Syncrude Strengthens its Workforce by Recognizing Foreign Skills and Experience

As the world’s largest producer of crude oil from oil sands, Syncrude realizes it needs to have the most talented workforce in the field. It is doing this by hiring skilled immigrants that bring a wealth of skills and experience and they are also retaining them by providing an inclusive working environment.

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A few years ago, Syncrude, a producer of crude oil in northern Alberta, interviewed a candidate who had his engineering degree and PhD from China and a Master’s degree from Canada.

However, he didn’t have an Alberta-recognized engineering license, which meant he couldn’t work as an engineer in the province.

“Because we didn’t want to lose him, we hired him into a technologist role and looked at how we could assist him in getting his credentials as an engineer and then move him into that role,” says Cheryl Robb, a spokesperson for Syncrude.

The company connected him with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) and supported him through the process of obtaining his Alberta engineering designation by giving him time off for courses and providing financial assistance for textbooks.

“By hiring people from other parts of the world, you get different perspectives brought to the table and they think outside the box, which leads to better solutions in the end,” says Ms. Robb.

Syncrude began to actively recruit skilled immigrants back in 2005 when more and more companies were coming to the oil sands, all competing for the same talent. By recognizing the skills and experiences of internationally educated professionals, Syncrude is able to expand its potential talent pool and stay ahead of the competition.

To reach out to these candidates, Syncrude recruiters regularly visit English as a Second Language classes at Keyano College, the local college in Fort McMurray, to talk about the opportunities available at Syncrude and what a career at the company would look like. This helps Syncrude be top of mind as an employer for new Canadians with the right skills and experiences.

Regardless of their profession or trade, Syncrude provides mentoring to all new hires to help them integrate into the workplace.

Every new hire is paired with a more experienced employee to help them be more comfortable in their roles and give them the opportunity to learn the work from a seasoned, experienced role model, says Ms. Robb.

“We want to provide a supportive work environment that sets people up for success,” she says.

The company also offers employee development through in-house and online training initiatives, as well as tuition subsidies for courses.

“Syncrude believes continuous learning leads to a more informed, productive and motivated workforce. Helping employees gain new knowledge and skills also increases their commitment to our organization,” says Ms. Robb. “Ongoing training and education also helps prepare employees to assume positions of increasing responsibility.”

These programs help Syncrude retain employees, as more than 400 of the company’s 5,500 employees having worked for the company for more than 30 years. They also help the company attract future generations, with many of the employees having parents and grandparents who have worked for Syncrude as well.

Mediacorp Canada recognized Syncrude for its commitment to supporting new Canadians’ transition to a new country and workplace by naming it a Best Employer for New Canadians in 2010 and 2011.

Tips for Employers:

  • Hire foreign-trained professionals in regulated occupations at an intermediate level and provide financial assistance and time off as they work toward their Canadian licenses.
  • Pair new hires with experienced employees to help them be more comfortable in their roles and give them the opportunity to learn the work from a seasoned role model.
  • Increase employee engagement and retention by supporting ongoing learning and development, which also prepares employees for more senior positions.
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