Material Handling 4.0: Building pathways to employment for disadvantaged groups

Traditionally, one doesn’t think that moving, storing, distributing, or disposing of materials and products involves much technology. But as industry shifts to more complex reporting and management protocols, people will need to upgrade their skills to do this work in the future.

Forklift operator moving a pallet of goods

On May 3, 2021, the Future Skills Centre announced an additional investment of $1.1 million to expand the reach of the Materials Handling 4.0 project — FSC first invested $1.95 million in the first phase of the project in 2020 — which helps new material handlers transition into job opportunities within the supply chain sector. In this integral, but often low-skilled area, employers are suffering from labour shortages due to a lack of technical and 21st century skills among applicants, lack of organizational fit, and an ageing workforce. 

Many disruptive technologies have become part of the supply chain system, creating a need for resilient and adaptive personnel, as well as redefining the skills workers, and their employers, need. The new investment announced on May 3, 2021, expands the program and increases its scale and potential impact. Four colleges across Canada are partnering to support economic recovery in their regions through this training program for the supply chain sector. Nova Scotia Community College, Red River College, and Vancouver Community College are joining with Mohawk College to deliver this program, which combines training, individualized student support and practical work experience to provide comprehensive training to people who face barriers to employment and education.

The project will leverage Mohawk College’s existing access initiative, City School by Mohawk, to deliver training to prepare individuals receiving social assistance, newcomers, and youth for entry-level careers in material handling.  With input from local employers, the project develops and implements a series of grading criteria that will serve as the foundation for a micro-certification for these 21st century skills. Participants receive six weeks of instruction, a two-week paid work placement, complete with wraparound supports such as child care, PPE and work safety equipment, and referrals to support services such as legal clinics, housing, and health care. Mohawk is launching its local cohort of the program in spring 2021, while the partnering colleges will offer their cohorts starting in fall 2021.

Evaluation Strategy

This project will be evaluated using tools and approaches aligned with its goals, context, and stage of development. The evaluation will focus on generating the right evidence at the right moment to move the intervention forward. Read more about our evaluation strategy.

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