Canadian Plastics

Skilled trade shortages in future, reports suggest

Throughout North America, evidence suggests that a growing shortage of skilled workers will afflict the manu...

November 23, 2009   Canadian Plastics

Throughout North America, evidence suggests that a growing shortage of skilled workers will afflict the manufacturing sector in years to come.

In Ontario, the Windsor Star has reported a critical shortage in the number of high school students enrolled in Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) courses offered at three area public secondary schools.

The paper quoted Dario Rossit, technology teaching consultant with the Greater Essex District School Board, as saying that the situation is so bad that the board is having difficulty finding enough students to fill 17 apprenticeship positions requested from local companies this year.

In the past, schools that offered the OYAP program were able to accommodate up to 47 students in two classes, and it was common to have 50 or 60 students systemwide.

“There has been a lot of publicity about the local economy saying how manufacturing is dying,” Rossit told the Windsor Star. “Our programs have suffered as a result. We go to our schools and talk about what’s available, the kids think it sounds like a viable trade, then they go home and their parents talk them out of it. The companies come to the high schools looking for apprentices and we’re having trouble with placements.”

The Windsor Star also noted that recent Industry Canada statistics have shown that Canada will be short 450,000 skilled trades workers by 2025.

These anecdotes dovetail neatly with a new national U.S. poll showing that a majority of teenagers – 52 per cent – have little or no interest in a manufacturing career and another 21 per cent are ambivalent.

The survey of 500 teens was conducted by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Intl. (FMA), a professional organization based out of Rockford, Ill.

“Unfortunately, manufacturing often is not positioned as a viable career by groups such as educators and counselors, and at times factory work even is maligned in pop culture and the media,” said FMA director Gerald Shankel. “Based on this environment, these findings are not surprising.”

The study also found that six in 10 teens – 61 per cent – never have visited or toured a factory or other manufacturing facility, and that only 28 per cent have taken an industrial arts or shop class, yet more than double that number – 58 per cent – have completed a home economics course. Also, almost three in 10 teens – 27 per cent – spend no time during the week working with their hands on projects such as woodworking or models, 30 per cent less than one hour and just 26 per cent one to two hours.

“It’s ironic that even with so many professionals unemployed today, teens still consider the traditional college degree as the launch pad to the preferred career path,” Shankel said. “Our industry must generate interest among young people to consider manufacturing and convey that it’s both honorable and profitable to work with your hands. The skilled jobs to fill will not only require workers to operate the most advanced, sophisticated equipment, such as robotics and lasers, it will require the kind of high tech, computer skills young people love to apply.”


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