Industry-wide labour shortages weighed on auto executives attending the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association’s annual conference Wednesday in Windsor, Ont.
Labour shortage top concern for Canadian auto suppliers
'We’re having a struggle in some ways attracting people to our industry. There’s competition out there'
“It is [a concern],” said Danies Lee, CEO of Nextstar Energy Inc., – the EV battery cell plant being built in Windsor.
A joint venture between LG Energy Solution (LGES) and Stellantis, the $5-billion plant is expected to employ about 2,500 people once it’s up and running in 2025.
It will require more than 500 engineers, 400 technicians and 1,550 hourly operators.
Hiring has yet to begin, but the company is developing training programs for technical employees, some of whom will undergo “lengthy” training at LGES’s battery hub in Poland, said Lee.
Skilled trades are in short supply across Ontario and Canada, he noted. “That’s why I am trying to hire in advance to get them trained; we need more time to train those people.”
The labour shortage was among the issues discussed at a closed-door, roundtable session with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who had delivered opening remarks to the gathering, said Martin Mazza, vice-president, external affairs at Woodbridge, a Toronto-based supplier.
“She was asking what some of the key challenges we’re facing, and the labour shortage was mentioned by a number of companies,” said Mazza. “It’s not unique to us [Woodbridge.] It’s unique to our industry, and we’re having a struggle in some ways attracting people to our industry.
“There’s competition out there.”
Freeland, he said, made note of executives’ concerns, and the industry plans to continue consultations with Ottawa. “I don’t think there’s a silver bullet, but we have to circle back and have further discussions on some of the things they [government] could do,” in such areas as immigration “to make more people available to us.”
While some economists are warning of a looming recession, a slowdown won’t necessarily replenish the labour pool, said Brendan Sweeney, managing director for the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, which promotes Ontario’s sectors.
“There’s an indication that if the recession is coming, this could be the first recession where we don’t see unemployment spike,” Sweeney said. In southern Ontario, “the economy is very diverse; we’re like the U.S. Midwest, California and the Eastern Seaboard all jammed together. There’s lots of talent but there’s so many options for talented people.”