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Labour Market Research Information for BC's Manufacturing Sector

October 2014

Purpose of the Study

The objectives of this project, as defined by the Specialized Skills for Manufacturing Steering Committee (SSSM), were to develop an inventory of existing Labour Market Information and Intelligence (LMI) and complete a thorough environmental scan focused on:

  • The size and high level characteristics of the sector by sub-sector, region and size of company;
  • The characteristics of the workforce in the sector including level of current employment, staffing by National Occupational Classification (NOC), recent growth, projected growth, and demographic characteristics (age, gender, years of experience in occupation, language, training, and immigration); and
  • The primary occupations and skills identified as in short supply by BC manufacturers.

Method of Study

A detailed work plan was developed during the first phase of the project which defined the research questions, what data was required to address each question, identified the key data sources, and outlined the methodologies that would be used to collect the required data. The approach and data collection tools were then approved by the Steering Committee established for the project prior to commencement of the field research. The methodologies included a review of available labour market information and other data published by Statistics Canada, Industry Canada, Census Canada, BC Stats and others related to the manufacturing sector in BC; a review of past reports, literature and other documents relevant to labour market for the BC manufacturing sector; development of a database of 6,487 companies active in the BC manufacturing sector; a survey of 557 of manufacturing companies in BC (which together account for 19% of employment in the sector; the questionnaire was lengthy and detailed with the average response time amongst those who fully completed the questionnaire being over 48 minutes); and interviews with 18 subject matter experts.

Major Conclusions

The major findings of our review are as follows:

    Employment in the Manufacturing Sector

  1. Manufacturing is a major contributor to the economy in BC.
  2. Manufacturing is very diverse, characterized by wide variations in the nature of employment not only across sub-sectors but also within sub-sectors and occupational classifications.
  3. A majority of manufacturing jobs are permanent, full-time positions located in the Lower Mainland and Southwestern region which are filled by men over the age of 35.
  4. Labour Market Conditions and Outlook

  5. While the BC labour market for manufacturing has tightened somewhat over the past two to three years, conditions remain balanced.
  6. Employers, selected experts and secondary sources anticipate that conditions will likely tighten somewhat over the next few years, which could create shortages amongst skilled workers and semi-skilled workers.
  7. There is growing uncertainty within the sector regarding how significant future shortages in manufacturing will be.
  8. At a growth rate of 1.3% to 3% per year in employment, it is projected that the manufacturing sector in BC will need to attract from 58,000 new workers to 88,000 new workers through 2020.
  9. Skills Shortages

  10. Occupational skills shortages will likely be most significant in the trades (journeypersons), managers and supervisor positions, technicians, engineers, and machine operators and assemblers.
  11. Some shortages will result from simply not having enough workers with the needed education, training or certifications (e.g. an anticipated shortage of engineers or journeypersons in particular trades). However, most shortages will be a consequence of the fit between the experience, education or training of applicants and the unique needs of the employer.
  12. Key trends in the industry are affecting the skill requirements of employers.
  13. Employers will use a variety of strategies to address shortages.
  14. Implications for the Future

  15. The future strength of the manufacturing sector in BC will be determined, in large part, by the ability of the sector to attract, develop and retain skilled workers and improve productivity. The subject matter experts, including representatives of the various manufacturing sub-sectors, indicated that there are opportunities for the various sub-sectors within manufacturing to work together to address broad systemic labour market issues. Both employers and subject matter experts believe that there is a need for industry, educators and government to work more together closely to:
  • Improve staff development by employers, particularly smaller employers.
  • Increase investment in innovation and productivity.
  • Attract new workers into the sector by creating greater awareness of career and employment opportunities.
  • Enhance the effectiveness of existing education and training programs in preparing workers for industry in the short-term and in the longer-term.
  • Increase recognition of the BC manufacturing sector as an important industry with many high-skilled, high-paying, and interesting job opportunities.
  • Facilitate greater labour mobility and credential recognition (regionally, nationally and internationally) and enhance use of immigrant and foreign worker programs.
  • Improve the educational system in BC by strengthening education in the essential skills, better integrating the trades during secondary school, greater promotion of trades and technical studies, and providing guidance to students regarding skills requirements, possible career paths, and realistic wage and work expectations.
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