One big reason for labour shortage

Yet, Linamar, like other industry employers, continues to grapple with skilled labour shortages. At any given time, the Guelph, Ont., supplier has 500 to 700 openings, said Rose.

Across the sector, “we’re probably short about 10,000 people,” said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association.

The shortage is so dire, many employers, from parts makers to new-vehicle dealers, are increasingly relying on immigration and foreign workers to fill jobs in Canada. An aging population, immigration backlogs and the growing demand for work-from home employment are among the key factors contributing to scarcity of labour. But a major culprit is the industry’s inability to shed a negative image that equates skilled trades and factories with grimy, mindless work.

“Trades in general have had a bad rap for years,” said Alan McClelland, dean of automotive programs for the School of Transportation at Centennial College in Toronto.

“The number of people going into trades programs hasn’t grown dramatically over the last 30 or 40 years.”

Rose is among stakeholders who say the industry bears much of the responsibility for changing the narrative, especially among youth.

Linamar, she said, sends young staff into schools to talk up the sector.

“It takes time and resources to change an industry’s reputation and deliver a consistent message,” she said.

A key part of the message that should resonate with the young is the potential to thwart climate change as electric powertrains supplant the internal combustion engine, and also the potential for self-driving technology to enhance road safety and transform mobility, especially for the elderly and disabled.

The competition for talent will intensify as the industry shifts to EVs, which will require new skills and training for the next generation of auto workers. But as evidenced by Rose’s passion for today’s auto plant, the industry has one hell of a story to tell.

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