August 29 2008 - A Conference Board study has identified an
impending labour crisis in Canada's manufacturing sector.
Apart from competition from cheap labour in developing countries,
rapid technological change and a strong Canadian dollar, Canadian manufacturers also
have some major HR issues to address, including:
- the impact of 'baby boomer' retirements
- the relative unattractiveness of the sector for young workers, and
- the constant need to keep up with new skill requirements
The report, Key Economic and Labour Force Issues Facing Canada's
Manufacturing Sector indicates a likely shift in the future from final assembly work to
manufacturing specialized components and providing products and services
such as logistics and supply-chain management services.
According to Douglas Watt, Associate Director, Organizational Learning and Development:
"This shift in production means the skill requirements for manufacturing
employees will continue to rise, and firms will increasingly compete for
skilled workers with other sectors of the economy. At present, the
manufacturing sector needs to do more to take full advantage of its current
workforce through training and learning programs, and do more to successfully
recruit younger workers."
The report advises employers to improve on the
current skills of Canada's two million manufacturing workers by tapping into education and
training programs. It also says that manufacturers need to retain their aging workers for
longer by being more flexible in scheduling work processes.
The report also recommends that the manufacturing sector should improve its image as a rewarding career
option for young workers and women.
The study was conducted for the Government of Canada's Sector
Council Program. Its economic analysis showed that the manufacturing
sector's share of Canadian GDP - which had grown strongly during the
1990s - fell from 18.4% in 2000 to 15.2% in 2007. About
300,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared since the beginning of this decade.
Michael Burt, Associate Director, Canadian Industrial Outlook said:
"There is no doubt that some segments are facing structural
challenges-such as increased import competition-which have been further
aggravated by the slowdown in the U.S. economy. However, all is not doom and
gloom in the sector.
"Some segments of manufacturing have garnered gains in employment over
the course of this decade. The story is even rosier when one looks at
production, where nine of the 21 industries have experienced rising production
over the course of this decade, and total production is down only slightly.
What is surprising about the sector is not that it has struggled in recent
years, but that it has fared so well under these circumstances."
Food manufacturing, fabricated metal products and
machinery have increased employment and production but others have declined, including
clothing and textiles, and paper products. Transportation equipment (including motor vehicle
and aerospace) fell modestly over the period.
Four innovative programs were identified as addressing the
key HR issues facing manufacturing:
- Wood Manufacturing Council's WoodLINKS program - a school-to-work
transition and certification program, establishing partnerships between
high schools and local manufacturers.
- Textiles Human Resources Council's Skills and Learning Sites and
Portal - a flexible, cost-effective learning infrastructure for
Canadian textile manufacturers and their employees.
- Canadian Plastics Sector Council's Virtual HR Department (VHRD)
program - an online one-stop shop for human resources tools.
- Apparel Human Resources Council's Management Competencies project -
a structured step-by-step strategic planning and human resources