TORONTO – Eighty percent of Canadian manufacturers surveyed in a new report are facing an immediate labor and skills shortage that has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters survey of 563 companies from 19 sectors released on Tuesday found the need for skilled workers has been growing rapidly for years, but government COVID-19 assistance, health issues and family responsibilities make the even more awkward situation.
“Our skills gap that existed before the pandemic has only been exacerbated by the pandemic and we need to make sure everyone is working to attract this next generation of workers into the sector,” said WEC President Dennis Darby. .
His organization, which represents more than 2,500 companies across the country, said 70% of manufacturers lacked labor and skills in 2018, up from 40% in 2016.
The CME believes that the government’s support measures for Canadians during the pandemic could discourage people from seeking employment in the manufacturing sector. Others, he said, may lose interest in the sector or work altogether because they fear for their health and safety as the virus spreads or because they have childcare obligations. .
A national child care program and increased support for women, immigrants and temporary foreign workers would help reverse the trends, Darby said.
“We also need to have a very strong commitment that people whose jobs may have been moved from other sectors are trained to be able to take on manufacturing jobs,” he said.
Addressing these issues quickly is important because a lack of skilled workers is hampering growth and limiting manufacturers’ ability to innovate and invest in the technology they’ll need to meet future needs and keep up with the competition, Darby said.
His report also contains an overview of the impact of the pandemic on manufacturers.
He said many experienced a simultaneous drop in demand and increased supply chain disruptions in the first weeks of the pandemic.
While 30% of manufacturers have seen production return to pre-pandemic levels of February 2020 and a further 6% believe they will reach that threshold by the end of the year, not everyone has this luck.
About 10% of manufacturers surveyed say they are very pessimistic about the outlook for their business, including 5% who predict that their sales will never fully recover.
The recovery looked so different across the sector because manufacturing touches so many different industries and locations, Darby said. In many cases, supply chains have yet to fully recover.
“In areas like food and consumer products…they’ve been at full capacity in many cases across the country because a lot of those parts or ingredients are located or sourced from North America and the change in supply has eased,” he said.
“In those industries that import a lot of stuff from overseas, a lot of those supply chains have slowed down and they’re not fully recovered yet.”
Alberta is facing the worst of the pandemic due to the impacts it has seen on the oil and gas sector, but southwestern regions of Ontario or Quebec have also seen a drop in demand for oil and gas. items, Darby said.
Across the country, all manufacturers have been forced to adapt quickly to protect their personnel.
About 60% of respondents buy personal protective equipment to keep workers safe. Their average PPE costs have been estimated at $201,500, but are expected to reach $373,400 by the end of the year.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 1, 2020.