Policy Initiatives

Expanding the Skilled Labour Pool


Labour and skills shortages are the most pressing challenges facing manufacturers today. CME is working to expand the labour pool; improve education programs; and lower the cost of on-the-job training.

Why It Matters

Access to an abundant, high-quality workforce is critical to manufacturing success. It boosts output, productivity and profitability. It also drives innovation and is vital to taking the fullest advantage of new technologies and production methods.

The Challenges

  • Canadian manufacturers have a difficult time finding the workers they need. The challenges they face include:
  • The manufacturing workforce is older and aging more rapidly than the Canadian population as a whole
  • Not enough students are graduating with the skills that businesses are looking for
  • Differences in provincial standards prevent the free movement of skilled trades workers across the country
  • Government programs limit the kinds of training eligible for support
  • On-the-job training is critical but removes much-needed production capacity off the shop floor
  • Canada’s system of work-integrated learning programs is underdeveloped compared to other countries
  • Not having workers with the right skills prevents them from using new technology and equipment to their fullest potential.

These and other issues are preventing manufacturers from maximizing their potential and operating as effectively as possible.


Supporting workplace training


According to CME’s 2018 Management Issues Survey (MIS), skilled labour shortages is the most important issue facing manufacturers today. Companies are playing a growing role in workforce training because too few students are graduating from relevant programs; and because of the increasingly-specialized skills requirements for advanced technologies and production processes.


Labour and skills shortages are a major obstacle to operational efficiency, productivity, technology adoption and innovation. The MIS tells us there are four main barriers preventing manufacturers from investing more in on-the-job training:

  • They are too busy to afford the down time;
  • They are concerned about losing their investment should their employees leave;
  • The cost of training programs is high; and/or
  • There are no existing programs that fit their specific needs


On-the-job training is needed to supplement post-secondary education and to adapt to technological advancements. CME helped develop and design the Canada Job Grant, advocated for the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit, and pioneered the development of work-integrated learning (WIL) programs in Canada. We continue to push for expanded federal and provincial supports for on-the-job training. Our focus is on:

  • Improving the Canada Job Grant with more funding, easier applications, multi-year training approvals, and allowances for in-house training;
  • Working with manufacturers to increase their commitment and funding for WIL;
  • Increasing government support for WIL, especially for those businesses that can leverage their training assets to help other businesses in their supply chains.

Attracting more women to jobs in manufacturing


Women account for only 28% of the manufacturing workforce. Female under-representation is especially a problem in production-related occupations, with women holding less than 5% of all skilled trades jobs across Canada. Attracting more women into manufacturing professions is critical to helping companies grow and replace the aging workforce.


Labour and skills shortages are the biggest issue facing manufacturers today. According to CME’s Management Issues Survey:

  • 69% of respondents face immediate shortages; 75% expect shortages within the next five years.
  • Skills shortages is the top barrier to new product innovation
  • Access to skilled labour is the most important factor businesses consider when deciding where to make their next major investment.
  • Women represent a vast and relatively untapped resource that offers a solution to these problems.


CME is dedicated to supporting, promoting and inspiring women to pursue careers in manufacturing. Our campaign, We Can Do It, is aimed at increasing the number of women in manufacturing by 100,000 in 5 years. We Can Do It will focus on the following initiatives:

  • Engage and Inspire – Develop the pipeline of qualified women by promoting STEM and skilled trades career options to young women and girls.
  • Attract and Retain – Increase the number of women entering and staying in the manufacturing workforce.
  • Empower, Support and Accelerate – Help women achieve success in the workplace by breaking down barriers to their personal and professional growth.

How CME is Helping

CME is committed to addressing workforce shortages in manufacturing. Our National Policy team is working to:

  • Improve government supports for on-the-job training;
  • Expand Canada’s system of work-integrated learning programs;
  • Increase the number of women and other under-represented groups in the labour pool; and
  • Improve linkages between businesses and post-secondary institutions.

To get involved with CME or to provide comments on our position, please contact CME Senior Vice President Mathew Wilson at Mathew.Wilson@cme-mec.ca.

Graph Does your company face immediate labour and/or skills shortages today? Five years from now?

Graph What are the most pressing challenges facing your company today?