ISSUES & CHALLENGES: Only 5% of Canadian manufacturers are expected to hire over the next three years. Manufacturing is shrinking and has lost jobs over the past decade as outsourcing, off-shoring and cheaper labour supply in developing countries has moved jobs overseas.
Given the downturn in Manufacturing, Ottawa appears to have an adequate supply of skills. There could be challenges in the future in obtaining supervisors in manufacturing, assemblers and labourers given that there is a significantly lower proportion in Ottawa, in comparison to Ontario. There are disconnects between labour supply and demand. If we look at employer needs, there appears to be a shortage in wood products, machinery and food processing. However, the labour supply shows more individuals interested in computer/electronics, metal products and petroleum/chemical manufacturing. Thus, the greatest skills needs in Ottawa are within communications, quality management and supply chain. The most preferred training method is “on the job” and the least preferred method is apprenticeship programs, but there are certainly a range of methods used/needed. Soft skills are the most needed skills, with the top three being management, business and communications.
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: From an opportunities perspective, conventional manufacturing is a shrinking part of the Ontario, and Ottawa, economy. Canadians cannot compete with the low labour costs that provide a distinct volume manufacturing advantage to developing nations such as India and China. That being said, there are distinct knowledge advantages that Western nations, particularly Canada, can try to exploit within the manufacturing sector including:
- Green technology and green manufacturing; e.g., wind farms being exported to India.
- Custom manufacturing; e.g., ICT proto-typing.
- Consulting services for manufacturing.
- Manufacturing healthcare products: assistive devices for the elderly; disabled and wounded veterans. Accessibility requirements and an ageing population mean there’s an opportunity here.
- Manufacturers expanding their export relationships, particularly by utilizing the language and cultural knowledge of their immigrant workforce.
Some recommendations to meet the challenges in the manufacturing sector include:
- Develop a workforce strategy to support the development of soft skills; e.g., communications, quality management and supply chain for Ottawa.
- Identify areas in which manufacturers need assistance and develop appropriate programs; e.g. :
- Understanding options for labour supply (e.g., apprenticeship);
- Building their HR skills to recruit and retain talent;
- Conducting competitor analysis; and
- Better national and international promotion and marketing.
- Explore retraining opportunities for manufacturing workers, particularly in shrinking sectors.
The Sector Summary: Manufacturing has been adapted from an earlier version of the Ottawa Labour Market Plan completed in March 2011.