Ground Water Canada

Features Business Staffing
Editorial: Winter 2015

Creative recruiting – Closing the skills gap may require a creative approach

January 8, 2015  By Colleen Cross

It takes a special kind of person to be a water well driller: someone
who enjoys working outdoors, someone with mechanical aptitude and, most
of all, someone who can think on their feet.

It takes a special kind of person to be a water well driller: someone who enjoys working outdoors, someone with mechanical aptitude and, most of all, someone who can think on their feet.

The ground water industry needs problem solvers. With so much of it literally underground, day-to-day problems are sometimes concealed and solving them often takes creativity.


The industry itself has a pressing problem to solve: a lack of skilled, qualified, long-term help. I have heard from drillers at the Canwell conference last June and from others since that finding good employees is their biggest headache.

According to a 2014 business survey by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling, 72 per cent of executives and business owners perceive a gap between the skills they are looking for and the skills most jobseekers have.

Closing the gap may require a creative approach.

Being more visible is one way to attract young prospects and one way to do that is to get involved in Skills Canada’s high-profile skills competitions.

The organization’s CEO, Shaun Thorson, encourages businesses to get involved in running a competition. As long as there is interest, Skills Canada will consider adding new events, he told me.

While it is widely acknowledged that training is important, employer spending on training and development has fallen significantly from $1,207 per employee in 1993, to $705 per employee in 2013, according to the Learning and Development Outlook, published in March 2014 by The Conference Board of Canada.

The ground water industry is better than some at providing training solutions. The most creative ideas are coming from partnerships between industry and education. Duane Parnham, a past Fleming College graduate, donated $1 million to the Resources Drilling and Blasting program in 2011, which the college put into three pieces of equipment that desperately needed replacement. Some of the funds have gone toward upgrades and enhancements to a training centre and $200,000 was used to create an endowment fund for students.

“Equipment manufacturers do and should step up and be partners,” said Jim Smith, a professor and program instructor at Fleming. There is an important side benefit to doing what’s right, Smith said when I spoke with him last year. Experience breeds familiarity, and if students are accustomed to using a certain piece of equipment or tool they will gravitate toward it.

Another promising avenue involves partnering with universities that already teach geology and environmental science. “We can partner with universities that are wanting that applied piece,” Smith said. “They are wanting to show students how to apply their knowledge, and we can contract-train.”

On the geothermal front, Red Deer College started an exciting Earth Loop Technician Program curriculum last September that will feed the geothermal sector in Alberta and run in conjunction with the Water Well Driller course.

Henry Goldbeck of Golbeck Recruiting offers other creative ways to motivate recruits in his column about competing with Alberta’s oil industry for jobs on page 38, among them employee referral bonuses and investment in apprenticeships and co-ops.

Using fly-in, fly-out programs to draw workers from remote locations is just one idea that surfaced at Canwell. I have no doubt other good ideas are out there and that the get-the-job-done attitude of people in this industry will yield practical strategies to solving a problem with no easy answers.

We at Ground Water Canada welcome your ideas for finding the right people to draw out this precious natural resource. We wish you success in that search and a productive and prosperous 2015.

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