SHOP: What are you expecting in terms of business conditions in 2024?
THIARA: There has been a steady decrease of work for moldmakers this year. The moldmaking industry has been contracting consistently for almost four months straight now and I think that’s attributed to a number of factors, both internal and external. I think the top factor right now for the manufacturing sector is the high cost of borrowing alongside the shortage of workers.
SHOP: Economics aside, manufacturing has faced a host of issues in 2023. Heading into 2024 how would you describe the state of the industry?
THIARA: We are on a positive trajectory, despite the recent slowdown. Canada is home to some of the leading mold makers globally. Moldmaking is a critical component of the overall plastics industry’s supply chain, and as such there will continue to be a need for our trade. Plastic consumption is in virtually every facet of our daily lives , and as the global population grows so will the consumption of plastic products. There needs to be stronger voices showcasing the positive innovations that are taking place within the plastics community from research for bio-degradeable resin’s , to energy efficient machinery to the the ownership of corporate responsibility. There is, and will continue to be, an issue with skilled trades that is directly impacting our industry. The reaction to solving this issue is slower than the need demands. So it will continue to be a problem that will get to a critical stage, if it’s not addressed.
SHOP: What is the most important issue that still needs to be addressed?
THIARA: Skilled shortage is top of mind for many mold shops I visit. The advanced age of the average worker is very evident and there isn’t the influx of newcomers into the trade to offset the exodus that is taking place and will continue to take place. There are activities that are happening, but I don’t see things occuring at the speed with which the problem requires to resolve the issue. There needs to be structured activity taking place with regards to attracting talent into the trade of mold making. Upskilling existing workers and making the overall trade attractive and a desirable career choice. Yes, there are some courses that exist at a handful of colleges and universities, but not to the scale that is required. Canada is a hotspot of international students, which could potentially represent the next generation of tradespeople. Unfortunately, I don’t feel we are doing a good enough job of attracting and exposing these prospects in our direction. What needs to happen to ensure that these newcomers are aware of the opportunities that exist within the Canadian manufacturing sector?
SHOP: What’s your advice to our readers as they prepare for 2024?
THIARA: Keep your focus on what you do best and perhaps look at what funding is available to your company that can assist you with implementing new and innovative processes and equipment. Now more than ever, is the time to be innovative and a solution provider. Canada wants its export market to grow and is there to support your growth, you just need to tap into the help. Remember that your Associations are there for you to lean on for support and guidance.
It’s also important to remember the industry has had its ups and downs but we always manage to come out the other end. We have the resources and the know how to persevere and today’s challenges will pass and will make us stronger.