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Business improving in second half

Some of Bonnyville's employers are saying business is picking up – and that if they're not hiring now, they will be in the near future. Major employers in the Lakeland region say they did not lose jobs due to the economic downturn.

Some of Bonnyville's employers are saying business is picking up – and that if they're not hiring now, they will be in the near future.

Major employers in the Lakeland region say they did not lose jobs due to the economic downturn.

In June, Alberta's unemployment rate crept up to 6.7 per cent due to the loss of 9,600 full-time jobs between May and June.

Alberta's unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 per cent in July, with employment growth measured at 1.2 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

“We haven't made any significant reductions in the size or scope of our field activities,” said Imperial Oil Resources spokesman Pius Rolheiser, adding that Cold Lake is Imperial Oil's largest single producing asset.

“It's an area that we focus a lot of our activity and resources on,” he said. Currently, design work is moving ahead on the proposed Nabiye project, which would add around 30,000 barrels of oil per day to production. Imperial Oil has not yet decided to build the project.

“We're advancing design and planning work and we've also submitted amendment applications to change the approved project in a couple of ways, all which are designed to improve the environmental performance,” said Rolheiser.

Another major employer, Cenovus, recently announced plans to hire 100 people for its Foster Creek operation this year on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.

While the economic downturn of 2009 carried over into the first half of 2010 and slowed down activity for some companies operating locally, the second half of 2010 is looking better.

“We are seeing signs of growth at both our Bonnyville and Cold Lake facilities as bids are being awarded and tenders issued,” said Mark White, human resources assistant and recruiter for Flint Energy Services Ltd. in the Lakeland region.

While the economic downturn reduced oil prices and slowed activity in some regions throughout the province, White said overall the Lakeland region remained healthy for Flint Energy.

“For the first six months of this year, though slower than in previous years, Flint's overall revenues for the period ending June 30, 2010 were up from the comparable period last year,” White said.

White added that management expects the second half of 2010 to improve quarter over quarter as the company has had a number of multi-year contract wins which provide improved certainty for its second half of 2010 and beyond.

“During times when areas do encounter slower than usual workloads, we provide employees with career paths and/or continuous employment opportunities by transferring our experienced, higher skilled workforce between operation centers, thus ensuring adequate staffing levels across all sites and until workloads increase in slower regions,” he said.

“In times of boom, our region flourishes, but when the area notices a trend slower than what is normally notorious in the area then it's a good time for our apprentices to return to school and take their next level of technical training,” White said.

White also mentioned that during such times people seeking jobs should be brushing up on their skills, obtaining safety and other appropriate tickets, and sending in their updated resumes so that when external recruitment is required, they can review resumes on file and match the right people with the right skills for the right job. Demand for journeyman pipefitters and electricians remains strong across the province, he said.

Flint Energy employs approximately 500 people in the Lakeland region and over 10,000 people in 60 locations in Western North America in various trades, including pipefitters, welders, electricians, operators, plumbers, carpenters, machinists, and insulators.

Sure Flow Consulting Services and Sure Field Oilfield Services experienced steady growth despite the economic downturn.

“This whole northeast quadrant of Alberta has got a great future,” said Barry Chappell, business development manager. He said the company has experienced steady continual growth and that it didn't experience the economic downturn.

Sure Flow keeps in contact with NAIT, SAIT, SIAST, Lakeland College, Portage College and others to help meet its recruiting needs. Finding enough employees isn't usually a problem, but, “If there's people to be needed somewhere we usually end up advertising.”

Sure Flow provides employees and contractors for well servicing and abandonment, pipeline and facility construction, restoration of lease and facilities, drilling, power engineering, production operators, tradesmen, and camp staff. The company has a staff of over 335 contractors and employees.

“Things are beginning to get busier. Things are not getting really busy really quickly but we are seeing an improvement,” said Roxanne Ringuette, Human Resources Manager for B & R Eckels Transport.

She said the company has not hired new employees recently, but it is beginning to see the need to bring on more personnel as it looks into the future for its oilfield and freight departments. She said the company is feeling “cautiously optimistic” about the future.