Energy companies should build talent within their own ranks before the next labour crunch hits rather than look outside when they’re in the midst of a shortage, a human resources consulting firm said in a report yesterday.

Many in Alberta’s oilpatch adopted a “buy talent” strategy during the boom times between 2006 and 2007, scrambling to fill jobs with workers from across Canada and abroad. Salaries and wages spiralled out of control as energy firms vied against one another for labour.

“I think if you talk to HR executives in the energy sector, they’ll tell you they don’t want to go back to that,” said Stephen Doitte, Mercer’s talent management consulting leader for Canada.

Assuming employment demand grows by four per cent annually, Mercer predicts Canada’s energy sector will be short some 24,000 workers by 2014.