FABTECH Canada 2014Click image to enlargeThink manufacturing is only a get-down-and-dirty kind of business? Manufacturing has come a long way from past images, transforming into what is today a high-tech, leading-edge industry with plenty of job opportunities. That's the message of organizers of FABTECH Canada, the country's largest and only exclusive metal forming, fabricating, welding, stamping, coating and finishing event, which takes place March 18-20 at the Toronto Congress Centre.

"Young people would be wise to look to manufacturing as a sound career choice, with its current skilled workforce shortage and wide range of financial and growth opportunities," says Janine Saperson, event manager of SME, one of the organizers of the show. "The industry has become increasingly attractive to up-and-comers who recognize that manufacturing is a dynamic field that is constantly producing cutting-edge technologies."

Take welding for example. Once conjuring up images of "greasy, heavy equipment, sparks and dirty fingernails," Saperson says FABTECH Canada will unveil the latest in welding equipment, including the world's first battery-powered portable welding unit by exhibitor Fronius Canada. With a shoulder strap for easy transport, the miniature unit is ideal for use in remote locations, at high-altitudes or in difficult environments.

Saperson points to other groundbreaking innovations as well, including the latest in robotics technology–in which robots are being used for everything from welding and assembly to cleaning–to super-modern apparatus that uses a strong stream of water instead of a knife for cutting. Exhibitor Flow Waterjet, for instance, will demonstrate how its unique ultra-clean, quick and efficient water tool can chop lettuce, carrots and onions into a perfectly-cut salad, which can then be bagged and delivered to grocery store shelves.

These products are among the hundreds of exhibits that will be featured at FABTECH Canada, which also includes a comprehensive conference. With targeted technical, operational and managerial sessions, the educational program covers such topics as new manufacturing workforce solutions, best practices, industry trends and advances, the future of welding, and new applications, among many others.

Karin Lindner, author of the recently-released book, How Can We Make Manufacturing Sexy? is among the event speakers. In her book, Lindner emphasizes that now more than ever, it's time to rethink, redefine and rediscover the sexiness of the manufacturing industry.

Up until now, "rather than being viewed as an important cornerstone to our wealth and prosperity, a career in manufacturing was looked upon as a possible option for those who are not smart enough to go to university," she says. "This may have been true in the past, but it no longer applies today because skilled trades truly are excellent career options."

Lindner says that parents, young adults, educators and guidance counselors must be made aware of the incredible opportunities that exist in the manufacturing industry, and promote technical trade school and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

Gail Smyth, Executive Director of Skills Canada–Ontario, and a speaker at FABTECH Canada, emphasizes that it's particularly important for young women to be encouraged to pursue careers in the skilled trades and technologies. Explaining that Skills Canada–Ontario starts educating girls about technical career opportunities as early as grade four, Smyth will share her organization's innovative initiatives in a "Women in Manufacturing" panel discussion.

"There are many myths out there about the industry–from it being dirty and low paying, to lacking in opportunities–yet these ideas couldn't be farther from the truth," she said. "Young people, from elementary to high school and beyond, are encouraged and actually excited once these myths are dispelled and they learn about the many possibilities available to them."

FABTECH Canada is hosted by SME, The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Int'l (FMA), The American Welding Society (AWS), The Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), and Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI). Expanded in size and scope, the event is geared towards the needs of Canada's estimated 1.5 million manufacturing employees in industries ranging from automotive and energy to transportation and construction, as well as businesses that either produce or rely on equipment and machinery in their day-to-day operations.

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