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Have you had trouble finding skilled trade workers for your manufacturing operation? If so, how have you addressed the issue?

Yes, we have had plenty of trouble trying to find GOOD CNC Machinists. The conventional method of running an ad in the newspaper is not as effective as it used to be. There are too many people out there who think they are CNC machinists because they have been pressing the Cycle Start button for 2-5 years. It is one thing to know how to operate a CNC, and another to be able to set up the machine, yet alone programming it.

What we have been trying to do is hire people in their mid 20s who really want this career path, and train them on our machines, as well as moulding them to the culture of our workplace. This works fairly well until another shop offers them more money and then they jump ship, forgetting who gave them the chance in the first place, very frustrating!

Good luck with your magazine.

- Nigel Burbidge, VP Operations, Footage Tools Inc., Vaughan, ON

This is an interesting question; I would be surprised if you could find a machine shop that does not have this problem in Ontario.

Our community colleges are being forced to close their CNC programs due to [poor] attendance even though students are almost guaranteed a full time job upon graduation.

Manufacturing in Ontario is being threatened by South America and the Far East and our government has no interest in helping the small manufacturers. Their only concern seems to be automotive…

We need young minds entering the trade and learning about new machines otherwise as the older generation retires we will have
to let the Chinese do all the manufacturing

- Eugene Kokbas, section manager, B.C. Instrument, Schomberg, ON


We have been looking for skilled machinists all year long. Sure we get lots of applicants but when they arrived we found that they didn’t have the experience we require and were asking for big bucks. Many of them didn’t have a good command of the English language and communicating is important in machining. They may have been a machinist for 15 years but many may have come from the automotive field and had been running ongoing production of familiar regular parts. Years of experience doesn’t always equal years of abilities. We would be very happy to pay someone $25.00 an hour plus if they can work independently meaning gathering tools required for a job, setting up, proving out a job and running the job complete from start to finish. 

After numerous interviews like that we decided to change the way we interview people. Our agenda is as follows: 

  • Telephone or email screening Hands on interview involving reading and interpreting blueprint drawings 
  • Demonstration of their handling and abilities to use various measuring gauges such as a dial bore gauge, pitch mic, ID groover mic, micrometers, etc.
  • Paid trial day in the shop on a CNC machine 

Afterwards we sit down and discuss with the candidate and offer a wage we feel is competitive for their skills and abilities Lastly we have had no choice but to start training new employees ourselves with hopes that they will remain with the company. They can go to trade school or not. 

Sometimes when you train someone you can mould them the way we prefer to do things within our company.

- Marlene Marks, Martec Precision Inc., Brampton, ON


We are located in a rural community in Northeastern Nova Scotia. Finding skilled employees has proven difficult for many employers in the area, and we are no
different. In particular, we have had difficulty finding skilled machinists and continue to do so. We’ve taken a couple of different approaches along the way:

We have started utilizing the local community college system as a way of prospecting and recruiting for new employees. Every April we take four to six students for their six week work placement, and often times they work out so well they remain on full time with us afterward. We find these students generally ramp up very quickly, and have not developed any “bad habits” per se.

We are active members on the local Employee Attraction & Retention board. This board has members from all sectors, but it is a general consensus among the board that the manufacturing sector is among the hardest hit for employee attraction. 

Word of mouth. In the past six months we have hired eight welders/fabricators who heard we were hiring from some of their friends. Every single one of these hires were people looking to return home from Western Canada, as they wanted to raise their families at home and live the lifestyle only Nova Scotia can offer.

- Nick MacGregor, marketing & logistics, MacGregor’s Custom Machining Ltd., New Glasgow, NS 

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