Skilled workers are a major need for Canadian businesses
How Canada can regain its former glory as a manufacturer of things the world will want to buy.
The order book of Canadian manufacturing company Can Art Aluminium Extrusion LP is nothing short of a catalogue of bids from most of the world's leading carmakers, who are now actively investing in electric vehicle manufacturing.
Anthony Caputo, CEO and co-owner of Can Art Aluminium Extrusion LP, plans that in the very near future his company, based in Brampton, Ontario, will become a leading engineering hub in the global auto industry production chain because it produces some of the most important auto parts: the aluminium bodies that protect the batteries of electric cars.
"Our company is actively involved in launching 50 percent of the electric car programs in North America," says Caputo. — Of course, there's Tesla Inc. as well as the Mustang Mach E with their battery-powered Ford Motor Co. The German carmakers Mercedes from Daimler AG and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) are also developing in this direction. Now quite a few people are thinking about buying Tesla and other electric cars, and that's great, because we have room to develop.
Canadian auto industry
Indeed, Canada, which is now actively collaborating with major auto giants, looks like a contender to win the competition to build the next generation of cars. According to Caputo, the country has everything it needs to become a crucial part of the global electric car industry: the minerals needed to produce batteries, as well as a well-developed steelmaking industry.
Also, Lion Electric Co. of Montreal and NFI Group Inc. of Winnipeg are actively marketing their electric buses, and BRP Inc. of Quebec and new company Taiga Motors Corp. are preparing to produce electric snowmobiles.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford have already loaned hundreds of millions of CAD to Ford, General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to finance the refurbishment of those plants, located in Canada, to produce electric cars. And the Automotive Parts Association of Canada is sponsoring the Arrow project, which aims to create an electric-powered concept car by 2022.
Anthony Caputo's ambitious goals
Businessman Anthony Caputo made his name running publicly traded companies, merged with private equity firm TorQuest Partners in 2016 and bought out Can Art to take it to the next level. He has developed a plan to double production capacity to 100 million kg of aluminium per year, targeting the purchasing power of the world's leading automotive, construction and consumer goods manufacturers.
"We went from quotes to suggestions, designed our future and went into it," notes Caputo.
The businessman has now set a new, even more ambitious goal — to take his company to the global market so that his goods will be purchased everywhere. This manufacturing policy will help create new, higher-paying jobs in the country and also help accumulate monetary capital in Canada.
The country needs good specialists
However, the Can Art experience shows that Canada's ambitious desire to assert itself as another global automotive power is missing a very important ingredient: manufacturing talent.
The decline in production over the past few decades has caused a real shortage of highly skilled workers in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, there were about 1.9 million factory workers in early 2001, about 15% of the workforce. By 2009, that number had fallen to about 1.5 million, and it has fluctuated steadily since then.
Caputo says he is only partly concerned about inflation, which is now a major topic of discussion in financial markets and the business press. His biggest concern remains protecting his workers from being infected with the coronavirus and attracting enough people to keep his plant running at full capacity. Caputo notes that Canada has always had a tight supply of skilled workers.
For decades, Canadian children have been taught to equate their success with building a distinguished career and office job. In April of this year alone, there were nearly 1 million white-collar workers in the country, a 57% increase since the beginning of 2001.
Caputo knows that working at his company won't appeal to everyone: "Can Art heats aluminum to 1,000 °C. We don't make software, so we're not very cool. Except for producing our very cool product".
Caputo also notes the high wages of its employees: the 10,700 people left to work at its production facility were earning an average of about $2,000 CAD a week back in April: about the same as stock traders and 10% more than software developers.