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Untapped potential: Attracting and engaging women in Canadian manufacturing

A healthy manufacturing sector is critical to Canada’s long-term economic prosperity. However, chronic labour and skills shortages are impeding the sector’s ability to grow and remain globally competitive. In Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters’ (CME) 2016 Management Issues Survey, businesses stated that attracting and retaining skilled labour was their top challenge. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents reported that they currently face labour and/or skills shortages, and nearly 60 per cent anticipated such shortages within the next five years. These shortages are having a major impact on Canadian manufacturers. Nearly 20 per cent of businesses said that a lack of workers is curbing business growth and new product development. They are also foregoing production opportunities as a result. More concerning still, if these issues are left unaddressed, 16 per cent of businesses stated that they will shift production and investment outside of Canada. Women represent a vast and relatively untapped resource that offers a solution to this problem. There are 8.6 million women working in Canada. They make up about 48 per cent of the Canadian workforce, but only 28 per cent of jobs in manufacturing. They hold less than five per cent of jobs in some production-related occupations.