Working in Calgary

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Alberta's extensive oil resources and permissive economic policies have resulted in a tremendous boom in recent years – and skilled expats looking to work in Calgary should have no trouble in finding gainful employment.

Over the last decade, Calgary has not only boasted the fastest-growing economy in Canada, it has also had the lowest average unemployment rate of all major Canadian cities (just 4.1 percent). This trend shows no signs of abating, as the Calgary Economic Development forum has announced it plans to create new jobs at a compound annual growth rate of 3 percent until 2017. According to this body, the top five occupations for overall creation of new jobs in this period are expected to be sales clerks, retail managers, registered nurses, IT analysts and accountants.

Calgary trafficFurther encouraging signs for expats working in Calgary (or planning to do so) are the low tax-rates in the city (14 percent, with no payroll tax) – the lowest in the country, and implemented as an incentive for new business ventures; and the fact that 23 percent of the city's 1.3 million population are foreign-born. Calgary also lays claim to the highest average personal income in Canada.

The backbone of Calgary's economy is, of course, the energy sector – and this is where the greatest demand for skilled foreign expats and labourers is found. BP, EnCana, Imperial Oil, Suncor Energy, Shell, TransCanada and Nexen Inc. all have a major presence in Calgary, and as the oil boom continues, they are all actively (even aggressively) looking for expat foreign professionals to join their ranks. Engineers and geologists are most sought-after, but accountants, financial service providers and IT specialists are also in high demand.

Additionally, the oil industry's boom has also had far-reaching infrastructural effect on the city of Calgary, with a huge amount of suburban and inner-city development taking place. This means that architects, builders, contractors, urban planners, civil engineers, quantity surveyors and plumbers are also in very high demand in Calgary at the moment. Moreover, the economic prosperity of the region has, predictably, seen floods of migrant labourers taking up residence in the city – and this has created a dire need for more educators and healthcare professionals. Moreover, as Calgary seeks to throw off its image as the most 'cultureless' of major Canadian cities, there is a lot of investment going into media and the arts.

Expats are, however, strongly encouraged to take heed of the following (alarming) statistic: more than half of the 17,000 people who spent a night in one of Calgary's homeless shelters in 2010 actually have full-time jobs. What this insinuates is that, because of the gross economic disparity between 'blue collar' and 'white collar' jobs in Calgary, in order to live a comfortable life in the city, you will need to secure well-paid, non-menial employment. Be sure to do some research into accommodation and general living costs in Calgary before taking up a job offer, so you can anticipate the kind of income you'll need to bring in to sustain your lifestyle.

In terms of working culture, expats (particularly those of European origin) will have no problem slotting in to the Canadian workplace. A highly developed, efficient nation, Canada is, by all accounts, a dream for committed professionals. As in most western countries, business in Canada operates on a 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday basis.

Upon obtaining a job offer, as an expat, you will need to apply for a Canadian working visa. There are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled by both the visa applicant and their prospective employer before this visa will be granted – but never fear, there are numerous agencies that can help you with this process.

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