Like many other sectors of the economy, advanced manufacturing, which includes food processing, is experiencing a wave of retirements as Baby Boomers age into their 60s and 70s. In occupations where demand is growing, this combination of projected retirements and growth will lead to thousands of job openings in advanced manufacturing over the next six years.
Although domestic sources of recruits, including graduates of our postsecondary institutions, will meet some of this need, many new jobs must be filled through immigration. Making sure that federal immigration targets and provincial priorities are aligned with the labour market needs of advanced manufacturers in the London economic region will be critical to the sector's economic growth.
Employers in the London economic region are preparing for this wave of retirements, focusing resources on internal training and development and recruiting far and wide to fill positions. To successfully manage this transition, advanced manufacturers need help from all levels of government and postsecondary institutions.
Programs like those offered at local colleges, such as Fanshawe, not just in terms of the curriculum but in terms of enrolment, need to continue to meet the needs of these employers. The work of the provincial government to highlight the value of skilled trades in general and manufacturing, in particular, is helping, but a focus on reaching Ontario kids in late elementary and secondary school would aid in bringing outdated perceptions of manufacturing closer to the reality of advanced manufacturing in the London region.
To increase the talent pool from outside Canada, the province should consider expanding the list of eligible occupations to meet a broader range of needs in advanced manufacturing. Variation between provinces when it comes to critical occupations is a concern that may cause recruiting challenges for advanced manufacturers. Similarly, the federal list of global talent occupations (category B) is too limited to be useful for many occupations in advanced manufacturing. Generally, speeding up the immigration process would help advanced manufacturers as they manage through this transition.
Finally, to attract and retain workers in the London region, a focus must be placed on increasing the supply of attainable housing and transit options. The better public transit services these workplaces, the broader the range of places future (and existing) workers can live without the additional expense of owning a personal vehicle.
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