Women are a vast and untapped resource for Industry, attendees heard at the Surrey Board of Trade’s 5th Manufacturing Reception on October 24.

The Canadian Manufacturers Exporters Association of BC, a collaborative partner of the Surrey Board of Trade, unveiled the results of an in-depth survey of their membership and announced the number one issue identified by manufacturers is skills shortage. The Survey also demonstrated a clear gender gap in employees.

“It is projected that the manufacturing sector in BC will need to attract from 58,000 to 88,000 new workers through 2020,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade.

In the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) Industrie 2030 report, 35% of respondents to a Management Issues Survey indicated that attracting or retaining skilled labour was one of their three most pressing challenges. This topped the list of all possible responses. Further, CME reports that close to 60% of businesses anticipate skilled labour shortages in 5 years.

“Despite a variety of programs, grants and tax incentives there is no over-arching flexible opportunity to encourage employers and employees to work together to fill any skills gap. Employers spend less on training than in previous decades and attracting good workers has become challenging as wages have stagnated,” said Huberman.

The Surrey Board of Trade developed an advocacy policy requesting that the federal government:

1. Develop an easily accessible and understood portal to the tax credits and grants currently available for individually funded and employer-sponsored education expenditures, and

2. Give due consideration to expanding tax credits and grants and be more flexible to assist businesses fill diverse and specific skills gaps as they emerge.

To help address chronic labour and skills shortages in the manufacturing sector, there is a need to attract more women to the manufacturing sector.



Aimed at attracting more women to manufacturing, National Board of Directors Chair Rhonda Barnet, President and COO of Steelworks Design Inc. launched the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters’ (CME) Women in Manufacturing Working Group in March 2017. Survey took place from August 30-September 28, 2017 (826 responses-77% of respondents were women)

KEY FINDINGS of the CME Report:

  1. 8.6 million women are working in Canada

2. Women compose 48% of the Canadian workforce
3. Women make up only 28% of jobs in manufacturing
4. Women are under-represented in key manufacturing occupations:
4% of jobs industrial, electrical and construction trades; 4.5% of jobs in maintenance and equipment operation trades; 8.3% of jobs in transportation and heavy  equipment operation; 15.7% of jobs in machine operation.
5. What’s working: Happy with career choice; manufacturing has much to offer female workers (challenging/attractive salary)
6. Room for improvement: Industry image; encouraging youth
7. Obstacles: Sexism and a male-centric workplace culture; opportunities for promotion and advancement; work-life balance challenges.
8. Manufacturing has an image problem.
–        Only 39% of women say that their female friends have a good impression of manufacturing.

–        43% think other women avoid manufacturing because of its poor reputation

–        40% think that improving the image of manufacturing would attract more women

9. Female Enrollment in stem and skill trades needs to increase:

–        50% of women say that school-aged girls are not encouraged to consider manufacturing as a career option

–        43% say that more efforts is needed to recruit girls to STEM and skilled trades programs

–        14% say that girls are encourage to purse a career in the skilled trades

10. Opportunities:

–        More high-profile female role models are needed to inspire and encourage young women to pursue a career in manufacturing.

–        Young women need more exposure to modern manufacturing facilities to gain a more accurate perspective on the career opportunities available to them. Those efforts need to focus on occupations within manufacturing rather than on the sector itself.

–        Efforts to encourage young girls to pursue an education in STEM fields and/or the skilled trades need to be improved.

–        Businesses need to listen to the concerns of women and take steps to make their workplace culture more inclusive.

–        Businesses must find creative ways to improve work-life balance for their employees and to accommodate both women and men who have unavoidable family obligations.