October is Manufacturing Month

October is Manufacturing Month

October is Manufacturing Month, celebrating a key industry that provides thousands of jobs in the Grand Erie region.

About 1.7 million people work in manufacturing across Canada, over half of those jobs in Ontario – the country’s manufacturing heartland.

Manufacturing is the No. 1 employer in our area, with almost 800 businesses employing 15,800 people in Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit, and the counties of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk.

Local companies make an amazing array of products, some of which are household names and brands that people buy every day. Think bread, chocolates, chicken nuggets, frozen waffles, hockey sticks, air fresheners, house paint, barbecues, cat litter, drywall, windows, kitchen cabinets, LED lighting – to name a few.

Other products are for special uses or niches. Think truck trailers, forestry equipment, neon signs, cabinetry for grocery stores, playground equipment, vinyl siding, swimming pool liners.

Other products are used as a part of others. Think auto parts, steel, pharmaceutical products, recycled rubber, cement wall panels, building supplies, industrial pumps, plastic hoses.

October will be celebrated as Manufacturing Month in North America, with Oct. 1 marked as Manufacturing Day in many areas.

In the past, manufacturers have thrown open their doors to tours, giving students and other visitors a behind-the-scenes look at what they make and the types of jobs they hire for.

The October Manufacturing Month tours are a way for companies to showcase their products, people and jobs, and to dispel commonly held myths about what it is like to work in manufacturing.

The Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie has previously organized tours of local manufacturers and has produced a dozen videos about careers at local companies (see the resource section below).

Today’s manufacturing is a lot different than 30 or 50 years ago.

The days of workers standing at a production line, doing mind-numbing repetitive tasks, in a loud, dirty factory are largely past.

Today, production is highly automated, with computers, robots and cutting-edge technology heavily used. Companies value innovation, looking for better ways of doing things and creating new products.

Advanced Manufacturing, which uses new technologies, is a rapidly growing part of the industry.

Manufacturing offers a large variety of jobs, covering dozens of occupations, types of work and skill levels, from entry level positions to the most senior and experienced.

And while men have traditionally made up the bulk of people working in production and skilled trades roles in manufacturing, more women are entering the industry.

TYPES OF JOBS: Jobs can range from machine operator to office staff, packagers, salespeople, welders, millwrights, material handlers, computer programmers, engineers, designers, researchers, chemists, quality control specialists, health and safety experts.

JOB SKILLS: Skills used in manufacturing jobs also vary. Among the skills highly valued by businesses are: problem solving, critical thinking, team work, good communication, attention to detail, customer service and people skills. Learning to work safely is also important. Each occupation may have its own set of technical skills, from operating CNC machines to blueprint reading, programming robots and repairing equipment. And like all businesses, companies need people who are reliable and show up for work on time.

EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Businesses hire people who haven’t finished high school up to PhDs, depending on the role. Many companies offer on-the-job training, apprenticeships, or send workers to specialized training. Many companies provide opportunities for their staff to upgrade their skills and may help pay for their courses.

OPPORTUNITIES: Many companies regularly hire to fill open positions. Some increase their hiring to meet a large order or to fill seasonal demands. Companies like to promote from within, providing opportunities for advancement to employees who demonstrate a strong work ethic, a desire to learn, and a commitment to the business. There may be further opportunities as some older workers retire.

Find Out More

We Make It Here: A dozen videos produced by the Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie that showcase local companies, the products they make and the people that make them.

Grand Erie Jobs: This online job board is the best source to find local manufacturing jobs, or to learn about specific manufacturing occupations or companies.

Local Training and Education

Skills2Advance Welding: Free job training program that prepares people to enter the welding trade in the Grand Erie region.

Conestoga College: College courses for manufacturing, including skilled trades and manufacturing management, plus continuing education courses.

Fanshawe College, Simcoe/Norfolk Regional Campus: College courses in welding and office administration, plus a number of continuing education courses.

Six Nations Polytechnic: Training for welders and machinists.

Mohawk College: College courses for manufacturing, including skilled trades, engineering and robotics training, plus continuing education courses.

Quality of Work – New Local Survey

Quality of Work – New Local Survey

The Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie has launched a new survey that is digging into how people perceive quality of work at their current or past workplaces.

Quality of work typically refers to a combination of things like a job’s income and benefits, job security, chance for promotion, opportunities to use skills, workplace culture and more.

For the last few years, our annual employer survey results have highlighted the growing obstacles that businesses face in finding and retaining suitable employees. Turnover triggered by quits, workplace culture and lack of work-life balance has been increasing and this has significant impacts on business operations.

With the added volatility of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to better understand the factors that influence quality of work, and to scope out the opportunities, challenges and barriers to supporting the Grand Erie labour market.

We will be examining the “quality of work” amongst workers within six industries in the Grand Erie area (healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, construction, manufacturing, accommodation and food services and agriculture.) The research will be carried out through a workforce survey that will measure the quality of work along 6 dimensions defined by Statistics Canada.

With this survey, we want to better understand what people value in a job, the workplace and their leaders. It is important to hear from workers, what attracts them to apply for a job and to stay in a job.

Many employers are experiencing labour shortages and they are competing for workers. Having a reputation of providing a good work culture and jobs can make a business stand out. The survey should help businesses, community organizations and local government learn more about what workers value in a workplace, and could prompt changes that strengthen quality of work.

Employers may learn what improvements or best practices they can implement in their workplace to give workers a stronger incentive to stay. And a good quality of work and work-life balance at a workplace can be a big selling point to potential new hires.

Individuals who complete the survey may find themselves better equipped to open up conversations with their managers about how their work quality can be enhanced. Results may also help those looking for work to identify industries that best support their quality of work goals.

Further, data collected through this survey can help community organizations/government develop better, more targeted programs and services to support our workforce’s needs.

The survey, which takes about 15 minutes to complete, is open to employees and job seekers 15 years and older who lives in Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit and Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk counties and will be running until September of this year. Those who complete the survey will have a chance to win a prize in a weekly draw.

The research project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre, a forward-looking organization that prototypes, tests and measures new and innovative approaches to skills development across Canada. To learn more about Future Skills Centre, visit: fsc-ccf.ca

Thank you to our survey sponsors:

New online info guide launched for area

New online info guide launched for area

A new online information guide makes it easier for residents to find local workforce-related resources and services.

The Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie has added the Workforce Gateway tool to the large group of tools it already provides local job seekers and businesses.

Residents in Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit and Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk counties can find services by answering several questions related to job hunting, running a business, boosting education and skills, or about community services.

Once someone narrows their search, the new online info guide will show them a list of local services and resources they can connect with.

“The Workforce Gateway connects people and businesses to a wealth of information and hundreds of services, all housed in one place,” said Danette Dalton, the board’s executive director. “We have tremendous services and supports in our communities, but it isn’t always easy to find out about them.”

Dalton said people looking for jobs or to build their skills could tap into numerous community services, such as talking to an employment counsellor, improving computer skills, writing resumes, learning about apprenticeships, finding daycares, renewing a driver’s license and getting a criminal reference check.

“One of our Government’s top priorities is to address the skilled worker shortage and labour force issues in general,” said Brantford-Brant MPP Will Bouma. “To see the Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie centralize a place where job-seekers, entrepreneurs, educators and community services interact in one easy to navigate portal is a huge stride to achieving our common goals.”

The new online info guide also helps inform businesses about topics such as recruiting employees, government financial support programs, networking, employment standards regulations and more.

“The Gateway complements our existing Grand Erie Jobs online tools and adds more ways for business owners to find the information and services they can use to grow,” Dalton said.

Grand Erie Jobs features 8 different online tools, including the area’s most comprehensive job board and a Job Map that shows the location of job openings and community services.


Celebrating Small Business Week

Celebrating Small Business Week

Making wall art for her own home was a stepping stone for Ashley Breitkopf to start her own business.

The Norfolk County resident started Shaded Pines in 2018 at age 19 and has been slowly growing the business ever since. Shaded Pines makes a variety of laser cut and engraved signs, wall art and home décor pieces which she sells through an online store, attracting customers by being active on social media.

Ashley was making some wall art for her home and decided to list a blanket ladder – used to hang throws or towels – for sale online.

“One ladder turned into 50+ ladders and from there I discovered wood burning, scroll saw art and eventually CNC and laser cutting, which is what I do now,” says Ashley, now 22.

“I never really decided on a business idea, things just sort of snowballed into what I do now.”

Like many small business owners, Ashley likes being her own boss and having control over what she does, noting she can decide on what products she makes or discontinues.

Also like many small business owners, Ashley has learned how to operate a business one step at a time along the way. She has faced many challenges, such as how to handle taxes, manage customer service and run social media pages. Fortunately, she’s able to turn to her parents for advice, as both parents run businesses. Her parents, her brother and her sister all help with business tasks.

Ashley’s advice to people thinking of starting a small business is about persistence. “If the first idea or product that you release isn’t as successful as you hoped, just try again, don’t give up,” she says.

Small Business Week

Small businesses like Shaded Pines are being celebrated during Small Business Week 2021 in Canada, Oct. 17 – 23.

It makes sense to celebrate small businesses, since a staggering 97% of businesses in Canada – 1.2 million in total – meet the official Statistics Canada definition of having 1 to 99 employees. Two-thirds of all employees in the country work for a small business, which has been described as the “backbone” of the economy.

Small businesses are just as important to the economy and workforce of Grand Erie.

There are more than 23,000 small businesses, including those without employees, in Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit and the counties of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk. The majority of those businesses are in real estate, agriculture and construction, along with retail stores, restaurants and bars.

At the smallest level, as of June 2021 there were 15,700 businesses owned and operated by a single entrepreneur, without employees. The highest number are in real estate, farming and professional services.

There were another 4,100 “micro businesses” which employ 1 to 4 people and 1,500 businesses that employ 5 to 9 people. Many of these are in the trades, truck transportation and professional services such as law, accounting, engineering, marketing and consulting.

And there’s another 1,700 businesses that employ 10 to 99 people, with the highest concentration in food services, drinking places, agriculture, food stores and specialty trades contracting. But that figure would also include smaller manufacturers.


There’s a wide variety of resources and supports for small business in Grand Erie and Canada, including access to grants and loans, advice on starting, growing and marketing a business, doing online sales, and networking where business owners share their success stories and challenges.

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC): Has organized Small Business Week for more than 40 years. It has organized a week of events for Small Business Week 2021, including online panel discussions and guest speakers.

Brantford-Brant Business Resource Centre (BRC): Provides advice, information, free workshops and resources to start and grow a small business.

Enterprise Brant: Promotes community development in Brantford and Brant County by offering small business loans and free business counselling.

Venture Norfolk: Provides support for Norfolk County businesses with free consultation and access to small business loans.

Grand Erie Business Centre: Also supports Haldimand County businesses with free consulting services and access to small business loans.

Business organizations: There are about a dozen organizations in Grand Erie that bring together and represent businesses, including chambers of commerce, boards of trade and business improvement areas (BIAs).


Workforce Series – Interview with Stephen Chary

Workforce Series – Interview with Stephen Chary

It’s Ontario Agriculture Week and in this week’s Workforce Series we talk to Stephen Chary who works for Chary Produce, a second generation vegetable and fruit farm in Oakland, Ontario located in Brant County.

Stephen has worked at his family’s farm from a young age learning about everything to do with running a farm – from planting and cultivating to harvesting the farm’s extensive crop.

In addition to completing a welding ticket in his last few years of high school through a co-op program, Stephen recently participated in the newly developed Agricultural Equipment Operator Program offered by Conestoga College to refine some of his skills. The program focuses on the operation and maintenance of agricultural equipment, which he applies to keeping machinery running smoothly, performing repairs and troubleshooting unforeseen issues.

Stephen’s existing pool of knowledge is formidable, however he feels he still has some things to learn yet, such as the business side of farm operations and crop science as it relates crop infestations and disease – a common but immense challenge that many farms face.  

Our recent Work-Life Balance Study tells us “28% of respondents spend over 9 hours of their average day working”. In our feature Stephen talks about the demands of farm operations as well as the rewards, the importance of time-management skills, the value of having mentors and what his aspirations are for the future.

Watch our interview with Stephen here: https://youtu.be/9ByYlRCS6lE


Some parting highlights from talking with Stephen:

On an average day, Stephen is up between 5:30am and 6:00am and heads to the barn to meet his uncle who will provide an overview of the day with him along with providing him instructions. Instructions range depending on the season – ranging from harvest season which is taking place now, to planting season where he will find himself doing things like setting up water trucks in the fields and fertilizing crops. In the winter time – it’s often maintenance and equipment repair, getting ready for when the busy season hits.

“I’ve definitely always had people around me who were mentors”. This has included mechanics and equipment operators and people like his uncle and father who coached him in crop cultivation and business operations.

On the importance of time-management and planning – “With only so many hours in the day, it hasn’t always been easy to figure out what the most important thing is to do first. The trick is to figure out the priorities then and move onto the next thing, and then managing that in a work environment that can have  many unpredictable factors”

On developing skills – “the more skills you have the better”. Stephen feels he can apply his skilled trades skills to future job prospects and says maintaining a focus on machining and science throughout high school are helpful to working in the agricultural field. He also recommends working on a farm for a summer job to learn a lot quickly.

Thank you to Stephen for sharing his story with us! Stay tuned for next week, when we explore Caleb’s automotive industry background, training and experiences!

Looking to explore a career or find a job? Check out Grand Erie Jobs – the biggest career and job site in our region!


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