Plastics sector council hopes to give training new direction
By Jocelyn Chu
After many years of effort, representatives of industry, labor and government have reached an agreement to establish a human resources sector council for the plastics industry. The Plastics Sector Cou...
After many years of effort, representatives of industry, labor and government have reached an agreement to establish a human resources sector council for the plastics industry. The Plastics Sector Council, with seed funding from Human Resources Development Canada, will address human resource and training issues in the Canadian plastics industry. The agreement runs for a two-year “developmental phase” and may be extended for another three years through an operational period.
The timing is right, as many Canadian plastics companies are suffering from a shortage of skilled labor, says Susan McNerney, president of Extrufix (Richmond Hill, Ont.) and a member of the interim board of the council. There is a still gap between what types of training the still-emerging plastics industry requires, and what training institutes offer. McNerney believes the US and Europe have gotten the “training jump” on Canada.
Both the British Columbia Institute of Technology (Vancouver) and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (Edmonton) offer diplomas in plastics engineering technology. BCIT now offers a degree in the Technology of Manufacturing, which can incorporate a plastics-based curriculum. In Nova Scotia, the Technical University and the Nova Scotia Community College in Springfield offer plastics-related training. But an absence of clear career paths and promotion opportunities within the plastics industry, plus a lack of occupational standards and recognized apprenticeships, hamper Canadian competitiveness.
With the formation of a national Plastics Sector Council solutions may be in sight. One objective of the Council is to establish pan-Canadian occupational standards and a supporting curriculum that will encourage in-house training. This won’t necessarily be an easy task, says one industry person, because each region has its own training needs and focus.
Quebec, the first province to have a mandated training initiative, has a one-percent payroll training tax to support training. Pierre Guimont, general manager of Plasticomptences, the province’s sectoral committee, advocates in-house training, self-reliance, and the building of bridges between industry, educators and students. Ten high schools and three CEGEPs in Quebec provide plastics technology training, and a plastics engineering degree will soon be a reality at either Laval or at L’Ecole Polytechnique, says Guimont.
An analysis of industry skills in BC was completed last spring. “With small, western, niche players being so numerous, retraining is challenging,” says Nimmi Bangert, manager of BC operations for CPIA. But, says BCIT’s program head of plastics engineering technology Dr. Don Wilson, “Therein lies the real benefit of the Sectoral Council — if it gets small companies to syndicate training, modeled on Quebec’s centralized approach.”
In-plant certification training is the fastest growing part of business at the Canadian Plastics Training Centre at Toronto’s Humber College, according to general manager David Alcock. Once occupational standards are created, companies can envision where training leads, and institutes will no longer operate in a vacuum. Says Alcock, “To me, that’s the Holy Grail.”
For more information on the Plastics Sector Council contact Nicole Darveau at HRDC, tel: 819/884-3921.
Jocelyn Chu is a writer-editor, illustrator and multimedia consultant who shuttles between Fernie, BC and Toronto.