Group estimates more than 700 CNC Machinists required in near term; reaching out to youth

Four manufacturing organizations have banded together to actively hire and train unemployed/underemployed youth to help their industry address a critical shortage of CNC Machinists. Facing an immediate need for 270 CNC machinists now and for 700 in the next two years, they formed the Ontario Manufacturing Learning Consortium (OMLC) and launched an industry-led hiring and training initiative called the CNC Machinist (Level 1) Selection and Learning Program. The Ontario government has selected this program for funding under the Youth Skills Connections Program.

Companies within the aerospace, tool/die mould, nuclear and manufacturing sectors expressed frustrations with the tremendous challenges they faced finding and hiring qualified CNC machinists. They expressed those frustrations to their industry associations — the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC), the Canadian Tooling & Machining Association (CTMA), the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCI) and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) – which led to the formation of the OMLC.

Rather than looking to others for solutions, the industry has decided to try a dramatically different approach – launching a “by industry, for industry” learning program.

Reaching Out To Youth As a Career Option

“We decided to tackle our skills shortage issue by reaching out to youth who are facing a stubbornly high unemployment rate in Ontario, hire and train them for a much needed position, while also helping them to start a career,” says Rod Jones, Program Co-Director, Ontario Manufacturing Learning Consortium. “Several Ontario hi-tech and advanced manufacturing sectors are growing and need to hire in order to support increasing production as well as replacing retirees.”

He notes that there are very few post-secondary programs in Ontario for CNC machining and young people coming out of these programs don’t fully meet industry needs – so a different kind of solution was required.

“This earn-while-you-learn hands-on program provides Ontario youth with the opportunity to learn a trade focused on innovation and technology, while starting a career in the manufacturing sector,” said Ian Howcroft, CME Ontario vice president. “It also supports manufacturers in their needs for skilled employees to grow their businesses.”

Employers like what they are seeing
“We’ve created an industry-led initiative that is an outcomes-based approach and offers tremendous benefits to companies. Rather than having to find good candidates on their own, employers can rely on the Ontario Manufacturing Learning Consortium (OMLC) to do the searching and screening for them,” says Robert Cattle, Executive Director, Canadian Tooling & Machining Association (CTMA) and Program Co-Director, OMLC.

The first cohort of 16 youth has been hired by 12 companies and they are well along in the 26-week program. Employers have been very impressed with the people they’ve hired.

“The companies have been very enthusiastic about the quality of the people we’ve brought to them and several have expressed interest in hiring other youth from future rounds,” says Peter Drews, who acts as the OMLC mentor and coach both for the youth and companies.

How The Program Works

The OMLC also has partnered with organizations, such as the City of Toronto Employment and Social Services, to reach out to youth, aged 18-29, to tell them about the opportunities to become a CNC machinist by participating in a 26-week employment and training program that can lead to full time employment. Manpower Group is the OMLC partner that carries out the initial screening of youth, checking for aptitude and attitude. The Ontario government’s Youth Skills Connections Program is providing $1.5 million in funding, and companies are investing approximately $1.7 million more in training these new employees.

Youth who qualify and are hired by a company will start with three weeks of classroom learning so they are ‘workplace-ready’ and then have 23 weeks of shop floor ‘hands-on’ learning on production CNC machines. Employers can interview pre-qualified candidates, then select and hire those who fit their company. Companies are provided with training guidelines to assist with the training and are provided with coaching and monitoring support.

The CNC Machinist Learning Program has initially launched in the Greater Toronto Area but there are plans to expand it to other manufacturing areas in Ontario in early 2015, including the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge-Guelph area.

About the Ontario Manufacturing Learning Consortium

The Ontario Manufacturing Learning Consortium is a new organization set up to develop and deliver its first initiative, the CNC Machinist Learning program. It was founded by representatives of the aerospace, tool/die mould, nuclear and manufacturing sectors – founding organizations include the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC), the Canadian Tooling & Machining Association (CTMA), the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCI) and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME).