A new report from Workforce WindsorEssex gives a much more optimistic assessment of the auto industry in Windsor than is often seen in the media. The study says that the auto industry is a “viable career” and that demand for workers is on the increase. The report, titled Driving the Automotive Industry into the Future, comes after a year-long research effort that looked at the industry and the impact emerging technologies are having on it. The overall conclusion is that stakeholders in the auto sector, including employers, industry associations and educators, are optimistic about growth prospects, though concerned about perceptions of the industry and the lack of skilled workers.
The report issues a plea for industry stakeholders—young people in schools, educators and industry employers—to work together to train skilled workers and connect them with the companies that need them. As it is now, available positions have become harder to fill, it says. Job openings that are available immediately include engineers, technicians/technologists, general labour, semi-skilled and skilled trades.
The auto industry in Windsor had been shrinking very significantly. In the decade from 2000 to 2010, the Windsor area auto manufacturing workforce shrank from 49,400 to 29,600, a downsizing of about 40 per cent. But in 2011, the report says, mold, tool, die and machining employers supplying the auto industry started to “show signs of growth.” From 2012 to 2014, local employers have been having trouble finding the skilled workers they need. It can take more than sixty days for some companies to find the skilled workers they need, and much longer than that in some cases.
The introduction of many more new product lines per year by the car makers, as well as new fuel efficiency standards, are driving the need for innovation, which requires a skilled and innovative workforce. Citing a report by auto industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers, the WindsorEssex report says that the next five to eight years could be the industry’s best ever.
The manufacturing industry in Windsor-Essex is in transition. The occurrence of ‘lean thinking’, which is to identify and implement efficiencies and a push to innovate will continue to impact the landscape of automotive manufacturers. In addition, organizations are looking to other sectors, like Aerospace to inspire their innovation and to benchmark new ways to explore better technology and processes. The manufacturing industry has many opportunities and you could be part of an exciting future where today’s dreams and ideas are being developed into the products of the future.
Driving the Automotive Industry into the Future
One of the main challenges facing the industry in Windsor is an aging workforce and a “skills mismatch.” Whereas auto production workers in the past needed just a basic education and a willingness to work long hours at a repetitive job (though for very good pay), the “current landscape” is much different. Modern manufacturing is a “global enterprise, competing in innovation, creativity and smart thinking.”
Perceptions of poor working conditions and demanding, repetitive work “plague” the industry, making it hard to recruit workers, even in an area where unemployment remains around 9 per cent. The report urges students to “get involved” and take advantage of the fact that they are in “the perfect place” to explore an exciting career in the auto industry.
Occupations in the auto sector where aging is likely to have an impact include senior managers, electrical and electronic engineering technologists and technicians, assembly line supervisors and metalworking and forging machine operators. Almost 20 per cent of workers in these areas are 55 years or older.