Manufacturing sector labours to maintain workforce

    OTTAWA, Aug. 28 /CNW Telbec/ - As Canadian workers mark Labour Day, a
Conference Board study indicates that Canada's manufacturing labour force is
critical to the future prosperity of this sector.
    In addition to the relentless competition from developing economies,
rapid technological change and the strong Canadian dollar, manufacturers face
major human resources challenges: a flood of early retirements, a reduced
ability to attract young workers, and a need to keep up with changing skill
    In the future, 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," said Douglas Watt,
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 Canada's
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 groups-such as young workers and women-that have
other employment options.
    The economic analysis as part of the report found that the manufacturing
sector's share of gross domestic product-which grew strongly in the
1990s-slipped 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.
    "There is no doubt that some segments are facing structural
challenges-such as increased import competition-which have been further
aggravated by the slowdown in the U.S. economy. However, all is not doom and
gloom in the sector," said Michael Burt, Associate Director, Canadian
Industrial Outlook.
    "Some segments of manufacturing have garnered gains in employment over
the course of this decade. The story is even rosier when one looks at
production, where nine of the 21 industries have experienced rising production
over the course of this decade, and total production is down only slightly.
What is surprising about the sector is not that it has struggled in recent
years, but that it has fared so well under these circumstances."
    Industries such as food manufacturing, fabricated metal products and
machinery have grown in both employment and production, while others, such as
clothing and textiles, and paper products, declined. Canada's largest
manufacturing industry, transportation equipment (which includes motor vehicle
and aerospace), declined modestly over this period.
    This research project, conducted for the Government of Canada's Sector
Council Program, highlights four innovative programs that are addressing the
key human resource issues facing the manufacturing sector:

    - Wood Manufacturing Council's WoodLINKS program - a school-to-work
      transition and certification program, establishing partnerships between
      high schools and local manufacturers.

    - Textiles Human Resources Council's Skills and Learning Sites and
      Portal - a flexible, cost-effective learning infrastructure for
      Canadian textile manufacturers and their employees.

    - Canadian Plastics Sector Council's Virtual HR Department (VHRD)
      program - an online one-stop shop for human resources tools.

    - Apparel Human Resources Council's Management Competencies project -
      a structured step-by-step strategic planning and human resources
      development process.

    The overview and case study reports are available at

For further information:

For further information: Brent Dowdall, Media Relations,  (613) 526-3090
ext. 448,

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