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Valley REN working to capitalize on projected surge in manufacturing sector

Valley Regional Enterprise Network CEO Jennifer Tufts and economic development officer - BusinessNow lead Richelle Brown Redden hope that members of the public will explore the various opportunities presented by the manufacturing sector at “Manufacture Your Future”.
Valley Regional Enterprise Network CEO Jennifer Tufts and economic development officer - BusinessNow lead Richelle Brown Redden hope that members of the public will explore the various opportunities presented by the manufacturing sector at “Manufacture Your Future”. - File Photo

‘Manufacture Your Future’ symposium to be held at Kingstec

KENTVILLE, N.S. —

Job seekers and students may not necessarily consider the sector but manufacturing in the Annapolis Valley is burgeoning with opportunities.

Valley Regional Enterprise Network (REN) CEO Jennifer Tufts said they knew from speaking with manufacturers anecdotally that there would be job openings in the coming years but they weren’t sure of the numbers.

Last fall, they conducted a survey to drill a little deeper, with nine Valley manufacturers responding.

“Of those nine, they will need, collectively, 604 full-time equivalent employees over the next five years,” Tufts said, pointing out that these positions represent an annual value of nearly $29 million.

She said that, for more than half of these manufacturers, filling labour needs is not about growth: it’s about maintaining current production levels.

The Valley manufacturers that responded to the survey represent nearly a quarter billion dollars in generated revenue annually. They’re projecting growth of 24 per cent over the next five years.

Economic development officer – BusinessNow lead Richelle Brown Redden said there are national, provincial and local statistics that indicate that the manufacturing sector will experience labour shortages in coming years. This is due in part to an aging workforce.

Brown Redden said they’ve heard that companies are trying to engage a younger demographic to enter the manufacturing sector.

Tufts said the nine manufacturing entities that responded to the survey currently employ 2,452 people. 19 per cent of these workers are between the ages of 55 and 64 while two per cent of these employees are over age 65.

When it comes to the recent manufacturing survey, Brown Redden said 89 per cent of respondents indicated that their production is expected to grow. She said that when they look at provincial data, there has been a point in recent years, for example, that tires have surpassed seafood as Nova Scotia’s number-one export.

These indicators help illustrate the importance of the manufacturing sector. This year, according to Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium data, manufacturing will contribute $9 billion to the provincial economy.

Through the Valley Manufacturing Taskforce, the Valley REN is engaging with leading manufacturers throughout the Valley. Three key challenges and opportunities identified for the sector include labour, energy and marketing.

After gaining insight through the survey and site visits, the Valley REN held an industry summit in January to refine and frame the issues and to recruit people for action teams. Marketing folded into the work of the Labour Action Team and another team is focusing on energy.

The Energy Action Team has created a plan for addressing energy challenges faced by manufacturers. The Labour Action Team refined the proposed solutions from the January summit and developed specific goals.

Discussions about labour-supply training programs are ongoing. The Valley REN is working directly with manufacturers to help them access workplace education programs for employees through the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

MANUFACTURING SYMPOSIUM

The Valley REN is hosting a first-of-its-kind event to showcase Valley manufacturers. It’s taking place at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Kingstec Campus in Kentville on Oct. 4. The “Manufacture Your Future” symposium is open to the public. People will have the chance to discover opportunities in the manufacturing sector and meet manufacturers.

“It was clear that all manufacturers needed to attract more people to their workforce, so the purpose of the event is to bring multiple audiences together to engage with manufacturers,” Brown Redden said.

The event will bring high school and post-secondary students, job seekers and the general public together with people involved in education, employment and career services and manufacturers.

Brown Redden said they have identified through their work that there is a stigma attached to the manufacturing sector and a lack of understanding of the numerous roles and opportunities within. She said even though the Valley is not a huge region, manufacturing facilities here are quite diverse. They’re producing everything from pharmaceuticals to tires to food and beverages.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

IF YOU GO:

  • The “Manufacture Your Future” showcase is being held at the NSCC Kingstec Campus on Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • The event is supported by the NSCC and all Annapolis Valley Nova Scotia Works centres.
  • There will be informational programming in the morning for high school students.
  • There will be manufacturing exhibit booths open for the duration of the event.
  • There will be a panel discussion at 11:30 a.m. where career development practitioners can pose questions to a panel representing various manufacturers.
  • Starting at 1:30 p.m., there will be speakers and presentations from the Valley REN, NSCC, Nova Scotia Works and Valley manufacturers.

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