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WEIMA June 2023 Leader
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Getting ready for the next wave

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CKCA by Sandra Wood
CMP, Executive Director, CKCA

Pictured are representatives from GOHBA, Algonquin College, WMC, NKBA, CKCA and Giuseppe

Castrucci, Laurysen Kitchens.

You may have read in the news recently that the CFIB (Canadian Federation of Independent Business) conducted a survey and reported that owners of businesses facing labour shortages have taken on more work themselves to make up the gap and are working on average 59 hours per week.
CFIB noted that this is a lot of time that takes business owners away from other priorities including working on their business rather than in it. Some of you reading this will likely say that you work even longer hours. Especially if you add in the email checking and reading you do on a weekend or other time to just try to keep your head above water.
The labour shortage and lack of skilled workers is not news, it’s the reality we are all living with, and experiencing the detrimental impact of it everywhere. Something as small as driving to your favourite coffee shop and seeing the closed sign due to lack of staff, to seeing hiring signs everywhere else. There’s no getting away from the constant reminder of this major problem.
But there is good news out there.
Governments have created funding programs and are investing millions into training programs to help companies “skill up,” and even more funding to adopt new technologies. Just take a look at the Canadian Digital Adoption Program. Charitable organizations are creating programs to attract homeless youth into the trades (check out Blue Door Construct charity program). Colleges are rethinking their apprenticeship and trades training programs to ensure students can study, work and earn money (check out the changes in the apprenticeship program at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology). Unions are getting involved with programs such as Helmets to Hardhats to guide those leaving the army into unionized trades. Lastly, our own industry offers different training options through programs created by organizations including the Wood Manufacturing Council.

Kitchen cabinet production worker
At CKCA we’re also doing what we can to address the issue. We’re working with Kaizen Learning Partners and Northwest Skills and applied for provincial funding in B.C. to develop a Kitchen Cabinet Production Worker training program. This entry-level program will provide basic training to introduce newcomers to the career pathways available in the kitchen cabinet industry. The program will seek to bring newcomers into the training program that may have experience in their 
own countries, but are unfamiliar with what is expected in Canada.
This will also include workers who may not be able to work in their profession because their credentials are not recognized in Canada, but their skills are still very   valuable and transferable to the kitchen cabinet industry. The idea is to offer foundational workplace training and leveraging the expertise of participating kitchen cabinet manufacturers who will help develop the training and be able to receive new workers once they are fully trained. We consider this a recruitment program because the goal is to bring trained and skilled workers to manufacturers. Northwest Skills has considerable experience in developing these types of programs and they provide a lot of career support to help newcomers to Canada. The long-term plan is to use this template in other provinces as we can secure more funding and training organizations.

In addition, CKCA is collaborating at a local level in Ottawa with NKBA, Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association and Algonquin College to develop a one-day conference this fall that will bring in 50 or more companies in the building trades to showcase the many career opportunities available in the building industry in Ottawa.
We hope to welcome students, parents, people looking for a career change or just those curious to attend this event. We are still in the early planning stages, but we are excited to be part of this initiative (thanks to Giuseppe Castrucci, Laurysen Kitchens who has spearheaded the collaboration). The goal is to create a successful event and then use this as a template to create similar events across the country collaborating with other local colleges, other chapters of NKBA, local building associations etc.
At a Federal Government level, Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship spoke about five months ago on the government’s plan to bring in immigrants under “economic immigration categories.” As Minister Fraser states, “we cannot afford to bring skilled trades people to Canada who aren’t working as skilled trades people.” He also recognized that these same workers will be part of building the homes in which we can house the increased population.

Chicken and egg
If you look at the math, the reality is that Canada wants to bring in about 1.5 million new immigrants by 2025. But if we currently have the capacity (with our current labour force) to build about 286,000 homes a year, the math does not add up, which begs the question, where will all these people be housed? The squeeze for housing is driving prices, which then creates higher demand for affordable housing. At the same time, let’s not forget that many houses are aging and in need of renovation, plus you have an aging population looking to remain in their homes and retrofit them with accessible and functional kitchens.  While the future of business looks very promising for our industry, one can’t help but see the vicious cycle or chicken and egg scenario that is playing out.

Open channels
But while all of this is going on, we encourage every company to create a career section on their website. With the slowdown in the economy, manufacturers may not be feeling as pressed about finding workers right now. But we all know this will be short lived. Use this opportunity to build the tools you need to promote and attract workers to your company. CKCA has created a number of HR tools to help and we will continue through 2023 to push out these tools to members.
Look at creating a digital adoption strategy (use the CDAP funding for that). Tap into organizations like CKCA, WMC, colleges and more 
to see where you can open channels to train/recruit skilled workers. 
Even the colleges are looking for trainers (they have a shortage of teachers). By offering to become a college teacher it puts you in direct line for meeting students who 
could become your future employees.
The good news is there is a lot you can do. The bad news is that the labour shortage is not going away. Be sure to look at all the options and do what you can to build resilience in your company so you’re not having to work 59 hours or more a week. The economic slowdown will pass, the next business wave is coming. There are steps you can take to be ready.

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