Shortage of Skilled Workers Poses Risk to Canada’s Steel Industry

A shortage of skilled workers is causing Canadian manufacturers to devise strategies to ensure the next generation of workers.


Image credit: Gerla Brakkee

Research conducted by the Canadian Steel Trade and Employment Congress (CSTEC) reveals a critical shortage of skilled workers, a workforce deficit that is especially relevant in the Canadian steel sector.

Based on its exceptionally high value-add per employee when compared to other manufacturing sectors, the broader steel sector is a good illustration of the conundrum facing Canadian industrial manufacturing.

It’s estimated that over the next five years, the steel industry will need to hire between 19,000 and 29,000 workers from all categories just to replace retiring employees. A minimum of 5,000 skilled tradespersons will also need to be replaced, despite the fact that the global steel industry is in a period of sustained retraction.

As large numbers of baby boomers exit the workforce, they take accumulated industry knowledge with them. Failure to capture and transfer this knowledge to the new workforce presents significant risk to all aspects of the numerous manufacturing operations within the broader Steel Sector, including safety, the environment, productivity, maintenance and cost.

As a result of their research, the CSTEC has released nine recommendations, which include addressing the knowledge transfer in the Canadian steel industry as well as increasing collaboration with the steel-producing regions located in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia to continue developing a national skilled trades strategy.

The CSTEC points out that young Canadians, immigrants and adults looking for employment security have a path to success in the steel industry and other areas of manufacturing since manufacturing will never be completely outsourced to offshore provider.

The reality is that the skills shortage facing Canada now ensures experienced, trained workers will be in demand for a long time – provided industry stakeholders are willing to do more to create an employment path that is more clear, more efficient and better equipped for the national labor market.

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