Going for broke: how one industry is handling the talent shortage

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The skill shortage in the Plains is no surprise, but the natural resource boom isn’t only leaving mining companies short – other industries say the higher pay and easy availability of jobs in those industries has left them without qualified newcomers.

Alberta insurance brokers are having a tough time finding new recruits to the industry, competing against the lucrative wages offered by a white-hot oil and gas industry.

“The staff shortage in Alberta isn’t a calming occurrence,” said Darren King of HUB International Phoenix Insurance Brokers in Red Deer, Alberta. “It’s tough to finding good, experienced people in any industry, but there aren’t a lot of new entrants because of the oil and gas (sector). You can’t find a new sales guy to sell.”

Statistics Canada data show that employment in Alberta’s oil and gas industry jumped by 7.8% from 2010 to 2011 – from 140,000 to more than 151,000 jobs.

Conversely, the same stats show that in the financial services sector, including insurance, real estate and leasing, the number of jobs plummeted over the same period from 105,000 down to 100,000 – a decrease of 4.8%.

As a result, brokerages in the province are having a tough time competing for labour, although some say the issue is more of a concern in urban areas like Calgary and Edmonton, where there is a larger proportion of oil and gas workers. (continued)

Alberta brokers contacted for this story observed that brokerage profits haven’t been what they once were, largely because of increased competition and a soft insurance market. So while brokerages are pinching pennies, wages in the oil and gas industry are positively gushing.

“Right off the bat, you could probably make lots of money -- $60,000 or $70,000 – in the oil field,” King said. “It’s hard work and a lot of hours [in the oil and gas industry]. But if you’re looking at $48,000 base plus commission [for a broker], that’s a hard sell.”

To counter the promise of higher wages, brokers are positioning themselves to potential recruits as a stable, career-oriented industry.

“One thing I say to sell insurance to a potential employee is: ‘In my opinion, you will never be out of a job,’” said Jackie Doell of A-WIN Insurance in Medicine Hat, Alberta. “If you are good at your job, it doesn’t matter where you live: you will always have something available in the insurance industry. If I get tired of being an insurance broker, there are so many more options I can choose in my industry: underwriters, adjusters, you name it. You have the potential to change or adapt to different levels.”

 

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