Workforce Heroes: Celebrating employees & businesses

Workforce Heroes: Celebrating employees & businesses

Healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

We start 2021 with hope that this year will be brighter than the last.

But also with pride that we are in many ways stronger for what we’ve been through.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s lives, livelihood, work and job market in Brantford, Brant, Haldimand, Norfolk, Six Nations and New Credit.

2020 was a difficult year for our businesses and the workforce, with disruptive changes, from people working fewer hours, more hours or from home, to layoffs and business closures.

Not to mention the increased risk and fear that has come with conducting our work.  We recognize that every member of Grand Erie’s workforce, from front-line essential workers to those who lost work as a result of the pandemic, and everyone in between, struggled.

Some people are still coping with unemployment. Some businesses are still struggling to stay afloat.

But as difficult as 2020 was, our Grand Erie community has shown its resilience and a generosity to help each other.  That’s something to be proud of.

The Workforce Planning Board’s vision of “A skilled, resilient workforce contributing to dynamic communities and their economies” has been apt.

Workers have adapted to do their jobs differently, from wearing masks to working online. Businesses have had to be flexible, creative and resourceful, doing things differently, more virtually.

Today, as we begin a new year with fresh hope, the Workforce Planning Board celebrates just a few of the area businesses and their workforces that demonstrated resiliency and generosity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many other great examples out there. We’re telling the stories of five in our Workforce Heroes series:

Workforce Heroes: Battlefield International

Workforce Heroes: Battlefield International

When there were dire warnings last year about a potential shortage of ventilators to treat Canadians with COVID-19, Battlefield International’s employees rose to the challenge.

Highly skilled staff at the Haldimand County high-tech aerospace company volunteered their time to produce a Manual Ventilator Automation Control (MVAC) device in a matter of weeks.

The Workforce Planning Board is celebrating Battlefield International as one of the local businesses whose employees are Workforce Heroes.

The MVAC would allow patients recovering from COVID-19 to get assistance to breathe properly while still having some “manual” control of the machine. The machine switches to automatic mode if a patient doesn’t take a breath within a set amount of time.

“Our employees were all eager to sacrifice their personal lives to do whatever was required of them to help,” said President Steve Fenton.

The parent of one of the firm’s designers, Sandy Vermeulen, suggested Battlefield consider designing a ventilator that could be used if hospitals ran short.

Meanwhile, Dr Shanker Nesathurai, Haldimand-Norfolk’s Medical Officer of Health, approached Fenton to discuss the same idea.

Battlefield workers, with Cam Brouwer taking the design lead, quickly got to work, researching manual devices with an automatic function.

Dr. Nesathurai put Battlefield in touch with respiratory therapists at Hamilton Health Sciences, who visited the firm’s Cayuga plant to share their expertise.

The respiratory therapists gave Battlefield several ventilators to study, along with tubing and other needed supplies.

Battlefield had a functioning prototype ready within 38 hours. More refinements were made. Needing help with the delicate wiring, Battlefield turned to Mike Montgomery of Alectra Utilities, who paid him while working on the project, and Adam Harrison, owner of AMCorp Technologies of Caledonia.
Soon after, Battlefield manufactured 100 of the MVACs, which were ready to be deployed for emergency use in health care facilities in Haldimand-Norfolk and Hamilton.

Fenton emphasizes that the ventilator was a team effort, including suppliers who stepped up: Cayuga Cabinets in Cayuga, Barlow Manufacturing in Stoney Creek, Aluminum Surface Technologies in Burlington, and IPEC Automation in Concord.

In all, the ventilator took 8 weeks to go from an idea to a completed machine.

The ventilators weren’t needed during COVID-19’s first wave and Fenton hopes they won’t be in future.

Visit Battlefield International’s website to learn more about the company.



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