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The planned theme for the 2022 FABTECH Canada Leadership Exchange Panel was that advanced manufacturing introduces new technologies to enhance, rather than replace, traditional manufacturing.
However, this central idea would inexorably change direction, as no Canadian conference program can be complete without a nod to the reality that approximately 700,000 skilled workers are expected to retire between 2019 and 2028.

For panelist Martin Cloake, advanced manufacturing is an idea whose time has come, and the logical progression is for the industry to harness the promise and potential of new technologies to address labor shortages. To drive home his point, Cloake told the story of a machine shop owner, presumably a customer, who designed his business process to allow the factory to train an employee to operate machines in two months.

“He hires 19- or 20-year-olds in a machine shop and basically expects them to be producing in a few months and sticking around for two years,” said the CEO of Raven, a tech company. manufacturing technology that develops automated contextualization and OEE. Software.

Skills and technology
Manufacturers should look to technology to help manage the Canadian workforce, Cloake said, because we can no longer expect people to stay on the job for 30 years. “That’s just not what young people entering the workforce today are looking for. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, we just have to adapt.
Rather than a barrier, the data generated by the manufacturing process should be viewed as a collaborative tool for a new generation of tech-native employees, Cloake said. Much like a vehicle’s GPS system, technology can improve efficiency, especially when it works in the background and is used to provide operators with actionable information, so they can perform their tasks efficiently, a- he explained. In the long term, advanced manufacturing technology could be used to solve the requalification problem by using it to eliminate inefficient processes on the shop floor.

holistic approach
Research to support the changing landscape due to the adoption of digitization has been floating around for some time. According to the Canadian Learning Forum’s learning analysis, 90% of companies use digital technology at work with the most commonly used computers in the service and manufacturing sectors and the most commonly used smartphones in the construction sector. This combination includes the trend to incorporate electronic sensors/controllers into equipment, as well as electronics-based diagnostic and test equipment and the programming of machinery and equipment.

Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Canada, and another panelist agreed that technology has given operators and businesses far more control than they’ve ever had “in terms of understanding and predicting,” but was less likely to report it as an industry-wide problem. silver bullet, especially for manufacturers who have struggled with perception and skill shortages for decades.

“Some people invest in technology without determining what they’re trying to cure,” Howcroft said. “What are they trying to address?” Is it the right technology for them? I think the commitment of your staff is crucial. But I also think it’s important to engage with your customers. How can we ensure customer success? What are you doing to ensure that what you provide to them meets their current and future needs? I think you have to take all of that into account.

Recalibrate Skills
The average age to start an apprenticeship is 28, indicating a missed opportunity, Howcroft said. “What we need to do is get into schools, meet younger kids and introduce them to what manufacturing is, what technology is and give them exponential opportunities to get hands-on experience. “

One of Skills Ontario’s mandates is to meet potential students across the province to motivate them to pursue skilled careers. Skills Ontario’s newest initiative, Trades and Tech Truck, is designed to inspire young people to explore skilled trades and technology. Fix Network, the automotive aftermarket franchise network for collision repair, glass and mechanical services, is a major partner and helped equip the mobile learning unit with activities and simulators , such as modules simulating automotive painting, welding, electrical systems and heavy work. machinery. Other partners are the Government of Ontario, Black & McDonald, Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, Collège Boréal, CWB Welding Foundation, IHSA, LiUNA, Milwaukee, Mohawk College, Sheridan College, St Clair College and Workplace Safety & Prevention Services.

Focusing on the food and beverage industry, where nearly 8,000 food and beverage manufacturing companies employ approximately 300,000 workers, Food Processing Skills Canada (FPSC) is another organization proving its commitment to help employers build teams of skilled and motivated employees. For example, Succeeding at Work (SAW) is FPSC’s fully-funded, dual-track (job seeker and employer) training program with an industry-specific curriculum and the ability to match participants with employers.

The program offers basic computer knowledge, as well as soft skills, such as critical thinking, adaptability, and troubleshooting. A defining feature, however, is that the job seeker program attracts non-traditional sources into the labor pool. Originally set up at Trent University, the program invites a diverse cohort of students and does not just target people who have faced barriers to employment. Deanna Zenger, Regional Coordinator and National Project Manager, Food Processing Skills Canada, explained that the program addresses these barriers through workplace essential skills and social-emotional learning, or emotional intelligence.

The SAW Language Stream project is a subset of the program, which offers instruction in six languages ​​in addition to English and includes online courses on digital technology, good manufacturing practices, industrial safety on the job site. work, locking and oral communication. A lack of understanding puts immigrant workers at risk of being fired because of the extra effort required to keep them informed, the SAW website said. To this end, Ontario, which has the largest number of firms in the sector (2,530 or 35%), is particularly vulnerable.

“I was leading a class that was geopolitically very much at odds with each other,” Zenger said. “We have many different cultures from many different countries. When we started, there were people who didn’t want to sit next to each other, which surprised me. But these differences must be respected. Within a few weeks, not only taking the technical courses, but working on emotional intelligence programming, we started to see changes in people. It was as if they allowed themselves to do and say things they were afraid to do or say. In many cases, especially among women, the growth of individuals has been incredible, as have the gains in literacy. »

Another “aha” moment stems from the development of a hybrid program (including in-person and online components) for English as a Second Language (ESL) learners. “We know from experience that speaking English is better than writing. [knowledge] when you have programming instructions with an instructor who speaks slowly, clearly, to get them to understand the concepts,” Zenger said. “But when you have an e-learning system that is narrated and you also see the written word, the literacy gains are exceptional.”

Topics such as food safety contain critical information that cannot be watered down or shortened, and Zenger said she rewrote some of the programming to clarify the language.

Retention and Productivity
SAW offers benefits to people who have established roles in the industry. The employer component of the program was created out of a need to address not only retention issues, but production issues as well. “We have a labor shortage, so it’s very difficult to get people away from operations and production,” Zenger said.
The program includes 23 courses designed to validate learning benchmarks along the way. Since employees can complete the courses at their own pace, there is no loss of production or operational time.

Zenger found that home learning is often preferred. “Many employees are not digitally savvy,” she said. “In our industry, we have a generational gap in knowledge of technology. We have a lot of people who never finished eighth grade. It’s like that. And we have many new Canadians and many women who never finished high school. Have a national certificate recognizing you in your own name [means a lot].”

Set priorities
According to Public Safety Canada, food and beverage manufacturers are lacking an average of 25% of their workforce. This makes labor a key issue preventing the sector from realizing its growth potential, noted Food and Beverage Canada.

With no immediate signs that the skills gap is closing, Howcroft and Zenger will attest that the demand for innovative and practical solutions that meet the changing needs for success in the workplace is a high priority. Cloake might add that advanced manufacturing technology is an integral part of the equation.

Everyone would agree that the future health of the manufacturing sector is linked to the evolution of the hiring pool. “We need to take a look to see what employers need,” Zenger said. “Because we have less than a generation to scale and perfect the entire industry.”
Rehana Begg is a freelance writer. Contact her at [email protected]