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Manufacturing workforce regaining lost ground: CME report

André Voshart   

General CME Dennis darby Economy Manufacturing

A new report by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) says Ontario’s manufacturing workforce is expected to accelerate, driven by investments in Southwestern Ontario, as evidenced by recent announcements from firms, including Honda, BWXT, Stellantis and Volkswagen.

The 2024 Manufacturing Workforce Report highlights the growth of Ontario’s manufacturing workforce, amid a cooling labour market. Since 2020, employment has increased by 10.3 per cent, reaching a 15-year high of 808,000 in 2023 (equal to 12.5 per cent of the workforce). This contrasts with a 7.2-per-cent increase in the rest of Canada and a 6.4-per-cent rise in the United States. But these numbers still fall short of the early 2000s peak, when employment in Ontario’s manufacturing sector exceeded one million workers.

The report also highlights the distribution of Ontario’s manufacturing sector and the challenges it faces. It lays a path for regional collaboration to drive manufacturing growth, through a broader deployment of Regional Industry Councils. Building on a 2023-24 pilot in Southwestern Ontario, these councils will bring together manufacturers and educators, enabling stakeholders to collectively address local challenges, identify opportunities and develop targeted solutions.

“Investment in capital is increasing, signaling renewed confidence in the growth prospects of the manufacturing sector,” said Dennis Darby, President and CEO of CME. “However, the sector must navigate skilled labour shortages and the need to keep pace with rapidly advancing technology.”


Labour shortages remain a significant obstacle to the sector’s sustained growth: over 70 per cent of businesses that report labour shortages say they are having the most trouble filling skilled labour positions, and 60 per cent say they are struggling to fill general labour and assembly positions.

To address these challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities, the report recommends a series of strategic interventions, including:

  • investing in technology training to build a technologically agile workforce
  • promoting green collar jobs and fostering innovation in low-carbon manufacturing
  • engaging students and young professionals through initiatives, such as FIRST Robotics competitions and apprenticeship programs
  • enhancing collaboration between industry, academia and government to align workforce development initiatives with market-driven outcomes


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