PetroLMI report highlights opportunities to support Indigenous employment post-pandemic in Canada’s energy industry

Today the PetroLMI Division of Energy Safety Canada (PetroLMI) released a report, Going Beyond: Supporting Indigenous Employment in Canada’s Energy Industry Through a Pandemic and Economic Challenges. It examines the impact COVID-19 has had on Indigenous employment; representation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada’s oil and gas industry; and the opportunities to attract Indigenous workers, address skill gaps and support entrepreneurship. The report was funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.

In 2019, approximately 13,900 self-identified Indigenous Peoples were directly employed in Canada’s oil and gas industry, an increase of 26%, or 2,900 positions, from 2014. The top oil and gas occupation for Indigenous workers in 2019 was oil and gas well drillers, servicers, testers and related workers (4,000) and the highest share of employment was power engineers and power systems operators (36%). 

Across all industries the COVID-19 pandemic has had disproportionate impacts on Indigenous Peoples in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. While employment at the start of the pandemic initially declined by a similar share between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, employment among Indigenous Peoples has been slower to recover. Data specific to the oil and gas industry and analyzed by PetroLMI shows the Indigenous unemployment rate in oil and gas rose to 13.1% in May 2020 from 8.6% in January 2020. Then, between May and August, the Indigenous unemployment rate more than doubled to 26.7%. The non-Indigenous unemployment rate, meanwhile, rose from 4.6% in January to 11.7% in May. Then, between May and August, the non-Indigenous rate rose to just 13.1%, nearly 14 percentage points lower than the Indigenous rate. 

The report points out that between 2006 and 2016 the Indigenous population grew at four times the rate of the non-Indigenous population, meaning that in less than five years 350,000 Indigenous youth will reach the age when they could become members of the workforce.  

Indigenous youth are among the fastest-growing demographic in Canada and represent an opportunity to develop a future workforce for Canada’s energy industry

Carol Howes, Vice President of Communications and PetroLMI, Energy Safety Canada

Indigenous entrepreneurs are also a fast-growing segment of the economy, creating new jobs while addressing broader Indigenous community needs. In 2017, there were more than 19,000 Indigenous businesses in Canada, generating over $10 billion in revenue. Moreover, Indigenous-owned businesses are 40 times more likely to be involved in the mining and oil and gas sectors than the average Canadian business, according to research presented in the report.

Opportunities in the energy industry can support Indigenous entrepreneurship, further industry’s commitment to economic reconciliation and foster innovation. Take for example Wapahki Energy, owned by the Heartlake First Nation in Alberta. The company came up with the idea to produce bitumen pucks, known as CanaPux, a new method for transporting bitumen – thick, heavy crude oil – by blending and encasing it in plastic. This kind of business creates jobs and solves problems. It allows the product to be shipped easily and could be a game-changer.

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