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Are Alberta job opportunities shifting overseas?

Alberta is in the headlines again today with job losses being reported in the province by Statistics Canada. After years of leading Canada in employment and economic growth, the recent drop in the price of oil and the resulting government deficits have the media concentrating on Alberta. Just yesterday a CBC article about the recruitment of Alberta nurses for jobs in Saudi Arabia caught my eye. Canadian nurses are among the world’s best and often work in the US under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A few nurses being recruited to work in Saudi Arabia is not much of a news headline with massive shifts in the province’s economy and job losses — or should it be a headline?

Working Overseas isn't just packing a suitcase
Working Overseas isn’t just packing a suitcase
The thing that I noticed about the recruitment was the use of dozens of highway billboards to attract candidates. This is an aggressive recruitment tactic; one that very few Alberta employment agencies use due to their excellent networks. So why make such a loud statement? It did attract press articles and this post, so it has a branding impact and draws our attention to the recruiter’s name. Being unfamiliar with the recruiter it reminded me the Alberta’s Fair Trading Act that requires employment agencies to be licensed to recruit in Alberta. It turns out we could not find the recruiter listed on Alberta’s business license registry.
An employment agency in Alberta is defined as “securing or attempting to secure individuals in Alberta for employment;” and dozens of agencies based in other provinces are licensed. In order to protect clients, employment agencies have to be knowledgeable in provincial employment standards and human rights legislation, which vary among provinces. Recruiters should also be versed in employment common law decisions and federal legislation when dealing with sectors like telecommunications and transportation. At the minimum recruiters should also carry errors and omissions insurance to provide an extra layer of protection for employers should a mistake be made, as employment is one of the most litigious areas in our country. With international hiring, additional legal risks arise due to international law and things that are specific to the destination country. Given the risks, the basic steps of licensing, insurance and research into employment law should be done before recruitment campaigns kick off. Source article: http://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/Regs/1999_178.pdf
Saudi Arabia itself is a very interesting place and we only have to Google “Saudi Arabia foreign workers” to start to learn some of the risks of working there. I know Canadians who have had great experiences working in oil and gas, construction, transportation and engineering in places like Saudi Arabia and I am sure there are some great financial and professional opportunities in healthcare. With great rewards come great risks, so anyone considering a move should dig deeper and uncover the facts before choosing to work in the Middle East over North America.
This should remind us that Canadian employers have been burned by international work and unlicensed recruiters in the past. This has been especially damaging in the restaurant industry where two of Canada’s largest food chains have faced law suits and bad press. We have to remember that political turmoil forced our government to evacuate hundreds of Canadian workers from Libya in 2011. If we face a sustained downturn in the prospect for new nursing graduates in Alberta and for employees in oil and gas in Saskatchewan, it is important to do research before applying with recruiters and deciding to work internationally for the promised “big bucks”.

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