February 28th, 2024

Industry group warns Ont. manufacturers struggling to fill thousands of job vacancies

By Ritika Dubey, The Canadian Press on February 1, 2024.

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters are raising an alarm about the increased number of vacancies in Ontario's manufacturing sector which are projected to rise as older workers retire. A worker welds steel in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, March 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

TORONTO – Industry group Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters is warning on the rising number of job vacancies in Ontario’s manufacturing sector as positions go unfilled, thousands of new positions are set to be created and a wave of retirements takes hold.

Ontario has more than 18,900 vacancies and more than 7,000 confirmed new manufacturing jobs opening up in the next two years in the electric vehicle and automotive space, the trade association of manufacturers said.

“It has been persistent over the last few years,” Dennis Darby, president and chief executive of CME, said in an interview on Thursday.

“When we ask (our members) what’s keeping you up at night, (it’s) as always: ‘I can’t find the people I need to expand my business or adopt new technology,'” Darby said.

The association has estimated the manufacturing industry could see as many as 18,500 retirements from baby boomers in the province every year between now and 2034.

Darby said despite an increase in overall unemployment, the manufacturing industry is seeing chronically unfilled positions due to the lack of skills.

Lost interest in manufacturing jobs among youth and a slowdown in immigration during the pandemic years alongside retiring boomers exacerbated the job vacancies in manufacturing, Darby said.

The association has been working on promoting skills trade among youth, including women.

“There’s a preconceived notion that these jobs are dirty and they are back-breaking,” he said.

“But the reality is that at any manufacturing plant, almost everybody is dealing with a computer.”

Darby said nobody is lugging huge amounts of weight around – it’s all done with cranes and robots.

“These are really good jobs. They pay well. These are good, long careers and you use technology,” he said.

CME is calling on Ontario to invest more in the training and upskilling of workers. Among its list of recommendations, CME is also asking the provincial government to double down on bringing industry and educational institutions together and bridge the skills gap.

Additionally, it suggests bolstering its tax credit for employer-led training and to better align its programs to match employers with workers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2024.

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