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The Calgary Sun: Shell shocked over labour

Fri, May 12, 2006

Shell shocked over labour

UPDATED: 2006-05-12 01:46:47 MST

Search for skilled workers heats up as oil boom intensifies

By IAN WILSON, BUSINESS EDITOR

Finding workers — especially ones as productive as those currently at the oilsands — is a mounting challenge, says a Shell Canada official.

“One of the areas of concern that we have, and the rest of the industry has, is labour availability,” Brian Straub, Shell's senior vice-president of oilsands, told an investor meeting yesterday.

“We also worry about labour productivity, of course, because we have a lot of new people coming into this business.”

The number of construction and trades workers required for major industrial projects in Alberta is expected to peak between 2008 and 2010.

Several oil companies have already sounded the alarm about what they call a looming labour crisis.

“You're talking something in the order of 30 to 40,000 tradespeople required to execute these projects. They just don't exist today,” said Straub. “The challenge really is, where will these people come from, how will we train them, how will we get them working across this business?”

Straub said a heated market, both globally and in Alberta, has created “huge competition” for resources, people, equipment and materials required at the oilsands.

Meanwhile, Shell president and CEO Clive Mather yesterday defended the Calgary-based company's decision to spend $2.4 billion on BlackRock Ventures Inc.

“I believe it is a fair price … it has been quite difficult to find good value,” said Mather, adding he hopes it will prove to be a good investment over time.

The acquisition was criticized by some as being too expensive.

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