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New report says Windsor-Sarnia region had 1,600 vacant manufacturing jobs

The Windsor-Sarnia region of Ontario was short 1,600 manufacturing jobs in the summer of 2023, according to a report from the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. (Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The Windsor-Sarnia region of Ontario was short 1,600 manufacturing jobs in the summer of 2023, according to a report from the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. (Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A report from the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) says the Windsor-Sarnia region had 1,600 open manufacturing jobs in the summer of 2023.

It also says there were close to 19,000 vacancies across the province.

The organization's president thinks there are a range of factors behind the industry vacancies.

"It was really exacerbated during the pandemic where immigration fell to an all-time low," said Dennis Darby. "What's happening right now snuck up on everybody. Our baby boomers are retiring."

Darby says the situation in Windsor will get tougher if those vacancies remain unfilled, especially as NextStar creates another 2,500 jobs for its electric vehicle battery plant.

In a statement to CBC News, LouAnn Gosselin, Stellantis' head of communications in Canada, says the bulk of the recruitment will take place closer to when the plant becomes fully operational next year.

As of Feb. 5, NextStar's website is advertising 17 positions, ranging from an electrician to a financial analyst.

Two of the recommendations in the report highlight the importance of getting young people interested in the field by getting prospective employers, and secondary and post-secondary institutions to push students to think about entering the industry.

Darby said provincial tax credits related to investing in training new manufacturing workers could also help.

"We're going to have chronic shortages and that is a risk to Ontario and to the region if we don't start to attract more folks to come into the sector," he said.

In a statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development said despite the province's manufacturing sector currently employing more than 807,000 people, "Ontario recognizes that we have been facing the largest labour shortage in a generation."

The statement continued, saying the government "is creating more supportive pathways for workers to enter into the skilled trades; and last year invested over a billion dollars in employment, training, and apprenticeship programs across the province."

But the CEO of Workforce WindsorEssex says such a shortage of workers is typical from what they see in Windsor-Essex alone.

"We see about 1,500 vacancies in that time and, of course, a job posting can hire more than one candidate," said Justin Falconer.

Workforce Windsor-Essex CEO Justin Falconer is pictured in an April 2023 file photo.
Workforce Windsor-Essex CEO Justin Falconer is pictured in an April 2023 file photo.

Workforce Windsor-Essex CEO Justin Falconer says they see roughly 1,500 manufacturing vacancies on their job board at any given time. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

He says with employers actively recruiting it's a sign of a healthy industry, adding the expansion of Windsor's manufacturing industry is a good thing.

"We're really blessed to have this expansion on our doorstep," said Falconer.

This comes as the unemployment rate in Windsor was at 7.9 per cent in December 2023, the highest among all major Canadian cities, according to Statistics Canada. But Falconer says that number doesn't paint the full picture.

"In Windsor-Essex alone, there's well more than 15,000 people unemployed and looking for work," he says. "That means there's an opportunity for people to get into this industry."

The NextStar EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont., is shown under construction in the summer of 2023.
The NextStar EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont., is shown under construction in the summer of 2023.

The NextStar EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont., is shown under construction in the summer of 2023. The facility is expected to create 2,500 jobs once it goes online. ( Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Falconer said the opening and closure of the Windsor Assembly Plant can increase or decrease the unemployment rate.

"The labour force survey is in the field in a certain week every month and if [the] Windsor Assembly plant isn't operating that week, it's going to pull up the unemployment numbers," he said. "We've had a lot of that happening this year, whether it's retooling or chip shortages or break weeks."

The present and future vacancies are not expected to all be labourers, according to Falconer.

"They could be a secretary or an administrative assistant who works for that company," he said. "It could be a marketer or a buyer."