.”

PetroLMI’s report was funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.