Windsor-Essex manufacturers looking for workers
The Windsor Star/Roseann Danese
With hundreds of jobs available in the local manufacturing sector and an unemployment rate that hovers around six per cent, why aren’t more people in Windsor-Essex applying to work in factories?
It’s a question that confounds employers like Inna Turkova, the human resources manager at A.V. Gauge, a Windsor company that makes “checking fixtures” — tools used by other manufacturers to measure the quality of their parts.
The jobs go wanting because of the stigma attached to factory work, Turkova admits. But the days of toiling on a dingy, dirty factory floor are gone. Most of today’s manufacturing processes are “computer-led,” she said.
“You can eat from the (shop) floor. It’s a very bright, well-lit, spacious place. We are paperless. … Everything is on monitors. We have very innovative machinery that also helps to keep it clean.”
A.V. Gauge, along with about 17 other businesses, will participate Friday in Manufacturing Day, a North American event to raise awareness of the opportunities in the sector and address the skilled labour shortage. In Windsor, the day will be co-ordinated by Workforce WindsorEssex, the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, all four school boards and St. Clair College.
Busloads of high school students will be brought to local factories, to see what’s being made and address common misperceptions about today’s manufacturing environment.
“There are around 300 jobs that are vacant in manufacturing, that are persistently vacant,” according to Tanya Antoniw, executive director at Workforce WindsorEssex.
“We call them hard-to-fill positions.”
These are good, entry-level jobs that have long-term promise, Antoniw said. The pay depends on the position, but most modern manufacturing companies, based on a survey of local employers, offer salaries ranging from $18 an hour to $26 an hour. Some entry-level positions pay about $12 an hour, but Antoniw said employers are prepared to move young people up the ladder quickly if they have the right skills.
A.V. Gauge has 10 openings right now for programmers, CAD designers, fixture assemblers, CNC operators and truck drivers.
Since the rebound of the automotive sector, A.V. Gauge has grown “immensely,” Turkova said. There are four locations in Oldcastle, a factory in the U.S. and one in Mexico. “In order to sustain that growth, we’re looking to fill a lot of positions.”
So, what skills are being sought by employers?
“They are looking for someone with a mechanical aptitude,” Antoniw said, and people who like to work with their hands, tinker with things and are comfortable working with computers. The “soft skills” that involve the ability to communicate effectively, getting to work on time and being a team player also rank high on employer surveys, Antoniw said.
Stephen MacKenzie, CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, said the coming “grey tsunami” will be a challenge for local employers. “There’s going to be a lot of retirements in the near future. Businesses will require young people to replace them.”