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City of Orillia official says we must chart our own path to solve labour issues

Posted on Friday February 21, 2020
Dan Landry, the city's Manager of Business Retention and Expansion and Industrial Development., speaks during Friday's meeting.
Photo of Dan Landry, City of Orillia's Manager of BR&E and Industrial Development

 Orillia Matters

 City of Orillia official says we must 'chart our own path' to solve labour issues

City of Orillia, chamber of commerce, MPP hear from local employers struggling with staff retention, turnover; 'There is no magic bullet'

Local employers got together for a roundtable discussion recently, and it was clear their concerns about labour attraction and retention were not unique to any one company.

The City of Orillia’s economic development office and the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce hosted the meeting at city hall, which was attended by representatives from about half a dozen local companies.

Kubota, one of the largest employers in the area with 335 on staff, has about 30 positions to fill, but "chasing these people with the right skills is a very difficult thing to do," said Matthew Webb, the company’s senior manager of technology.

Looking at the "demographics," he said, "we’re in for a tidal wave."

"We need immigrants. We need people to come into the province, into Canada, in greater numbers."

Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, who attended Friday’s meeting, said the province is doing its part to pressure the federal government "to allow the provinces to have more decision making over who we can bring in so we can have more skilled workers."

While the feds have stated there’s a need for immigrants with PhDs and other academic qualifications, a focus on skilled workers would be more beneficial when it comes to addressing the skilled-trades shortages that are affecting companies like Kubota, she said.

For Leadbetter Foods, finding skilled workers isn’t the concern, as 190 of its 250 employees are general labourers.

"The problem is the turnover rate is still high in general labour," said Leadbetter’s Dan Miller.

Before the company was purchased by Premium Brands, temporary workers were being brought in from the Toronto area, but that is not the practice anymore.

Staff retention is still a concern for companies in need of skilled workers, despite the trades typically paying well.

Pattison Sign Group is willing to "train up" its unskilled workers in-house, but "retention is a big problem," said manager Larry Angot.

"Some of the younger kids don’t have the want to absorb the training," he said. "Some are wondering, ‘Where’s the keypad on this hammer?’"

And, that’s another, more societal challenge: finding young workers, who are growing up in the digital generation, who want to get into the trades.

"This isn’t unique at all," said Mac Greaves, associate dean of Georgian College’s Midland campus. "We have more work (available) now than we had 10 years ago and fewer people to bring in."

Dan Landry, the city’s Manager of Business Retention and Expansion and Industrial Development, said the information gathered at Friday’s meeting would be taken to the Orillia Manufacturers’ Association, with the hope of coming up with some local solutions.

"We need to analyze it so we can chart our own path," he said. "There is no magic bullet. We’re not in a unique situation. We’re not going to move the needle far very quickly. We need to get to the young kids, get more people in apprenticeships."

"Every one of these people are looking for workers," he added, referring to those in attendance at the meeting. "We do not have a demand problem."

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