The world is about to get a taste of Canada. And Canada is about to get a taste of what the skilled trades are all about. The 40th WorldSkills competition is coming to Stampede Park in Calgary, Alta. this year, from September 1 to 7. Canada's top students and apprentices in skilled trades and technologies will compete in an Olympic-style event against more than 900 young people from 50 countries for gold, silver and bronze medals in their respective fields. Canada has been participating in the international competition, which takes place every two years and showcases the world's top trade and technology talent, for 10 years, but this is its second time hosting. The competition was held in Montreal back in 1999. Raising the profileHosting an event like this in Canada is a unique opportunity to show students, their parents and their teachers what the skilled trades are all about. It is a chance to raise the profile of skilled trades in Canada, with the ultimate goal of inspiring young Canadians to pursue a career in the trades and combat the looming skilled trades shortage."I think it's extremely important because it provides an opportunity to really raise the profile of those occupations...and provides an opportunity for better understanding from any visitors," says Shaun Thorson, executive director of Skills Canada, a national, not-for-profit organization that works with employers, educators, labour groups and governments to promote skilled trades and technology careers among Canadian youth. "So I think that's extremely important, to really present the most career options possible to our young people so that they can make educated decisions."Thousands of Grade 9 and 10 students from Alberta will have the chance to explore trades and technology occupations at WorldSkills Calgary, thanks to $4 million in funding from the Alberta government, which will pay for them to attend the event. Students who watch the competition will have the opportunity to learn about the many available career options, see the various skills needed for different occupations, and test their own skills in some of the demonstrations."Similar to the Olympics, which excites people to pursue excellence, skills competitions motivate students to develop their personal interests into career opportunities," says Chris Browton, executive director of Skills Canada Alberta. "Hosting the 40th WorldSkills competition in Alberta is a tremendous opportunity to inspire students to pursue post-secondary studies and careers in the trades and technologies.""I think that this is a great tool for promoting the trades, because we always talk about a skilled workers shortage," says Benoit Maisonneuve, didactic senior instructor with Festo, one of the Global Sponsor Partners of WorldSkills. "It's a big issue for the host to have this kind of event because it shows to the young the possibilities in the trades...and they learn a lot about what is possible for them to do as a trade. So it's a great exhibition."Raising the barThe WorldSkills event is growing, with an increased number of skill categories, participants and countries involved. Calgary is looking to make this the best event ever in the competition's nearly 60-year history, by including a number of "firsts" at the 2009 event. This year, there will be an increased emphasis on a competitor's village, explains Skills Canada's Thorson. "We're trying to look at following sort of an Olympic format [where] all of the competitors will be staying at one location, and along with that there will be some more cultural aspects, more networking opportunities for the competitors." The village will be located at SAIT Polytechnic. The event is also going to have a tightened timeframe in an attempt to keep media and public interest from waning. It is going to be a compact, seven-day event that starts with the opening ceremony on September 1, followed by four days of intense competition. The closing ceremony will be held on September 6, followed by "the WorldSkills Champions on the World Stage" event on September 7, when the competitors will walk out on centre field at McMahon Stadium during the half-time show at the Annual Labour Day Classic, a nationally televised Canadian Football League game. In addition, visitors can expect to see results posted quicker. Some of the event's sponsors are collaborating to build the IT infrastructure to carry out "Olympic-style" reporting via large LCD screens, so that visitors can be kept up to date on how the teams are doing. Each competition hall will be wired back to a central system so that results can be tracked and communicated back to the audience. Another major addition to this year's event is ambassador kiosks. Each skill category will have an ambassador kiosk complete with someone from that industry or a representative from education, who has significant experience in that industry, to answer questions about the trade and provide visitors with information regarding what's involved in the trade. "You can see the competitors working, but you'll also be able to get a presentation, accompanied by a video presentation as well on what's really involved in that occupation; talk to someone who's worked in that field and they can give a perspective on what's really involved if people decide to pursue that as an occupation," explains Thorson. "We want to make sure that we're presenting these options to young people so that they can make informed decisions in the future in what they would like to pursue as a career." Another addition to the event that will help achieve this goal is the "Try-a-Trade" demonstrations, which will allow students to test drive dozens of trades and technology career options. A call to actionThere are a number of ways the manufacturing industry can get involved in skills competitions - as a sponsor, volunteer, trainer or simply as a champion of the skilled trades. On the sponsorship front, WorldSkills International, a global, not-for-profit membership association, which promotes vocational education and training throughout 50 member countries, has Global Sponsor Partners who share its vision and commitment to generating interest among youth and advancing the skilled trades around the world. These partners are: Festo, Fluke Corporation, Fluke Networks, Cisco Systems, Draka, Autodesk and Samsung Electronics. In addition to the direct revenue generated by the sponsors, their products, technologies and expertise are an important part of the WorldSkills competitions. Sponsors help keep track of trends, contribute to current thinking and benchmark performance, provide input on the WorldSkills event and play a role in helping to spread the message of WorldSkills. The organization is hoping to grow its list of sponsors. Festo has been a sponsor of WorldSkills since 1993. The company launches new products at the event, which the mechatronics teams will use during the competition. Fluke's sponsorship commitment dates back to 1999, when the competition was held in Montreal. "Our specific involvement is in supporting the specific competitions that are in the markets that we serve - the electrical, industrial automation, heating and ventilating, air conditioning, refrigeration, the manufacturing team challenges," says David Green, director of marketing for Fluke Corporation's AmPac region, and Chair, WorldSkills, Global Sponsor Partners. "There are a number of events that are more technical and technology related that we sponsor by providing equipment for the competition. And we also provide input on the actual projects and the competitions themselves" at both the national and international levels. And the networking opportunities are second to none. "Part of our mandate, part of what we're getting from this, is the opportunity to be able to say we are supporters and we are communicating, both to our own industry, as well as to the public and the world in general, what WorldSkills is all about and what it is they're trying to do with our support. But then the other side of it is we get an opportunity to of course interact with other likeminded people in terms of industry players," explains Green. "It's an opportunity from our standpoint to get engaged with those people in the development of the economy and industry and potentially opportunity for them to be using our equipment...The other piece is the opportunity to contribute to the development of the actual projects and the competitions themselves."Another bonus, says Green, is that by providing input, they're helping to shape future generations. "These are obviously long-term investments...The objective is to go out and be visible and be seen in the marketplace with schools and colleges and students, and the influencers in terms of the governments who are putting the programs that they are current and consistent with what's needed in the industry," he explains. "It is a grass roots way of having input and influencing what future generations will work like and what sort of tools, hopefully, they might want." Manufacturers can get involved at the local, provincial, national or international level by lending their expertise to competitors, as well as through financial support. "We're always looking for financial support for our programs, for the training aspect of Team Canada and also for our Canadian skills competitions that are hosted on an annual basis," says Skills Canada's Thorson.At the very least, Thorson, Maisonneuve and Green encourage the manufacturing industry to attend the event in Calgary. It's a unique chance to see what other countries are doing in the skilled trades arena, as well as to see leading-edge technologies, not to mention the world's best and brightest young students and apprentices."It's a great opportunity to see what is being done in other countries, because here we have our ways of doing the pneumatic, the electric, the PLC programming; we have our understanding of this in our markets. But when you go to the international level, it's very nice to see people coming up with other ideas, other products, other techniques," explains Festo's Maisonneuve. "One thing [visitors] will see is the top young people in the world in those specific occupations that are performing. These are very highly skilled, young individuals who...have trained very hard, have prepared very well for this activity," says Thorson, adding that new technologies will be something else to keep an eye out for at the event. "The goal of the competition is to try and make sure that we're preparing students based on industry standards and making sure it's at an appropriate level for their level of education and things of that nature. So you'll see with a lot of new technology some of the best equipment, materials [and] a lot of innovation."Green says it's something that you have to see in person to truly appreciate. "When you actually go and see the young people in action and see the dedication and the commitment of these people who are the best of the best, it's pretty awe inspiring." For more information on the event in Calgary, or how you can get involved, visit or Competing for CanadaThirty-eight young Canadians will be travelling to Calgary to represent Canada at WorldSkills. Team Canada competitors will compete in 35 of the 48 competition areas. The competitors must be 17 to 22 years of age (up to 25 for some categories) to qualify, and must be enrolled in high school, post-secondary school or registered as an apprentice. Skills Canada hand picked the competitors who will be competing at the international level based on their performance at the provincial and national competitions. RoboticsPavlo Tovaryanskyy has had an interest in mechanics since he could walk. The son of a mechanic, Tovaryanskyy says he was one of those kids who took apart his toys to see how they worked. Today, the 19-year-old is in his final year at Technical Vocational High School in Winnipeg, Man., where regular academic programs are combined with technical, "hands-on" learning experiences. It's this hands-on experience that helped Tovaryanskyy take home the gold medal in robotics in both the provincial and national skills competitions in 2008. That gold medal won him a ticket to WorldSkills Calgary 2009, where he and his teammate, 18-year-old Myles Robinson, will compete for Canada against 14 other teams from around the world in the robotics category. It requires a lot of commitment, determination and dedication to compete at this level. With the help of trainers and the elected expert for that field who designs the training program, the two have been training since June, working about two hours a day, five days a week, with plans to train full-time for three weeks in the summer, on top of their school and work schedules. One of their trainers, Rory Winters, a teacher at Technical Vocational High School, says that the team is working on a Festo Robotino and going over the eight tasks the robotics competitors were expected to solve during the 2007 WorldSkills competition in Japan. They also had the team that competed in the 2007 competition fly in from Ontario to work with them for three days. Although the team doesn't have details about the specific tasks they'll be required to complete at the competition, they do know that they will be required to assemble, set up, manage and maintain mechanical systems within a mobile robot, as well as install, operate and troubleshoot mobile robot control systems. They must also be able to solve logic problems, carry out mobile robot system design, assemble a mobile robot according to manufacturer's documentation, design a mobile robot control program, connect a mobile robot to its control system, commission a mobile robot to carry out its correct function to solve a series of practical operational problems, and interpret manufacturer's technical documents."Once we get the official scope for the competition, then we can focus in on the specific aspects of the competition. But right now we're sitting with very little information as to what we're going to be doing, so we have to assume that it's going to be similar to the previous [competition] and go with that. And as we get more information, we can specify what we want to do more or focus more on what they're actually going to do instead of what we think they're going to do," Winters explains. As for Tovaryanskyy, he has high hopes for the WorldSkills competition. He was determined to take home gold at the provincial and national competitions, and he will bring that same determination to WorldSkills, where he hopes to take home the top prize. What's next for Tovaryanskyy? Once the competition is behind him, he plans to attend Red River College in Winnipeg, Man., for mechanical engineering, and he wants to parlay that education into a career as a mechanical designer. MechatronicsJamie Feenstra was first introduced to mechatronics when he was exploring his options for post-secondary education. His high school teacher suggested that, with his interest in computers, electronics and all things mechanical, that it might be a good fit for him; it fit with all of his strengths. The 22-year-old recently graduated from St. Clair College's Mechanical Engineering Technology - Mechatronics program in Chatham, Ont. He first got involved in the provincial skills competition in his second year of college when his teacher, Ryan Pepper, asked if Feenstra and classmate Andrew Marcolin were interested in competing. Obviously Pepper has an eye for talent, because Feenstra and Marcolin were awarded gold medals at the regional, provincial and national competitions in 2007, and took home the top prizes again at the 2008 competitions. The next stop is WorldSkills Calgary 2009, where they will be competing against 32 other teams from around the world.The duo currently trains for 10 hours a week, but will ramp that up to 16 to 20 hours a week as the competition nears. "We do simulated tasks where they have to do some programming, do some building of automation stations, do wiring, do pneumatic tubing [and] troubleshooting exercises that simulate what they will see in the competition," explains Pepper, who is also one of the mechatronic trainers. "So probably by the end of the summer, we'll have over 600 hours of training with these two." The team trains on Festo Didactic equipment - the MPS stations - which is the same equipment in the provincial, national and WorldSkills competitions. Festo shipped them five stations to practise on; the exact stations that were used during the 2005 WorldSkills event in Helsinki, Finland. "We have different tasks that we have written, and we develop many small variations of the same task so they can see many angles of difficulties, and we try to prepare them with a lot of different difficulties where we want them to have quick answers for all eventualities," says Benoit Maisonneuve, didactic senior instructor with Festo, and the Canadian mechatronics expert charged with developing the team's training plan. Maisonneuve has to make sure that the teammates have skills in mechanics, pneumatics, electronically controlled systems, programming, robotics and system development, and are able to design, build, maintain and repair automated equipment, and program equipment control systems. They also need to be able to carry out mechanical maintenance and equipment building.How does it feel to be involved in such an important, international event taking place in Canada? "It makes you real proud to be Canadian that it's going to be held in Canada. It's real exciting. I've never been involved in anything of this magnitude. It's the Olympics of skilled trades," says Feenstra. "So to be able to say that I've done this at this level...[is] just fantastic." Once the WorldSkills is behind him, Feenstra says he would still like to be involved in the skills competitions as a volunteer. "I think it's a great program for young kids to get involved in because it really does help out."
It is no secret that Canadian manufacturers are facing major human resources challenges - an aging workforce, a reduced ability to attract younger workers and a need to keep up with changing skill requirements. Indeed, it is a challenging time for manufacturers in North America.
Fergus, Ont. - A Portuguese software company has inked a three year deal with Imperial Automation Technologies to bring its unique PLC training product to Canada.According to Bill Valedis, with Imperial Automation Training, the deal will see the company become the exclusive distributor of Real Games LDA's ITS PLC product in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. ITS PLC is a 3D virtual simulation software package that works with any type of programmable logic controller or PC-based controller, bringing virtual reality into the world of PLC training.Each system is a visual simulation of an industrial system including virtual sensors and actuators, so their state can be sensed by the PLC. The objective is to program the PLC to control each virtual system as if it was a real system. The information is exchanged between the PLC and the virtual system by a data acquisition board with 32 I/O isolated channels and USB interface. ITS PLC works with any PLC from any manufacturer.
Oshawa, Ont. - General Motors of Canada says its new Automotive Centre of Excellence has taken the next step toward reality, racking up more than $120 million in contributions.The centre, set to open at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), will be the hub of the broader Automotive Innovation Network linking automotive engineers, auto suppliers and Canadian universities. When completed, the centre will house state-of-the-art research and development tools in the areas of vehicle dynamics, noise and vibration, thermal climatic wind tunnel, structural durability testing and the ability to accommodate future automotive fuels like hydrogen."Our vision has been to create a new advanced automotive technology cluster centered at UOIT that links together our best Canadian companies, universities, students and engineers with companies in the Canadian automotive supply chain," says Arturo Elias, president of General Motors of Canada.The new centre will partner with PACE, (Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education) a consortium of companies with five partners (GM, EDS, HP, Siemens PLM Software and Sun Microsystems) and 10 other PACE contributors. PACE will provide an initial investment of more than $60 million in state-of-the-art computer-based hardware, engineering software, student and instructor training and academic support. That level of support is expected to grow over time as it is integrated into new curricula. The Ontario government is investing $58 million in the centre as part of its $235 million auto strategy investment.GM and the Government of Canada also announced further support in the form of a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grant to co-fund an NSERC-GM of Canada Chair in Innovative Design Engineering. NSERC and GM of Canada will contribute $1 million each over a five-year period, in combination with UOIT's contribution of $250,000, to fund this new academic position.
Statistics are scary things. We've all heard the statistics about the skilled trades shortage in Canada. In 2004, Canadian Labour and Business estimated that the manufacturing sector would require approximately 400,000 workers in the next 15 years, due to retirement. We only have 11 years left before that happens.At last year's ISA show in Houston, Dr. James Truchard, President and CEO of National Instruments, warned there wouldn't be enough process engineers by 2020. And by 2030? It hardly bears thinking about.But is that truly the future of the automation professional in Canada? It doesn't have to be. In fact, there are some young, skilled professionals out there today who are blazing the trails for those who will follow. They all work in different specializations, and they all came to automation in different ways, but they share one thing in common: a drive to succeed.Here, we profile three of those young trailblazers to discover how they gained a foothold on the path to automation. Through them, perhaps we can learn the secret to attracting Canada's young people to work in the skilled trades.It's time to meet the future of automation in Canada.THE ROAD LESS-TRAVELEDLike many other kids growing up in the 1990s, Frank Marcus liked to play with computers."I first started writing code on an IBM XT clone in the early '90s. I think I was eight or nine," says the Vancouver-based Marcus. "Actually, when I was in Cub Scouts, I got the computer badge for writing out a calculator program in Basic."But while other kids dreamt of programming video games, Marcus had something very different in mind. After completing a computer science program in high school, he became interested in networking - and, as a student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), focused that interest on network security."I was interested in networking in general, because I thought it was interesting making computers talk to one another and share information," he says. "Network security came at the tail end of that experience."Traditionally, working in network security means showing companies how to set up firewalls, install anti-virus software and how to properly set up a network. Marcus, however, wasn't interested in following the usual path. After graduating from BCIT with a Diploma of Technology in Computer Systems, Data Communications and Internetworking and a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Systems, Marcus continued to work in the lab at BCIT, where he became interested in embedded systems and process control."There are some real questions to be answered and some unique constraints in process control that simply don't exist in IT," he says. By exploring the idea of security for process control systems, Marcus found a whole new career path.Today, Marcus is a network security specialist with Vancouver-based Wurldtech Security Technologies. As a founding member of the Wurldtech team, he helped the company design and develop the original Achilles security technology used in many process control applications today. He took a background in software engineering, software testing and network security and applied it to process control, SCADA and industrial automation systems.Marcus fills a unique role in the automation industry, and it's also one that reflects the new reality of process control and security. At just 26 years old, he has a unique skill set for the industry. Right now, there are very few engineers who can do just what he does. Typically, process control engineers aren't worried about security, because they don't have any exposure to it on the technical side. And software engineers tend not to worry about process control because they focus on computer systems. But Marcus brings those two perspectives together - to the benefit of the industry."Process control security all ties back into safety and reliability," he says. "Any process control system that is safe and well-functioning also tends to be secure. If you cover all of those facets, you're much more likely to have a well-functioning system, whether somebody's trying to attack you or not. A lot of flaws that bring downtime to a plant can be exploited for other purposes. Doing focused security testing tends to find those kinds of errors that aren't being found in the traditional testing processes that are going on today."Is Marcus a new model of automation professional? He sees it as an area that's growing in importance - as long as our education programs start introducing industrial automation to young students."Throughout school, nobody ever mentioned industrial automation," he says. "But there are more computers in the world that what sits on your desk. Having courses at the college and university level for non-traditional computer platforms is absolutely key."LEADER OF THE PACKDon't be surprised if, in the next 10 years, Dave Robinson is your boss. Robinson has already been vice president, president and past-president of the ISA's Edmonton Section - and he's only 32 years old. And, at last October's ISA Expo in Houston, he was honoured with one of the association's Emerging Leader Awards.How did Robinson end up a leader of tomorrow? When he first joined the ISA about seven years ago, he, like everyone else, received all the association's information. But Robinson though that by participating, he may be able to get more out of the experience, and joined the board in a minor role."I wanted to get my feet wet and figure out what it was really about," he says. "After two years, they said, 'well, you're new and you really seem to grab it, so why don't you be vice president?' So I was vice president, then president, then past president, and now I'm in the marketing role."Robinson's career in automation got off to an auspicious start, when, in high school, he discovered the traditional education system wasn't for him. Sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher drone on for an hour or so just wasn't a good use of his time.Robinson asked his high school guidance counselor for advice on finding a career that would keep him busy and satisfied. That counselor suggested the instrumentation program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).At NAIT, Robinson took the opportunity to explore new ways of learning. He discovered he was actually enthused about what he was learning. After graduating from NAIT and becoming a certified engineering technologist, he ended up working in the area of valves."If you never want to be bored, then valves are for you," he says. "Industrial plants really need highly sophisticated valves. It's always changing."And Robinson's climb on the career path has been just as fast as his ascension through the ranks at the ISA. Today, he's a regional manager for Western Canada with Edmonton-based Samson Controls.Is Robinson worried about a shortage of labour? He is, he says, because it's not a labour shortage - it's a skills shortage. He admits that he won't advertise a job opening because he will get 100 resumes, but no one with the right skills. Instead, he thinks industry and education need to do a better job preparing tomorrow's automation professionals and make young people aware of the great opportunities in industry.That's why Robinson says he's now working in the marketing department of his ISA section - to keep spreading the word. "How do we partner with the career counselors in the various high schools and make them aware of this great program of instrumentation?" he asks. "It's something we're working on."BLAZING A TRAIL IN AUTOMATIONYou could say it was a ball of fire that sparked an interest in engineering for Gary Plunkett - one that would lead him all the way to automation.When Plunkett was in high school, he happened to attend a presentation from McMaster University called the Fireball Show. The traveling science and engineering show features scientific experiments and an interactive multimedia presentation designed to increase students' awareness of and interest in engineering programs and careers. The show made Plunkett consider engineering as a possible course of study."At the time, I really wasn't sure what I wanted to get into," he says. "I actually applied to three different universities for three totally different programs. That Fireball show made me think of McMaster and engineering... so I ended up going with engineering, because I did have an interest in electronics and it sort of got me."But it wasn't until Plunkett finished his degree that he got into automation. "To be honest, we didn't really take any courses in university that are really, specifically geared towards automation. I tried to take as many different courses as I could."I think it worked out well, because when you're dealing with automation, there are many different things with computers, and sensors and wireless," he adds. "I took courses which gave me an understanding of what's going on when you're using those technologies."After graduating, Plunkett went to work for a company doing software testing, work which he found a bit tedious and monotonous. "You just go through A equals B plus C. Can you verify that in the code? Even though it paid well, it wasn't very interesting."Looking for a new challenge, Plunkett ended up working in automation at CIMCO Refrigeration - and he hasn't looked back. The 27-year-old says the work is interesting, challenging and uses a number of different technologies, including PC controls and PLCs. But Plunkett is a rare breed in his workplace - of the 10 people who work in automation, he is the only one under 30.What does the future hold for Plunkett? He says automation certainly isn't going anywhere. "It's not something I'm worried about having a future in," he says. "People are turning to automation a lot more... You can go anywhere in the future."
The looming shortage of skilled workers has been identified as one of the most pressing challenges facing manufacturers today. And though manufacturers are aware of the upcoming talent crisis and its likely impact on the industry, they have typically pursued reactive talent management initiatives.In today's business environment, talent management initiatives focusing exclusively on the traditional areas of recruitment and retention are proving to be increasingly ineffective. Nevertheless, most organizations devote the majority of their talent management time to recruitment - an activity with limited added value - and little time on training, coaching and developing talent. In the near future, success will come to those who let go of outdated and ineffective recruitment and retention strategies, and understand that their primary focus must be on their existing human capital assets.Talent management neededSeveral converging trends will compel Canadian manufacturers to dramatically boost their talent management capabilities in the next 10 years.• Global pressures. Facing competition from abroad, many North American manufacturers rely on offshore labour pools to cut costs. Since most mass production operations have already been outsourced to foreign countries, the anticipated talent shortage will likely be most heavily felt in specialized occupations, such as engineers and technicians. At the same time, companies are being forced to compete on product design, innovation, productivity, flexibility, quality and responsiveness to customer needs. In this context, a workforce focused on innovation is of paramount importance.• Technology advances. Manufacturing jobs are now technology-driven. All employees must have a wide range of skills to work in an increasingly complex environment. That being said, according to 2004 data from Statistics Canada and the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the number of students graduating from applied science and technology programs in Canada is half that coming out of China (in terms of percentage of total graduates). Clearly, there is an imbalance of skill levels on the horizon, and an imminent challenge awaits Canadian manufacturers, who can expect to experience major difficulties in attracting qualified personnel.• Talent supply. Labour pools in North America will shrink rapidly as baby boomers begin to retire. For several years, the manufacturing sector has had the lowest rate of employee turnover, meaning that fairly senior employees who have amassed an impressive array of knowledge and experience have been holding the same positions for years. With many of these employees retiring at the same time, manufacturers will soon be faced with a significant lack of resources, both in terms of the number of employees and the knowledge and skills to be developed.Addressing the challengesAttracting and retaining potential employees in a talent shortage and high turnover context will be the most crucial challenge facing manufacturers in the near future. Manufacturers can begin to address these challenges by considering this fundamental talent question: What are the critical workforce segments required for the business to succeed? Critical workforce segments are groups and individuals that drive a disproportionate share of the company's business performance and generate greater-than-average value for customers and shareholders.Manufacturers must, therefore, build strategies around three key dimensions that matter to critical workforce segments:• Development and growth, recognizing that training is part of, but not the sole path to, achievement;• Deployment of employees into jobs or special projects that engage them, creating roles and opportunities that tap the full potential of top performers; and• Connection and engagement with others in the company, focusing on the networks and quality of interactions that top performers need to succeed.By fostering programs that develop, deploy and connect employees, organizations can generate capability, commitment and alignment in key workforce segments, which in turn improve business performance. Manufacturers will find that the shift in strategy from the traditional approach of attracting and retaining employees to the broader, more encompassing method of a develop-deploy-connect model can be enabled through integrated human resources programs that are calibrated to specific talent needs.For example, if a company seeks certain skill sets, improved morale or greater productivity, then tailored learning, recognition and performance management programs are powerful levers.Companies needing a wider range of technical skills can rely on workforce rotation programs, used in conjunction with organizational learning, to produce the types of skill sets that align better with business priorities.If a company has a large group of retiring employees and, therefore, will be recruiting many skilled workers in coming years, knowledge retention processes–supported by tailored learning programs–can harvest decades of institutional knowledge in the retirement-age workforce, and can be used to accelerate the on-boarding of successors.Companies with these types of issues can take the following steps to get started with the develop-deploy-connect model:• Identify critical workforce segments (CWS) based on business strategy and required skills.• Conduct workforce planning for each CWS based on flows in and out, future demand and supply.• Evaluate and redesign your sourcing strategy considering alternate sources, immigration, your process and overall employment brand.• Evaluate your total rewards strategy and align with CWS.• Measure levels of employee commitment and identify drivers for each CWS.• Refine and align performance management processes, metrics, technologies and other inter-dependencies.• Develop a knowledge management strategy for collaboration, knowledge capture and transfer.• Create a talent development strategy for training, career paths, mentoring and coaching.• Create a "connect" strategy around culture, front-line supervisory skills, workforce communities and communications.• Develop an evaluation strategy with metrics, key performance indicators and scorecards to assess effectiveness.The pool of talent from which manufacturers currently dip is already shrinking, and far worse talent shortages are still to come. Leading manufacturers are already looking seriously at how to get in front of the resulting talent shortage that is sure to emerge. Success will come to those who let go of outdated and ineffective recruitment and retention strategies in favour of talent management models that nurture, inspire and reward employees in new ways. Beno"t Grenier is a manufacturing national industry leader with Deloitte's Human Capital practice in Canada. To receive a copy of Deloitte's point of view on talent management, download the report entitled, It's 2008: Do You Know Where Your Talent Is? Why Acquisition and Retention Strategies Don't Work, at
Marla Robinson has struggled to be a woman in a man's world for most of her life. Robinson, who now teaches in the mechanical and manufacturing engineering technology programs at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont., says this struggle dates back to the early 1970s, when she was in Grade 6. The public school curriculum in Hamilton in the early '70s was such that girls took home economics in Grades 6, 7 and 8, while boys took industrial arts. As the only child of a single, working mother, Robinson already knew how to sew and cook, and found little value in the home economics course. Instead, she wanted to join the industrial arts program and work with tools to make things. Her mother contacted the school, only to be told that this was "not an option." A strong believer that you should fight for what you want, regardless of the hurdles, Robinson's mother contacted the school trustee, June Deans, who challenged the board's policy. An article in the local newspaper prompted others to question why girls were not allowed to take industrial arts, and boys home economics. All of the attention resulted in the board giving in. By the time Robinson was in Grade 7, she was allowed to join the shop class. That year, two girls joined the industrial arts program, while three boys took home economics. "And from that point forward, until those programs were removed due to budget cuts, they were no longer gender biased," she explains proudly. Her mother always taught her to reach for the stars, and to pursue anything that she wanted. But it wasn't until years later, when her car's brakes needed to be replaced and she couldn't afford the $300 to have them installed, that Robinson fully realized her passion."I got a Haynes repair manual for $12 and the parts for $60, and proceeded to replace the front and back brakes on the car in the middle of winter in a parking lot. I was fascinated to see that two little plates of metal stopped that car, and [I] started to understand hydraulic principles."Robinson then enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Technician - Fluid Power Automation program at Mohawk College. It was a two-year training program, and she graduated with honours - one of two women who graduated from the course in 1987. "Even though I graduated with honours, I was one of the last ones hired as companies had no interest in a female," she explains. "One company I interviewed with even told me that, although I was qualified, they did not have washroom facilities for a female on site."Robinson was eventually hired at a job that she stayed in for the next 10 years before becoming a teacher. Today, she is heavily involved in programs at Mohawk College that encourage young people, particularly women, to join the skilled trades. She's working to make the transition to technical careers easier for women today, because it hasn't been an easy road for her. "I have battled being [a] woman in a man's world for much of my career. Comments such as, 'Let me speak to the man who knows what he's talking about,' were common when I moved into a technical design role," she recalls. How did she win them over? "I had to be good at what I did," she says. "It sounds cliche, but I worked long and hard to make sure I could answer almost any question. Knowledge ultimately worked in being taken seriously, not only on the job but in the classroom as well."Even today, Robinson says that gender is still very much an issue in this industry. "I still chuckle at the start of each semester when I walk into a first-year class during orientation and am often regarded as the departmental secretary. But it doesn't take long to win over the respect and admiration of my students, and I like to think they all carry forth respect for females in the industry." In fact, Robinson says that gender biases are getting better. "I can tell they're getting better by the students, my female students, who are going out and getting job offers with the top 10 students in the class. A few years ago, they were usually the last hired in the field."She says that she has also noticed an increase in the enrolment of women in Mohawk's technology programs thanks to the efforts of the staff at the college who have implemented programs aimed at attracting students to careers in technology. Robinson now spends a lot of time educating students in Grade 8 and in high schools that technology and trades are a great career option for everyone, especially for women. "The whole face of manufacturing has changed," she says. "You have to have superior problem-solving skills, analytical skills [and] communication skills."I often speak to groups of students, encouraging [them] to pursue a career that will provide them with a salary so they are capable of raising a family on their own should the need ever arise," says Robinson. "When we do these tech fairs and these girls go out and try and drive screws into drywall or they're doing these technical challenges, and you actually see them realize something about themselves that they didn't know, that's a really neat feeling."More young women are making trades and technology a career choice, she says. And just maybe Robinson can take a bit of credit for her part in that, starting with paving the way for young girls back in the 1970s. What does Robinson's mother, the woman who is responsible for her persistence in pursuing such a career, think of her profession? "She's thrilled," says Robinson. "She's absolutely thrilled."
Greg Melnyk didn't know what hit him. After years of pounding the pavement in and around his hometown of Hamilton, Ont., almost overnight the 25-year-old found himself gazing at the Rockies with his girlfriend, Jen, in Calgary.A third-year tool and die maker apprentice, Melnyk has known that he wanted a career in the trades since he took machine shop in high school when he was 16. After graduation, he went to college for four years and earned his mechanical engineering technician degree, specializing in his trade. Nevertheless, he still struggled to find an employer who would take him on as an apprentice. He managed to find work at various jobbing shops in Hamilton, Dundas and Toronto, but few were directly related to his chosen field. He was eventually laid off and had a difficult time re-entering the workforce. "In Ontario they're looking for predominantly licensed journeymen with 10 years experience," says Melnyk. "And the competition - there were probably 10 guys fighting for every position."When he was discussing career options with his parents one evening, Melnyk's dad suggested that he consider Alberta. Melnyk had a friend who'd moved to Calgary and was doing well, and so began his search. "I went on, typed in 'machine shops' and 'tool and die companies.' I phoned probably every shop in town to see if they were interested in hiring. Almost all of them said yes."And almost all of the companies in Calgary that Melnyk called told him that if he moved, he would make, on average, 80 per cent more than he would make in Ontario. So he and his girlfriend talked it over and decided to move as soon as he found a job. Melnyk knew exactly what he wanted and found an employer that needed his set of skills. "I talked to the general manager and faxed him my resume. He basically said, 'If this is what you want to do, I'll hold a job for you,' and gave me a week to think about it."The young couple moved to Calgary in August '06 and haven't looked back.Melnyk is one of many young Canadians who have struggled for a chance to apprentice. At the other end of the spectrum is Rory Neufeld, a fourth-year electrical apprentice who will soon be a full-fledged journeyman at age 22. Neufeld is taking his in-class training at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton. As for on-the-job training, Neufeld admits, "I had a bit of a bonus. My dad owns the company."Since high school summer employment, Neufeld worked for his father at Tricom Electrical and has had his career path clearly paved. He knows he's had a few advantages over other young apprentices, but says that his schoolmates have also found work easily. "If you can't find a job in Alberta right now," he says, "you're not looking hard enough." A well-oiled machineAlberta is doing more per capita to support skills development than any other province in Canada. Although the province only makes up 10 per cent of the country's population, it is training more than 20 per cent of apprentices in Canada. "There's a high demand here right now for skilled tradespeople, and it's happening at a record pace," says Erica McDonald of Alberta Advanced Education. "The number of apprentices in the province has reached a record number of 57,000, and employers are registering about 100 apprentices per work day."The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology has a waiting list and is working "very creatively" to accommodate more apprentices, says NAIT's president and CEO, Sam Shaw. The institute provides 50 per cent of Alberta's apprenticeships, while the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary provides about 26 per cent. Shaw says NAIT also trains 17 per cent of Canada's apprentices, more than any single institution across Canada."In 2000 we were doing approximately 7,000 apprentices," he says. "This year we'll do over 15,000, and we've been asked to go to over 18,000 next year. So one of the key things is that we need room to expand."In November 2006, NAIT announced it was building a new campus and naming it after Alberta's Premier, Ralph Klein. "When people ask, 'Why the Ralph Klein Campus?' I tell them Premier Klein has been an absolutely tremendous supporter of apprenticeship here in the province," explains Shaw. "Just to give you a couple of numbers, when I came here as president in 1997, our budget was roughly $100 million. Now we're at roughly $250 million."In April 2005, the Alberta government increased funding for its Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) scholarships to give as many as 500 students access to scholarships of $1,000. Total funds available for the scholarships increased from $50,000 to $500,000. Alberta also offers other apprenticeship scholarships and has several programs for making skills training more financially and geographically accessible (see sidebar). In July 2006, the government released a strategy for working with organizations to address the skill and labour shortage. The strategy centres around four themes:1. Inform Albertans and employers about education and labour market issues, initiatives and opportunities; 2. Attract people to Alberta; 3. Develop the knowledge and skills of Albertans, as well as innovative work environments; and4. Retain people in Alberta's workforce.As the place where so many young apprentices flock, NAIT also has a plan to address the skills shortage. The institute's four-point plan is to develop human capital, leaving no corner of the population untapped; offer creative delivery models such as distance education, video conferencing and taking training equipment into communities on giant tractor-trailers; build infrastructure to create more access for Albertans into the technical areas; and partner with companies to train more students. "Forty per cent of the workforce is going to retire in the next five to 10 years," says Shaw. "We need to replace those individuals."He says that NAIT is "very, very fortunate" to have received millions of dollars in donations from businesses that want to do their part for apprenticeship training. Shaw encourages institutions in any part of Canada to foster relationships with employers. Where it's atAlberta's push for skills development is making the trades a more appealing career option than ever. "People used to think of trades as just a construction worker kind of thing," says Neufeld, "but since there's a demand for it now, I guess it's opening a lot of people's eyes to it."You read about it in the paper, too," he says. "Younger guys are foregoing university and going straight into a trade after school because they're more interested in driving a fancy truck than a four-cylinder car from 20 years ago."As for Melnyk, when he moved from Ontario to Alberta, his degree exempted him from some of the in-class schooling that would normally be required. He only has to complete one final year of school. And he is very close to reaching the 8,000 work hours required to complete his apprenticeship.Does he feel conflicted about having left home to go west? He says it was simply a question of where the opportunities were. "I plugged away in Ontario. I scratched and clawed to get this piece of paper that's so hard to get, making not the greatest money, either."Once certified, Melnyk may or may not take his credentials back home and "be one of those guys they're looking for." He hopes to eventually become a mechanical designer. "I've been thinking of opportunities to even open up my own business out here," he says. "For example, out here, not many people know how to program machines to make certain parts. There are guys who have their own businesses and go into shops and charge thousands of dollars for programs, whereas in Ontario, they pay somebody maybe $35 an hour to write programs. In Alberta they pay big bucks." Michelle Morra is a Toronto-based freelance journalist.Bridging the gapWhat do you get when you cross a thriving oil and gas industry with a dwindling worker population? A massive shortage of skilled tradespeople. Albertaís push to support and promote apprenticeship training, however, is slowly but surely making a large dent in the labour gap through these and other initiatives:• The Alberta Aboriginal Apprenticeship Project – The project promotes apprenticeship and industry training to Aboriginal people, communities and organizations in Alberta. Through the project, Aboriginal people find the guidance and information they need to start and complete an apprenticeship program. • The Youth Apprenticeship Project (YAP) – Through YAP, Grade 7 and 8 students have access to work experience placements, apprenticeship positions, and mentorship or job-shadowing opportunities offered by local businesses in High Prairie, Lac La Biche and Wabasca/Desmarais. The project also involves tours and demonstrations by certified tradespeople. • The Youth in Transition to Apprenticeship Project – Launched in September 2006 for young adults (age 18 to 30) who are not currently participating in other educational support programs and are having difficulty linking with employers to set up an apprenticeship, this project helps them get started on their desired career path. • The Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) – The program is a way for registered high school students to become apprentices, and earn credits towards an apprenticeship program and a high school diploma at the same time. RAP is an agreement among the student, their employer and their school. • Apprenticeship industry training scholarships – These are supplied by industry, in partnership with the Alberta Apprenticeship Industry Training Board and the Government of Alberta, for people who arenít enrolled in the RAP program. • Student In-Site – During class field trips, Grade 9 students in the Edmonton region will see an array of workplaces. The goal is that students will come away with a greater understanding of the range of career possibilities on the horizon.• Tuition support – Starting in September í07, the Alberta government will limit tuition increases, including that of apprentices, to the cost of living (3.3 per cent).
Dave Santi's biggest challenge is finding "quality" apprentices. The manager of human resource development for Hamilton, Ont.-based Dofasco says the steel manufacturer, which accepts up to 40 apprentices a year, is competing for top-quality apprentices and tradespeople with manufacturers across Canada."We have had years where we have not been able to meet our recruiting numbers because the quality and the number of apprentices has just not been there," says Santi. "Across Canada, everyone is looking for apprentices and tradespeople, so we have to compete with them for the same resources."A quality apprentice, he says, is someone with technical, leadership and communication skills, and is also a team player and problem-solver. This Cadillac of candidates, the elusive apprentice or potential employee that possesses both the so-called "hard" and "soft" skills, is becoming increasingly difficult to find.The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters' (CME) 2005-2006 management issues survey, Winning Strategies for the Future, studied this problem. Respondents identified problem-solving, technical skills, teamwork, supervisory and management skills, innovation, and basic employability skills like timeliness, work ethic and personal responsibility, as the skills that are least satisfactory among current employees. Of the 942 companies from across Canada that participated in the survey, 37 per cent identified the availability of skilled and experienced personnel as a challenge. In addition, more than 10 per cent of manufacturers and exporters reported difficulties filling positions for entry-level employees, engineers, equipment operators, sales and marketing personnel, maintenance personnel, plant managers, machinists, designers and electricians in 2005. The fact that entry-level employees topped the list as the most difficult to attract and retain is a reflection of the difficulty companies face in finding people with those basic employability skills, says Jayson Myers, senior vice-president and chief economist for the CME."One of the biggest areas where we're lacking [is] people with very basic employability skills in manufacturing; people that you can rely on to come to work on time, be there every day, take personal responsibility for their own health and safety and those of their colleagues; people who have the very basic capabilities of solving problems [and] working in teams," says Myers.These issues were echoed by participants at a think tank meeting hosted by McMaster University and Mohawk College in Hamilton in November that explored changing industry needs in technology education. Participants identified soft skills as an area that needs to be developed in the recent graduates they see, and would like more schools to incorporate these into their curriculums. "We need doers, thinkers and leaders," said MaryLynn West-Moynes, president of Mohawk College, at the meeting. "And more and more, we need those attributes in the same person. We are looking to provide programs that will give people the opportunity to develop skills in all these areas."The CME's Myers suggests that greater collaboration, co-ordination and communication between manufacturers, high schools, colleges and universities is needed. "It's important for colleges to keep working with industry [to] make sure that they're providing the courses and setting up the training programs in response to what industry needs," he says. Mohawk College has a reputation for working with industry to ensure it arms its graduates with the necessary knowledge and skills. The college has won two Yves Landry Foundation awards in the last four years - one for outstanding industry-education partnerships and the other for outstanding technical co-operative education programs."We continue to listen to industry through frequent meetings with advisory committees," says Cheryl Jensen, executive dean in the faculty of engineering technology at Mohawk College. "In these meetings, employers tell us about new technologies and skills that they need to see in our graduates. Increasingly, we hear from employers that graduates need more training [and] education in the soft or employability skills," she says.McGill University's master in manufacturing management (MMM) program is another that has strong ties with industry. Professor Vince Thomson, founder and co-director of the program, says that when they designed the program more than nine years ago, they consulted with more than 30 companies to learn what industry wanted to see in a graduate from such a program. Now, says Thomson, they have an industry advisory committee that meets once or twice a year to provide input on the program. He also keeps in contact with the supervisors and managers that accept MMM students for their mandatory work term. From them, he finds out if the students have the right knowledge, skills and attitude for the workforce, and whether or not they find them useful. Dr. Joseph McDermid, director of the master of engineering, manufacturing engineering program at McMaster University, which is undergoing final approvals, says he would like to see universities teaching more communication skills. "Unfortunately," he says, "one of the constraints that we operate under is that we have accreditation requirements that we have to fulfill, and those requirements, in terms of the number of instructional hours, are quite onerous. The workload that we presently have our students under is quite large. So as a faculty, we really struggle with trying to make sure that we don't overload the students, but that we give them a good measure of the soft skills."Changing attitudesOngoing communication between colleges, universities and industry is only half the battle when it comes to ensuring that Canada has a skilled workforce. To arm students with the right skills, we first have to fill the seats in the technical programs, and that means reaching parents and students long before they are ready for post-secondary education. "I think the number one problem happens to be public perception of technical education. It has a negative stigma that is absolutely untrue," says Robert Magee, president and CEO of the Woodbridge Group, a manufacturer of automotive urethane technologies based in Mississauga, Ont. Beverlie Cook, project manager for the Skilled Trades Promotion Project, agrees. "Skilled trades suffer from a perception that they are dirty, badly paid, are physically demanding, and dominated by males. For the most part, nothing could be further from the truth," says Cook. To address this issue, the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) and Skills Canada (SC), with the help of the Government of Canada, launched a campaign in September 2004 to promote careers in the skilled trades, and to encourage employers to hire and retain more apprentices. Called "Skilled Trades: A Career You Can Build On," the campaign will continue until December 2006.Industry, too, needs to change its attitude. Jayson Myers says that, based on the results of the CME's recent survey, there is a great deal of complacency in industry surrounding the looming skilled trades shortage. He says that when asked what their strategy is to address future labour needs, a lot of companies say they will put greater emphasis on recruitment, and bring more immigrants into the workforce. "But everybody else is going to be doing the same thing," says Myers. "The issues are going to get worse...We're competing at all levels today in a global economy, and one of the key areas that we're all competing for is access to those skilled workers, and this isn't something that we can just take for granted." Dofasco is aware of the looming skilled trades shortage, and is taking measures to ensure it continues to stay competitive. Along with working with community colleges and organizations like the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum to promote its apprenticeship program and ensure that the curriculum meets its requirements, the company has been implementing automation into its processes to achieve more with fewer people. Dofasco started a project two years ago to revamp all of its finishing processes. The capital investment, which mostly focused on automation technologies, was $700 million. The project is about two years away from completion. "We're doing this strategically in such a way that when those facilities are fully capable and up and people retire, we won't have to replace them one for one," says Bill Gair, Dofasco's manager of corporate communications. "We would instead be implementing automation within our manufacturing facilities, to achieve far more with fewer people."Moving ahead"We all have to do our part if we want a skilled workforce to meet changing business needs," says the Woodbridge Group's Robert Magee. "That includes industry, business, governments, educators, current employees and future employees...We have to talk more about the success it has brought to the people who have taken those courses." Magee is working with the Canadian Automotive Human Resources Sector Council (CAHR), in co-operation with the Ontario and federal governments, on an industry tours program, which would give parents, teachers, students and guidance counselors the opportunity to see what a modern industrial plant looks like. "Our goal [is] to make sure that every kid and every teacher sees two factories a year from grade 6 onwards," says Magee. "Because seeing is really believing. And exposure is also very motivational." Magee says that he hopes the program will be up and running by the 2006-2007 school year.Port Credit Secondary School, in Mississauga, Ont., is also taking positive steps towards exposing students to the skilled trades. Last September, the school launched a four-year science and technology program for students, starting in grade 9, called SciTech. It's the first program in the Peel District School Board to offer a science and technology specialization for secondary school students. The school plans to enrol up to 100 students in the program each year."We need more young people going into this field," says Jan Courtin, the school's principal. She says that schools need to offer more alternatives for students. The "hands-on, minds-on" program incorporates everyday life applications of science and technology, and has a focus on literacy and mathematics. It takes an inquiry-based approach, urging students to apply their creativity and discover solutions to real problems and issues. The program also includes work-oriented experiences like co-op placements, visits to science and technology-related businesses, lectures from experts in the field, and networking opportunities with colleges, universities and industry in areas like manufacturing. The school spent $3.8 million in renovations to create a manufacturing floor in the high school to give students hands-on experience. Dofasco reaches students earlier than high school. The company is working with the Halton Board of Education to educate grade 8 students about the manufacturing industry. "It's about making sure that kids stay interested in science and math, and the possibility of how these things can lead into careers," says Dofasco's Dave Santi. As part of the program, the company teaches the health and safety elements of working in a manufacturing plant. Students get exposure to how companies make money and why is it important to show up for work on time. They also work in teams to solve problems. Over the last five years, the company has put about 600 students through the weeklong program. "The challenge is for corporate Canada in other communities to turn their workplace into laboratories and partner with education to get young people interested. And I think if we can influence half a dozen kids in the room to get into the skilled trades," says Santi, "we'd be much better off."The company has already seen the benefits of its program. One of its 160 apprentices was among the first of the grade 8 classes to visit Dofasco. Indeed, the company is on its way to making sure that in the coming years, Dofasco won't have difficulty finding quality apprentices.
I recently received a distressed call from a client: "We have an issue with a leaking fuel tank, and the team is stuck. We need your help right away."I knew the nature of the "issue" as soon as I got to the client site at 10 p.m. that same night. There were more than 20 people sitting around the boardroom. They were, for the most part, well-meaning engineers and suppliers doing their best to represent the best interests of their company or department. But how many competent engineers does it take to figure out why a few fuel tanks, returned after several weeks in the field, are leaking? Two or three is all it should take.
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