Campaign launched to find much-needed factory workers

Manufacturers have never been busier, but finding staff has never been harder

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As society and the economy begin to emerge from the pandemic, manufacturers are trying to get a jump on the tight labour market by reminding people that factories aren’t the grungy, dirty places they used to be.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/02/2022 (222 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As society and the economy begin to emerge from the pandemic, manufacturers are trying to get a jump on the tight labour market by reminding people that factories aren’t the grungy, dirty places they used to be.

A series of billboard ads that will start appearing soon will also appeal to childhood memories of building things like forts out of cardboard boxes.

But the serious matter addressed by the campaign — featuring the tag line “You’re Gonna Make It”— is the fact that the tight labour market has left hundreds of Manitoba manufacturers with positions unfilled and order books that are growing.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ron Koslowsky, vice-president and Manitoba general manager of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

“A little while ago I heard of one company in Manitoba that was turning away as much as two-thirds of their new orders because they did not have the people to build the product,” said Ron Koslowsky, the vice-president and Manitoba general manager of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME).

“That is an extremely hard thing to do,” he said. “You don’t want to disappoint customers because they may not come back.”

The ads will include a QR code that will take job-seekers to a landing page where the “apply here” pages for hundreds of Manitoba manufacturers looking to fill positions right now can be found.

Conviron, the Winnipeg company that is a global leader in specialized growth chambers for researchers and for agricultural and cannabis industry applications, has never been busier but its efforts to fill positions has never been harder.

Susan Sullivan, Conviron’s human resource manager, said the company just hired a few production workers but there are more positions that need filling.

There are all sorts of reasons that’s more challenging these days.

She said Conviron has not experienced the effects of the “great resignation” but it has felt the competition for workers.

“What we are seeing is the scenario where we hire someone or make an offer, it is accepted and then the person will end up not coming because they have another offer,” she said. “We are seeing more of that than we’ve seen ever before.”

The company is in the process of negotiating a new contract with its internal employee association and it’s proposing increased entry wages and faster progress to higher rates.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The shop floor at Conviron, a Winnipeg company that is a global leader in specialized growth chambers for researchers and for agricultural and cannabis industry applications. The company is seeking workers for many positions.

Jill Knaggs, CME’s senior marketing & communications leader, said the industry will need to fill 13,000 positions over the next four years. The industry already employs about 60,000 in Manitoba. In addition to supply chain.challenges the number one concern for CME members has been labour shortages.

Knaggs said the current campaign was a rare chance for the industry to reach out to the broader community in a fun and creative way.

“Virtually all of us have childhood memories of making thing with Tinker Toys or Lego building something creative from a cardboard box,” she said. “We want to inspire people to think about manufacturing beyond some of the stereotypes that are out there.”

Vidir Solutions, the Arborg-based company that makes an assortment of specialized automated material handling units, is always looking for workers.

It took its own unique approach to dealing with the problem by promoting employment for women.

Carissa Rempel, the company’s talent acquisition specialist said that in the last year alone it has increased the number of women in its workforce by 60 per cent.

“It’s been really successful,” she said. “Overall in the last year we have seen 25 per cent increase in the number of women applying for positions and in some positions there has been a 100 per cent increase.”

She admitted that in the past Vidir’s women workforce has been below the national average in manufacturing, which is about 27 per cent.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Susan Sullivan, Conviron’s human resource manager, is having a hard time finding workers.

“We’ve definitely felt the labour shortage especially throughout all of last year, but we’re going to keep promoting women employment and hopefully push past the national average,” she said.

Vidir makes vertical storage and handling solutions that can be found in Home Depot, Disney amusement parks and even the White House.

Rempel said it’s cool for employees to know the products they make are used in such well-known places and elsewhere in 45 countries.

The CME campaign urges people to rediscover the joy of making things, reminding them that today’s production facilities are not your parents’ factories.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

History

Updated on Friday, February 25, 2022 10:34 AM CST: Updates web hed

Updated on Friday, February 25, 2022 10:58 AM CST: Updates headline

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