Manufacturing AUTOMATION

From the editor: The hidden talent our workforce is seeking

October 30, 2017
By Alyssa Dalton

Oct. 30, 2017 – The lack of women in manufacturing has been a critical topic of discussion for a number of years. This is of particular concern as attracting and retaining a skilled labour force will be an increasing concern for about 60 per cent of manufacturers over the next five years, according to Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME).

Earlier this month, CME published an action plan that explores the opportunities to help promote and inspire women to pursue manufacturing professions. According to Untapped Potential: Attracting and engaging women in Canadian Manufacturing, there are roughly 1.7 million people employed in Canadian manufacturing today and of that, women account for only 28 per cent of those jobs or about 476,000 positions — and the gender imbalance is not improving.

“The share of manufacturing jobs held by women has remained essentially flat, fluctuating between 27 and 29 per cent, with no clear trend in any direction,” writes CME. The study finds that women make up less than 10 per cent of skilled production workers across Canada and less than one quarter of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers.

“There is no larger, more relatively untapped group of talent to work in manufacturing in this country,” writes Lesley Lawrence, senior vice president, Ontario, at BDC and member of CME’s national Women in Manufacturing working group. “Many Canadians still believe that a job in manufacturing is monotonous assembly-line tasks, or work that is done in a dirty, dangerous environment. These preconceptions bear little resemblance to the modern, innovative and technologically advanced manufacturing operations.”


The action plan suggests several ways to improve female representation in the industry, such as: exposing young women to modern manufacturing facilities for a more accurate perspective on these careers, and highlighting high-profile female role models.

Linamar recently invested $5 million to create scholarships for female students in the Western Engineering and Ivey Business School dual-degree program at Western University. The scholarships cover half the cost of tuition and provide a guaranteed paid co-op placement and full-time job offer to graduating scholarship-holders.

“This is a great way to bring together the three things that mean a lot to me and to Linamar as a company: manufacturing, business and improved opportunities for women,” said Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz.

Recruiting more women into the industry is key to helping manufacturers grow. Send me an email and let me know how your company is inspiring the next generation of female workers, whether it’s a plant tour, an open house, internship opportunities, or a school visit.

As Lawrence puts it: “Our hope is that in a few years, the participation of women in manufacturing will not be a challenge, but rather a strength that powers the competitiveness and growth of Canadian manufacturers internationally.”

This column was originally published in the November/December 2017 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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