“A lot of people who built the Canadian auto industry came from Eastern Europe and work with their hands, were entrepreneurs. There is a proud heritage of Ukrainians in automotive in Canada, so we said, ‘Let’s go.’ ”
More than 700,000 Canadians working in skilled trades alone will retire by 2028, according to a recent report by RBC. In February, Statistics Canada reported that 73,900 manufacturing jobs were open as of December. But there are not enough skilled Canadians to fill the positions.
More than 10 million people, about a quarter of Ukraine's population, have been displaced by the war, and more than 4 million of them have fled the country as of April 7, according to The Canadian Press.
Canada has received 112,000 applications from people fleeing Ukraine and has so far approved more than 26,500, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said at a press conference April 6.
Although the APMA has a digital learning platform and programs that partner with the government to employ people from “vulnerable communities,” its member companies are still thousands of employees short.
“I say this with all humility,” Volpe said, “What more can we do?”
Look overseas, of course. Europeans helped build the Canadian auto industry.
Frank Stronach arrived in Canada from Austria and founded Magna International. He built it into one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers.
Frank Hasenfratz, who died in
January, had a similar story. He came to Canada from Hungary, virtually penniless, and began Linamar Corp. in his Guelph, Ont., basement. The company also became a supply giant.
“Our founder, Frank Hasenfratz, left Hungary in 1956 after having taken up arms as a freedom fighter in Hungary,” the company said in a statement.
“In honour of his life and the Ukrainian people, Linamar Corp. is matching donations made by our employees to the Canada Ukraine Foundation (CUF) in support of the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.”
As Ukrainians arrive, I hope not to see social media posts complaining about “foreigners taking our jobs.” Instead, we should welcome them for choosing freedom over oppression and hope over hopelessness. In other words, for wanting to be Canadians.
These folks will work hard, appreciate the opportunity and spend money in our economy. And maybe one day create the next Magna International.
We have plenty of jobs that the newcomers can fill, but Volpe says there’s something even more valuable we can provide to make their lives better and our nation stronger.
“Lots of peace and hope.”