Wednesday July 30, 2014

Work on the Web

Online career fair brings jobs to jobseekers
Ensign Energy Services Photo

The Petroleum Human Resources Council’s online career fair that ran this fall focused on opportunities in the oil and gas industry service sector.

Rarely would people be successful hunting for a job in their pajamas, but that is exactly what the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada was encouraging when they announced their first Oil and Gas Services Online Career Fair that took place this October.

“We actually were approached by the government of Alberta,” said council spokesperson Rowena Sampang, adding that the Province provided the funding for the online event.

“They actually did their own online career fair in November of last year,” Sampang continued. “And so they approached us because they knew that we had strong ties to industry.”

The government was also aware that the Council had established a strong online job search presence with their Careers in Oil and Gas website.

“They approached us about managing this event and so we did that with their support,” said Sampang.

The official dates of the career fair were October 16-17, but the site will be available until December 31.

The Council used the labour market information that they gather on a regular basis to target the career fair to where the biggest demand for labour exists, which is the service sector. So, they worked closely with three industry organizations, the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC), the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors (CAGC) and the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PASC), when planning the event.

“The three main industry associations for the service sector,” said Sampang. “And [we] leveraged that partnership to help secure employers for the event and promote it amongst their members.”

The partnership with the Alberta government also allowed the Council to market the career fair to unemployed individuals who might best meet the needs of the service sector.

“With the list of in-demand jobs,” Sampang explained, “they were able to market directly to those who are unemployed within those high demand occupations. So, it was a direct connection to those that were unemployed.

“And then we were also able to work with the career counselors and go to career fairs and that sort of thing to really market on the ground as well.”

The career featured fourteen employers and six industry associations.

“We really wanted to… drill home the education piece and building awareness about the sector itself because… it’s quite distinct,” said Sampang, noting that the skills and experience necessary for success in the service sector differ from those seen in other sectors such as the pipeline industry.

“We wanted to make sure that there was some education about the sector itself, what kind of jobs you could find there,” she continued, adding that the event included live chats where jobseekers were able to ask questions of those already working in the sector.

Sampang suggested that online career fairs can make job hunting a more efficient process for both jobseekers and employers.

“It helps employers reduce their recruitment costs,” said Sampang.

“They’re also able to access a labour supply pool right across Canada without having to go anywhere physically,” she added.

It was also a good way to reach young people who prefer to search and apply for jobs online, said Sampang, but there was also an in-person component to ensure that all interested jobseekers had the skills required to take advantage of the opportunity.

“We did boot camps – jobseeker boot camps – with the government,” said Sampang.

“We knew going in that not everyone’s going to be [technologically] savvy,” she continued. “And, again, different ages will have different levels of experience.”

The council felt it was important to teach appropriate online skills, not only because of the job fair, but because companies are increasingly using websites and social media to attract and recruit potential employees.

“We definitely could not have had this event be successful without that in-person component and having those career counselors training those people in-person on how to use the internet … and how to access the fair,” said Sampang.

Similarly, the online fair was a tool to encourage the industry to embrace the internet as a recruiting tool.

“I think the oil and gas industry … still has a ways to go in terms of really adopting social media,” Sampang explained.

Effective use of social media also applies to companies earning their social license to operate, according to Sampang.

“It’s getting more and more difficult in getting that social license to operate,” she said. “And part of that is addressing perception issues about the industry. And social media is really such a great platform for that, because if you’re not on social media, either way, people are having conversations about you and your industry.

“So many people are congregating online. And there’s so much potential there even to reach people within certain demographics. It’s quite a measurable channel compared to traditional means like print. For example, you post an ad in a print paper, you don’t really know if it’s effective, whereas online you can really track that information in a number of ways.”

Sampang admitted that using social media may be more difficult for smaller companies without the ability to have an employee continually monitoring and updating social media sites.

“I think the industry has a long way to go,” she said. “I think they’re recognizing that it’s a tool, but … how to do it is the next step.”

Putting the career fair together was a bit of a whirlwind experience for Sampang and her colleagues because the planning only began in August.

“Our timelines were very, very tight just because of all of the logistics and planning,” she said, adding that an online career fair isn’t quite the same as traditional career fairs.

“A little bit more complex because you have to train people on the technology,” she explained. “And so leading up to the event we had to training with the employers. We had to really enforce the message with jobseekers that this is completely online, you can do this from home.

“Funnily enough, some people were asking, ‘Where do I go? Where do I go?’”

The Council is still waiting on surveys to be completed by jobseekers and employers to really evaluate the success of the event, but the early results have been positive

“When we first put our proposal forth, we did have some standard measurables of how many jobseekers we’d want to attend,” said Sampang.

The target was 1,500 people, but the number of visitors actually reached 2,100 people over two days.

“We weren’t even expecting that we would be able to exceed those numbers and we did,” said Sampang. “And even just the anecdotal feedback from the career counselors and what we’ve been hearing from employers, they thought it was a really unique event.

“So far, so good, but we’ll have to see the direct results afterwards [in terms of job] placements,” she added.

There is already interest in running a second online career fair, but that will depend on the availability of funding.

“It’s a great resource,” said Sampang, “and a great solution for employers and jobseekers.”

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