Canada needs a long-term strategy to achieve productivity and cost-cutting, while also creating good jobs and high-quality work through Industry 4.0.
For decades, Canada has built a robust and competitive aerospace industry that plays a crucial role in the Canadian economy, with 700 aerospace companies employing roughly 90,000 people. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for labour outstripped supply in the industry, resulting in labour shortages in many occupations. A major ongoing challenge is attracting a new generation of workers by offering good jobs and better work.
The adoption of Industry 4.0 (I4.0) is often presented as a way to increase the competitiveness of the industry, while improving the quality of work and increasing skills by reducing repetitive, routine tasks. Our research in the Montreal and Toronto aerospace clusters has two objectives: 1) to better understand the impact of I4.0 on work and skills; and 2) to identify the conditions that will enable the various stakeholders to meet the challenges of I4.0 and future skills.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic—and the devastating impact it has had on the airline and aerospace industries—the recovery of the industry will have to rely more than ever on the collaboration of all stakeholders for the production of collective resources. It is essential for the industry to be at the technological forefront of product and process innovation. Canada needs a long-term strategy to achieve productivity and cost-cutting, while also creating good jobs and high-quality work through I4.0.
There is much variation between firms in terms of I4.0 adoption. Some firms are fully engaged and are currently operating a virtual factory, whereas others have yet to begin the turn towards I4.0.
The impacts of I4.0 on work and skills vary, and they do not affect all workers nor affect them all in the same way.
In both clusters (Montreal and Toronto), the central challenge of I4.0 and future skills is the production of collective resources.