Manufacturing sector struggles to maintain workforce, study says

Thursday September 18, 2008
Written by Manufacturing AUTOMATION
Ottawa, Ont. - Canadian manufacturers are struggling to maintain their current workforces, according to a new study by the Conference Board.
The study found that although the countryís manufacturing labour force is critical to the future prosperity of the sector, manufacturers are facing major human resources challenges, including a flood of early retirements, a reduced ability to attract young workers and a need to keep up with changing skill requirements.
In the future, the study found that Canadian manufacturers are anticipating a shift from doing final assembly to building specialized components that fit into the overall production process, and in providing products and services that accompany the finished good, such as logistics and supply-chain management services.
"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," says Douglas Watt, the Conference Boardís associate director, Organizational Learning and Development. "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, "Key Economic and Labour Force Issues Facing Canadaís Manufacturing Sector," recommends that manufacturers must improve on the current skills of their two million workers by tapping into education and training programs. The sector also needs to keep its aging workers in the labour force longer, through more flexible scheduling and changes in work processes. Finally, the sector has to restore its image as a rewarding career option for underrepresented groupsósuch as young workers and womenóthat have other employment options.
The economic analysis as part of the report found that the manufacturing sectorís share of gross domestic productówhich grew strongly in the 1990sóslipped from 18.4 per cent in 2000 to 15.2 per cent in 2007. Since the beginning of this decade, overall growth in the manufacturing sector has stalled, even as the rest of the economy has expanded, and about 300,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared.

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