New report calls for regional workforce planning to sustain growth

Toronto, May 9, 2024 – A new report by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) says Ontario’s manufacturing workforce is expected to accelerate, driven by investments in Southwestern Ontario, as evidenced by recent announcements from firms, including Honda, BWXT, Stellantis and Volkswagen.

The 2024 Manufacturing Workforce Report highlights the growth of Ontario’s manufacturing workforce, amid a cooling labour market. Since 2020, employment has increased by 10.3 per cent, reaching a 15-year high of 808,000 in 2023 (equal to 12.5 per cent of the workforce). This is in contrast to a 7.2 per cent increase in the rest of Canada and a 6.4 per cent rise in the United States. However, these numbers still fall short of the early 2000s peak, when employment in Ontario’s manufacturing sector exceeded one million workers.

The report also highlights the distribution of Ontario’s manufacturing sector and the challenges it faces. It lays a path for regional collaboration to drive manufacturing growth, through a broader deployment of Regional Industry Councils. Building on a 2023-24 pilot in Southwestern Ontario, these councils will bring together manufacturers and educators, enabling stakeholders to collectively address local challenges, identify opportunities and develop targeted solutions.

“Investment in capital is increasing, signaling renewed confidence in the growth prospects of the manufacturing sector,” said Dennis Darby, President and CEO of CME. “However, the sector must navigate skilled labour shortages and the need to keep pace with rapidly advancing technology.”

Labour shortages remain a significant obstacle to the sector’s sustained growth: over 70 per cent of businesses that report labour shortages say they are having the most trouble filling skilled labour positions, and 60 per cent say they are struggling to fill general labour and assembly positions.

To address these challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities, the report recommends a series of strategic interventions, including:

  1. Investing in technology training to build a technologically agile workforce.
  2. Promoting green collar jobs and fostering innovation in low-carbon manufacturing.
  3. Engaging students and young professionals through initiatives such as FIRST Robotics competitions and apprenticeship programs.
  4. Enhancing collaboration between industry, academia, and government to align workforce development initiatives with market-driven outcomes.

“The future of Ontario’s manufacturing sector depends on our ability to adapt to new technologies, attract top talent, and foster innovation,” concluded Darby. “By embracing these recommendations, we can build a stronger, more resilient workforce that is equipped to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The full report is available for download on the CME website.

About Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

Since 1871, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters has been helping manufacturers grow at home and, compete around the world. Our focus is to ensure manufacturers are recognized as engines for growth in the economy, with Canada acknowledged as both a global leader and innovator in advanced manufacturing and a global leader in exporting. CME is a member-driven association that directly represents more than 2,500 leading companies who account for an estimated 82 per cent of manufacturing output and 90 per cent of Canada’s exports.

For more information

Anna Woodmass 

Director, NATIONAL Public Relations