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Calgary job retraining program seeks more funds to help laid-off workers

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WATCH: A Calgary-based skills training program that transitions oil workers to technology jobs is facing an uncertain future as it waits for more funding. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, both laid-off oil workers and employers say it's critical to keep funding job retraining programs – Mar 30, 2021
A Calgary-based skills training program that transitions oil workers to technology jobs is facing an uncertain future as it waits for more funding.

Like many of her colleagues, Shona Clarke knew the layoffs were coming. It was just a matter of when.

“You always knew it was a real possibility, and after a while, that does wear on you a little bit,” said Clarke.

But when Clarke, who is a geologist, was laid off in June 2019, she used it as a chance to learn something new.

“For me, it was actually a really good opportunity,” she said.

“Eventually, when you start to realize, OK I really have to do this. That’s a little scary because then you have to think about what things am I going to do?”

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Read more: Out-of-work Canadian energy workers get ‘Edge Up’ on competition with new pilot project

Clarke enrolled in Edge Up, a free four- to five-month training program that helps displaced workers shift to jobs in Calgary’s digital technology industry.

She gained the skills she needed to be hired by Fishbone Analytics, a Calgary-based automation company.

Fishbone Analytics provides design implementation, automation and management of IT, employee, customer and business workflows on the ServiceNow program.

“We are doing amazing,” said Lee Stanfieldt, director of people and culture at Fishbone Analytics. “We have been growing in leaps and bounds over the last several years in particular.”

Stanfield said the company hired between 15 and 17 staff in the past year but wasn’t able to find all the skilled people they need in Alberta.

“Probably about half, we have had to go outside of Alberta,” Stanfield said.

Stanfield said hiring grads with new skills in technology who have had previous careers is a bonus.

“I genuinely believe that if we got folks who have that understanding of what a workplace looks like and feels like, then we are just able to really shorten that time to productivity,” Stanfield said.

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She hopes funding for programs like Edge Up continues.

“Alberta needs to continue to invest in their people, having that funding and being able to recognize folks who already have a distinctive career in whatever their energy, oil and gas background may be. They have so much business acumen that can translate into our day-to-day business as well,” Stanfield said.

Read more: Multinational tech giant Infosys to bring 500 jobs to Calgary

Edge Up is funded through a grant from the federal government’s Future Skills Centre.

The grant money for Edge Up covered a pilot project that had space for 98 students but there were over 10 times as many applicants.

Calgary Economic Development said the demand to support displaced oil and gas workers is still overwhelming and they hope to hear in the coming weeks if they get funding for a new version of the Edge Up program.

Clarke the program is critical for people who need to make a transition but don’t have money to return to school.

“Especially now that a lot of people are in a situation where they have to make choices about what they are able to do,” said Clarke.

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“This was a really good program to train really quickly and to get up to speed in an industry really quickly so that you could actually contribute and so that is hugely valuable.”

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