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Kick your lunchpail down the road

Part of our NOW WHAT!?! series of stories on looking for work

Estevan – Our focus this month, employment and training was planned when oil was still around $85 a barrel. At that time, things were still looking pretty good, and people were still hiring.

Since then the Saskatchewan oil boom has gone bust, and nearly every day we are getting word of another company laying off staff.

As a result, we’ve switched gears somewhat. Instead of focusing on hiring, this edition tackles the highly stressful situation of being out of a job and looking for work.

There’s lots of terms for it: laid off, pink slip, skidded, run off, downsized, terminated, or, as some pipeliners say, kick your lunchpail down the road.

In this edition, we try to answer the questions that come after the question everyone who has been laid off asks themselves: “Now what?”

Lloydminster reporter Geoff Lee’s stories focus on Employment Insurance, job sharing, job fairs and recruiting. Editor Brian Zinchuk takes a different tack, writing from the first-person singular position as someone looking for work. As a former pipeliner and excavator operator, he’s often been offered work over the years by the companies we do stories on. Most of those offers were joking, but some were more serious. In this edition he sees if someone who used to be able to dig a good ditch 12 years ago can find work in this environment.

Estevan and area, which not so long ago used to have over 1,100 jobs posted on, had only 447 on March 10. Of those, only 23 could be directly attributed to the oilpatch. It was almost as if the oilpatch, the jobs juggernaut, had disappeared when it came to hiring.

Saskatchewan was largely spared during the downturn of 2008-2009. This was due to two factors: the Saskatchewan Bakken was still considered a hot play, and then-Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach’s tinkering with royalties caused a flight of capital from Wild Rose Country to the Land of Living Skies. However, this time we have not been spared.

With no end of low oil prices in sight, this could be a very long spring breakup. Most people told us they don’t expect to see anything turn around before October. Companies that usually keep their staff during spring breakup are likely going to be laying many off, if they haven’t already. In oil country, the impacts are being felt by everyone, including families.

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