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Maybe I Should Move West For A Job Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Question: All I hear about these days is how Alberta and the west need employees in the worst way. How people with no special training can go there and get hired at twice what they're earning here. I'm thinking of packing up and heading there soon. At least I'll have a better chance of finding work, do you think?

Reza P., Mount Pearl, Newfoundland
Dear Reza,

It's true that these are boom times for the western provinces. A brand new Conference Board study shows that the seven fastest growing cities in Canada are in the West, with Saskatoon and Calgary leading the way. Not far behind are Winnipeg, Edmonton and Regina.

What's driving all of this bustling activity? For one thing, the oil and gas industries are straining to keep up with demand. Especially with the Alberta oils sands being developed. Mining companies and agriculture are also pumping out their products furiously and selling them to China, in particular, a country that is stoking its vast engines of commerce and feeding its over1.3 billion citizens.

Add in the Vancouver winter Olympics of 2010, and you can imagine that there's a construction bonanza going on as well.

All of which means that employers from Victoria B.C. to Lloydminister, Saskatchewan are constantly looking for people to hire. This has led to wage inflation, and in some cases signing bonuses -- especially for those with hard to find skills.

What it's also led to, however, is an increase in the cost of living wherever the boom is in full swing. Not to mention the scramble for basic lodging to accommodate the many out-of-provincers the West is hosting. And if you're looking to buy a condo or house, be prepared for major sticker shock.

If you are serious about moving West to try your luck, one thing I would recommend before pulling up your stakes and making the trek, is to think about how long this frenzy of expansion might last. Is this a sustainable growth surge, or are there hints that things might be peaking for the time being? You wouldn't want to uproot your entire family, let's say, and move to a whole new city only to find in a year or two the bubble is beginning to deflate. For example, there has been more and more written about the pollution and environmental impact of the oil sands. There is some initial talk of capping the number of new projects until more infrastructure can be built (roads, housing, etc.) and the harmful byproducts of oil and gas extraction can be better managed.

So weigh your priorities carefully here. If you're footloose and fancy free, and relish the idea of getting hired quickly, then you might do well to head West. But if you're taking a family with and are hoping to stay West for the longer term, you may want to do a bit more research before taking the plunge.

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