Canada says that a serious shortage of skilled workers will negatively impact on the country’s recovering industrial sector.
Speaking to the Globe and Mail factory owner Doug Kamphuis said that the situation was worsening every week and finding qualified and experienced tradesman is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Role players in the industry agree and have come to the conclusion that Canada will have to look offshore to find qualified workers.
The shortage of workers such as welders, tool and die, makers, machinists and millwrights have long been a problem for industrial companies and a lack of skilled-worker have now become the top concern for many factory owners. A recent survey by the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance reported that 41 percent of employers would hire more people if they could find those with the skills they needed.
"People are retiring and the skills aren't being replaced," says Jocelyn Bamford, vice-president of Automatic Coating Ltd., a factory that adds protective coatings to pipes and other materials. "Nobody wants their kids to go into manufacturing, which I think is a shame."
In the Canadian Tooling & Machining Association 2017 Wage & Business Survey, companies reported that 20 % of their skilled workers are over the age of 54 and will be retiring in the next decade. In Scarborough, the factory owners are keenly aware that replacing them with younger workers won't be easy.
Part of the origins of the growing problem is in the closure of woodwork, electrical and metal workshop classes at Canadian high schools. This has meant that fewer young Canadians are introduced to trade occupations at school and thus even fewer enroll in those courses on a tertiary level. For skills like mold machining and tool and die making Canadian employers now have to look offshore for qualifying employees as these skills have all but completely died out in Canada.
"A lot of colleges dropped programs because of attendance," says Robert Cattle, executive director of the Canadian Tooling & Machining Association and program co-director of the Ontario Manufacturing Learning Consortium, which runs a provincially funded program to train young machinists. "If courses aren't getting filled, they drop them and move onto something else that's popular."
Manufacturing jobs offer healthy wages – millwrights and tool and die makers earn an average of CA $26 to CA $29 per hour – yet the industry continues to lose workers to higher-paying fields such as construction, utilities, and resources extraction.