Linamar has big growth plans, but to get there the Guelph-based diversified manufacturing company will need a much larger workforce made up of people schooled in essential skills, a top official said Friday.
To that end, the company has teamed up with Conestoga College to introduce the pilot program Pathways to Essential Skills Project - a means of training Linamar personnel to train others in things like ready, writing and numeracy, document reading, computer and communication skills, and the capacity to work with others. The project was launched Friday during an event held at the Frank Hasenfratz Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing on Woodlawn Road.
“One of our goals is to be a $10 billion company by the year 2020,” said Linamar president and chief operating officer Jim Jarrell in an interview. “The biggest gap we would have is around people.”
Currently, the $2 billion company has roughly 11,000 employees working in its parts making facilities around the world. Jarrell said in order to greatly expand the size and value of the company it will need 30,000 to 40,000 more people.
There is a huge shortage of technically skilled people, like machinists and tool and die makers, in the Guelph area, and across Canada, he said. But people with strong leadership and supervisory skills in a technical environment are also lacking.
“The key will be to get people that have the skills technically, managerially and leadership-wise,” said Jarrell. “The partnering on this essential skills program gives us that gap analysis to develop people in the gap areas. It will find where the gaps are to develop our people, and have people ready for our growth.”
Sherri Tryon, Conestoga’s manager of workforce access programs and Conestoga Career Centre in Guelph, said International Adult Literacy Surveys identified that most Canadians are not at a high enough level in their reading, document use and numeracy skills to excel in their occupations.
“Part of this project is to up-skill employees so that they can be more successful, and companies can be more sustainable and more competitive,” she said.
Pathways to Essential Skills will be delivered in the Frank Hasenfratz Centre for Excellence, as well as in three Linamar plants in Guelph. With roughly $200,000 in provincial funding, the project will run until March 31, 2011.
Conestoga’s essential skills expert will train Linamar’s human resources staff so that they can foster essential skills development throughout the workforce, even after the pilot project ends.
As companies change and their processes evolve, workers have to be competent, flexible and adaptable enough to drive those changes forward. Thanh-Thanh Tieu, Conestoga’s chair of workforce development in the School of Career and Academic Access, said essential skills training enables workers to keep pace.
“They will be able to retain the job they are currently holding, even as it changes scope with the introduction of new technology or new equipment,” she said. “But then it also opens them up to possible promotion, and to be included in succession planning, because they will have the foundational skills that will allow them to learn new tasks associated with other work.”
Canada has a significant essential skills deficit, said Conrad Murphy, director of the Test of Workplace Essential Skills at Bow Valley College in Calgary. Murphy was a guest speaker at the Friday morning event.
“The reality is that, despite the fact that we have a relatively buoyant economy … we are experiencing significant skill deficits in our labour force,” he said, adding that 43 per cent of Canadians “don’t have the minimum levels of skills to fully participate in society and in the workforce.”
A low-skilled workforce has a negative effect on most economic indicators, and the essential skills deficit contributes to poor safety records and accidents in the workplace, he indicated. General reading, document reading and numeracy are the foundation stones of a skilled workforce, and improving them will have major benefits across the economy.
Originally published in the Mercury on November 13, 2010. Written by: Rob O'Flanagan, Mercury staff