How further education is becoming increasingly appealing as jobs become unavailable for graduating students

In just a few short weeks, Caitlin Kerr, 21, will be graduating from the Energy Asset Management program at Calgary’s SAIT Polytechnic, a program Kerr originally entered because she thought it would springboard her into a variety of jobs in the oil and gas industry. But now, due to the current economic downturn, Kerr fears that there will be no room for her once she graduates in April.

Kerr entered into the program on the advice of a friend’s mom who works in oil and gas and told her that a diploma in Energy Asset Management would allow her to do pretty much anything she wanted to do in oil and gas.

“I was deciding between this program and production accounting,” explained Kerr. “And I ended up choosing this one and I love it. I do the accounting side, the land side, marketing — all of that I’m able to do.”

Now in her last semester, Kerr and others in the program are, for the first time, feeling the negative effects of the oil and gas industry.

“My friends at school and stuff are feeling it. None of us are able to get jobs,” Kerr said. “[Those] of us that had summer jobs last year, that got promised summer jobs again aren’t getting those promises fulfilled any more.”

The few jobs that remain make for stiff competition with employers able to be especially choosey.

“Now they’re wanting such high GPA for any job. A lot of them are looking for like 3.5 or higher,” Kerr said.

Although the program can prepare its students to play numerous roles in the oil and gas industry,Caitlin Kerr weighs her options over coffee at a Calgary Starbucks.
Photo by Matt Sutton
Kerr said, it won’t be able to prepare students for what happens when the jobs disappear.

“A lot of my teachers have talked about why it’s happening, what’s going on with it and how we can work with it,” Kerr said. “But there’s not a lot of prepping, like what you do if you can’t get a job. Once we’re done we’re just done.”

Kerr is grateful she still has her serving job, but even there, she’s noticing some changes due to the faltering economy.

As a server at the Cattlebaron Steakhouse, she’s noticing the impact on her wallet.

“It affects the service industry because no one wants to go out, people are getting laid off,” Kerr said. “I’m not getting enough hours at work, I’m not making enough tips.”

Kerr said that if things don’t turn around quickly, she would have to rely on her back-up plan.

“Since there isn’t a lot of jobs right now I might as well continue with school,” said Kerr. “So I don’t have to sit there for six or seven months with no job and then employers are like, ‘Ah, she’s been out for so long.’”{cbrelatedarticle show=”right” ids=”2691,2678,2670″ /}

Kerr is especially interested in taking more schooling in Scotland, where she is looking into a program called International Business Management. Kerr explained that each year in the program would improve upon her diploma. One year would give her a bachelor’s degree, a second year, an honors degree and three years would supply Kerr with a masters degree.

“It’s always kind of been in my mind that I should take the opportunity to do it because they have one program in Scotland and who wouldn’t want to go to Scotland? But it’s definitely more of an option now because there isn’t a lot of job opportunities.”

Ideally, Kerr said she would like to have it both ways.

“I really want to get a summer job with an oil and gas company so I can get the experience with a company and then go off to school,” Kerr said. “But if I can’t then I can’t and I will just accept serving for the summer. I’ll still have a great degree at the end of my time abroad so hopefully the market won’t be as bad when I come back.”

msutton@cjournal.ca

Read this Calgary Journal special report for an in-depth comparison between Jim Prentice’s response to the current drop in oil prices and Don Getty’s response in the 1980s.