TORONTO – Eighty percent of Canadian manufacturers polled in a new report face an immediate labor and skills shortage that has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters survey of 563 companies across 19 industries released Tuesday found the need for skilled workers has been increasing rapidly for years, but government assistance with COVID-19, health concerns and family responsibilities are making the even more difficult situation.
“Our skills gap that existed before the pandemic has simply been exacerbated by the pandemic and we need to make sure everyone is working to bring this next generation of workers into the sector,” said Dennis Darby, President of CME.
His organization, which represents more than 2,500 companies across the country, said 70% of manufacturers had a labor and skills shortage in 2018, up from 40% in 2016.
The MEC believes that the government’s support measures for Canadians during the pandemic could discourage people from seeking employment in manufacturing. Others, he says, may be disinterested in the industry or work completely because they fear for their health and safety when the virus spreads or because they have childcare obligations.
A national child care program and more support for women, immigrants and temporary foreign workers would help turn the tide, Darby said.
“We also need to have a very strong commitment to actually train the people whose jobs may have been moved from other sectors to be able to take on manufacturing jobs,” he said.
It is important to tackle these issues early as the lack of skilled workers hampers growth and limits the ability of manufacturers to innovate and invest in the technology they will need to meet future needs and keep up with their standards. competitors, said Darby.
His report also contains an overview of the impact of the pandemic on manufacturers.
He said many experienced a simultaneous drop in demand and an increase in supply chain disruptions in the early weeks of the pandemic.
While 30% of manufacturers have seen production return to pre-February 2020 pandemic levels and 6% believe they will hit that threshold by the end of the year, not everyone has this luck.
About 10 percent of manufacturers surveyed say they are very pessimistic about their company’s prospects, with 5 percent predicting that their sales will never fully recover.
The recovery has looked so different in the industry because manufacturing touches so many different industries and places, Darby said. In many cases, supply chains have not yet fully recovered.
“In industries like food and consumer products,” they’ve been at full capacity in many cases across the country because a lot of these parts or ingredients are located or purchased in North America and the supply shift ‘is mitigated, ”he said.
“In these industries that bring a lot of product overseas, a lot of these supply chains have slowed down and they are not yet fully restored. ”
Alberta is facing the worst of the pandemic due to the impacts it has seen on the oil and gas sector, but parts of southwestern Ontario or Quebec have also seen a drop in demand for it. articles, Darby said.
Across the country, all manufacturers have been forced to adapt quickly to protect their workforce.
About 60 percent of those surveyed buy personal protective equipment to keep workers safe. The average cost of PPE was estimated at $ 201,500 but is expected to reach $ 373,400 by the end of the year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 1, 2020.