Often, the term “manufacturing” conjures images of large factories where employees work on an assembly line to piece things together, such as fabricated metal products, machinery, and automobiles. However, this sector also includes cabinet making, and printing, as well as the production of items such as textiles and clothing, paper, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and scientific and electrical equipment. Given the diversity of products and production methods, there are many different jobs within the manufacturing sector.
Types of jobs at a manufacturer
- Assemblers/Fabricators: putting products together, sometimes by hand and sometimes with the help of a machine. Typically, a high school diploma is required and on-the-job training is provided. Job titles in this sphere include Assembler, Fabricator, Material Handler, and Production Worker.
- Brazer/Welder: using equipment to cut and/or join metal parts. Usually, employees are required to have training from a vocational or community college regarding the proper use of equipment as well as the skills to read blueprints and diagrams. Job titles in this field include Welder, Brazer, Cutter, and Metal Worker.
- Machinist/Machine Operator: setting up, maintaining, and operating computers and/or machines to create the parts needed for the manufacturing process. As with brazers/welders, these positions often require training at a vocational school or community college. Employment in this area includes jobs such as Aircraft Mechanic, Electrician, Machine Operator, and Millwright. However, in many cases, employees are trained on the job.
- Production Manager/Operations Manager: overseeing day-to-day operations, including hiring and scheduling employees and managing production issues. A bachelor’s degree in business or engineering is often a requirement for this type of work. Job titles in this sphere include Manager, Supervisor, and Foreman.
- Engineer: designing products and improving production processes. A Bachelor of Engineering degree is required.
- Quality Control Inspector: scrutinizing products for defects. Usually, a high school diploma is the only requirement for these types of positions; on-the-job training is provided by the employer. Job titles in this field include Customer Service Representative, Inspector, and Shipping and Receiving Manager.
- Buyers and Purchasing Managers: working with vendors to source the materials needed to fabricate the plant’s products. Usually, a post-secondary degree in business, engineering, economics, or a related discipline is required. An alternate job title in this field is Senior Buyer.
Other-production related roles include project management (achieving all of the project goals within given constraints), supply chain management (streamlining a business’s supply-side activities), and logistics (managing the flow of materials and goods between the point of origin and the point of consumption. Of course, manufacturers require employees with many other skills that are not production related, including in areas such as marketing, sales, customer support, training, accounting, warehouse labour, forklift operation, truck driving, and human resources.
There are many different sub-sectors within the manufacturing industry, including:
|Chemical & Pharmaceuticals||Non-Metallic Mineral Product|
|Computers and Electronic Products||Petroleum and Coal Products|
|Electrical Equipment, Appliances, and Components||Plastics and Rubber Products|
|Fabricated Metal Products||Primary Metals|
|Furniture and Related Products||Textiles and Textile Products|
|Leather and Allied Products||Tractors and Agricultural Machinery|
Manufacturers in the GTA
Manufacturing is the second largest sector in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA,) after finance. It accounts for about 13% of the region’s economic output and employs about 11% of the area’s workforce. The GTA is home to about 10,500 manufacturing firms. About one-third of those businesses are scattered through the Halton-Peel region, while the remainder are located throughout Toronto-York-Durham.
While some manufacturing companies in the GTA are large, employing more than 500 employees each, the majority are small businesses of less than 100 employees. But regardless of size, manufacturing firms are an important source of employment for newcomers.
There are several online directories that list manufacturing companies in the GTA. The following directories provide information about these companies, their products, and locations:
- Directory of Industries and Manufacturers
- List of Manufacturing Companies Based in Toronto
- Listing of Manufacturing Businesses in Mississauga
- Directory of Manufacturers in the York Region
- Directory of Manufacturers/Distributors in Newmarket
- List of Manufacturing Firms in the Halton Region
- Advanced manufacturing in the Halton Region
- Advanced Manufacturing in Oshawa
Because of the diversity of this industry, it’s difficult to provide a detailed picture of compensation.
Hourly wages usually depend, for example, on the size of the business, the duties attached to the position, the qualifications and skills required, the degree of specialization/expertise, length of employment, and whether the workplace is unionized.
Entry level positions, which require only a high school diploma and no or little related experience, will likely pay near minimum wage ($14/hour in Ontario) to start. For more complex positions that require significant on-the-job experience, vocational training, or a degree, wages may be $30/hour or more.
Additionally, many employers offer overtime work which, in Ontario, pays out at time and a half after 44 hours/week.
Some employers, especially large corporations, also offer benefits packages to employees. These insurance packages, co-funded by employer and employee, often help cover health care and health equipment costs (such as prescription medications and eyeglasses) and may include contributions to retirement savings plans.
Certification and training
Many positions within the manufacturing industry are considered trades, including electrician, millwright, and sheet metal worker. (For a full listing of trades, visit the Ontario College of Trades website. Also, in Fall, 2019, the Ontario government launched a new website on Skilled Trades.) Trades are regulated and certification is ultimately required by those employed in these roles. Certification is gained through an apprenticeship, which requires completion of classroom work, as well as mentorship on the job. It typically takes two to five years to complete an apprenticeship. See our posts on Training programs in various occupations and A guide to loans for newcomers to cover licensing and training.
Keep in mind, however, that there are many production-related work opportunities in the manufacturing sector that do not require trade certification. See our post on Sewing, for example, which includes a description of what one clothing manufacturer, Canada Goose, may be looking for in sewing machine operators. Even manufacturers who employ those in certified trades likely also have other workers in non-certified, plant positions, such as assembly and general labour.
In Winnipeg, Opportunities for Employment, together with Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology (MITT), offers a Manufacturing Production Worker Program (REDI) for refugee newcomers, which requires very little English (as little as CLB 1.)
In British Columbia, until recently, there was a program called “Refugee Training and Employment Program”, which was a partnership between BC Alliance for Manufacturing and MOSAIC. It offered for free, two months of manufacturing-specific technical skills training and job readiness workshops. The program ran for two years, with high rates of job placement, before being suspended for lack of funding.
In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), there are numerous bridging, work-related English, and communications programs for internationally-trained newcomers in project management, supply chain management, and logistics. These are offered by organizations such as ACCES Employment, Centennial College, Humber College, Sheridan College, Ryerson University, York University, UnstoppableMe, and the Toronto District School Board. Check out our Programs database and filter, under “sector”, for choices such as “project management”, “supply chain management”, and “logistics”.
As with compensation, the diversity of the manufacturing sector makes it difficult to provide an accurate and targeted summary of the skills and knowledge required for jobs in this industry. However, in general, employers may be looking for combinations of personal characteristics, aptitude, skill, and experience, such as the following:
- General skills
- Reliable and punctual.
- Highly motivated with a willingness to learn new skills.
- Strong interpersonal and communication skills.
- Ability to work both independently and as a team member in a fast-paced environment.
- Organizational, multi-tasking, and problem-solving skills with a high attention to detail.
- Willingness to work shift work: afternoons or nights, and extended hours/overtime when needed.
- Ability to sit for long periods of time and have job satisfaction completing repetitive tasks
- Qualifications and experience specific to the manufacturing sector
- Health & safety training and understanding the need to be alert in the manufacturing environment.
- Capability of lifting up heavy items and standing for extended periods of time.
- Experience working in a manufacturing environment and, in particular, with specific types of equipment.
- Background skills that may be required for certain jobs
- Basic math skills.
- Able to use a ruler and read measurements.
- Some knowledge or a degree of proficiency with computers and technology.
- Ability to read blueprints/drawings and follow engineering instructions.
- Ability to use various types of measuring equipment.
- Ability to use various types of hand and power tools.
- Experience with specific equipment and/or machines.
- Demonstrated mechanical aptitude.
- Forklift training.
In the case of someone entering an apprenticeship for a certified trade, prior work experience may be less important, because on-the-job and classroom training are part of the required programs.
Need for English language proficiency
The level of English language proficiency needed varies from job to job. However, in most cases, a minimum of CLB 4 (or higher for certified trades) will be required. Given the health and safety issues inherent in the industry, it’s imperative that employees understand English-language instructions and directions.
In general, employers are seeking employees who:
- Are able to read, speak, and comprehend English well enough to understand written and/or verbal instructions.
- Can write legibly in the English language (may only be required for certain positions).
For management level positions, including in project management, supply chain management, and logistics, a minimum of CLB 7, 8, or higher is likely required.
Many factories keep their production lines operational outside the traditional business hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For this reason, employees may be expected to work alternate shifts, such as early mornings, nights, and weekends. This can result in irregular hours and rotating shifts.
Manufacturing plants, especially large ones, may be unionized, with both positive and negative aspects. For a discussion on some of the pros and cons of working in a union, see the discussion on union representation in our post on Construction and building maintenance jobs.
There are several unions representing factory workers in the GTA. Major ones include:
- Workers United Canada Council
- International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
- Unite HERE!
- United Automobile Workers
To begin consideration of working within the manufacturing sector, start with our post on Online search engines/job boards in Canada.
Job fairs (sometimes called career fairs or career expos) are events that allow potential employees to speak with employers to network, ask questions, and apply for jobs. Sometimes job fairs are quite large, with many different employers present; at other times, it may be a job fair for a single company.
As explained on our Online search engines/job boards in Canada page, it may be easier for newcomers to successfully land employment by attending job fairs and making personal contact with employers, as compared to submitting applications online.
In order to recruit qualified and suitable employees, some manufacturing companies may work with an employment service or agency. Newcomers who are clients of such employment services may get an inside track to manufacturing positions being offered. Employment services may also organize a job fair, from time to time, for a specific manufacturer, which any newcomer may be able to attend by first contacting the employment service. For more information on working with Employment Services, see our post on this subject.
Opportunities to learn English
Some jobs in manufacturing may offer good opportunities to practice and improve English language skills. However, working on an assembly line, or at another position where communication with co-workers is not required by the job, likely won’t provide as many chances for improving English. Conversation, in those instances, may be mostly restricted to rest and meal breaks.
The Government of Ontario has strict occupational health and safety standards that employers must follow. Where necessary, employers must provide safety training and/or protective equipment for their employees. As well, there are legislated protocols that must be followed when an employee is injured on the job.
It’s important for newcomers to be aware of their rights regarding workplace safety. The Ontario Ministry of Labour offers a resource on this topic. But, as well, when searching for a job, look for employers who have good safety records. The Compass website of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) of Ontario is a searchable database of occupational health and safety records. Consider researching prospective employers at the Compass website before applying to them for work.
Food production and processing
While a sector not considered to be manufacturing, newcomers may also be interested in our post on Food Production and Processing,
Helping refugees immigrate to Canada as skilled workers
Some sponsors may be seeking to help a family member of already-settled, refugee newcomers also come to Canada. If such a family member has expertise in occupations, such as welding, millwright, supply chain management, and logistics, consider an alternate admission route. Even if this person might be officially certified as a refugee, immigrating as a highly skilled worker may be much quicker.
Consider, for example, the program of the American non-profit, Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB). Although this is a U.S.-based organization, it is helping skilled refugees come to Canada, as well as to Australia, and soon perhaps, the UK (but, ironically, not yet the USA, given the current political environment.) The program’s objective is to have refugees admitted as skilled workers in the “economic immigration” category, rather than under the much smaller, “refugee” classification.
TBB views economic immigration as an additional solution to refugee resettlement. It believes that opening this economic pathway for eligible refugees would serve to increase the mobility options available to refugees worldwide. In Spring, 2019, the second candidate to be placed in Canada by the TBB project was a tool and die maker, who was a month shy of graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, when he left Syria. His resume was spotted in the talent database by the president of a tool manufacturing company in Niagara Falls, Ont., who flew to Lebanon to interview him and then offered him a job, which required his very particular skill set. See: How a Syrian refugee in Lebanon found his dream job in Niagara Falls (CBC, Jun. 20/19.) The main advantage of going this route is speed.
In the pilot stage, TBB and its government partners are trying to identify and overcome roadblocks that refugees would normally face in applying as economic immigrants, including, for example, expired passports and non-access to credentials.
Media stories related to manufacturing
- How a Syrian refugee in Lebanon found his dream job in Niagara Falls (CBC, Jun. 20/19.)
- Fashion production co-op run by refugee, immigrant women to open in Chicago (Chicago Sun-Times, Feb 1/19)
- Clean start: Syrian refugee rebuilds his fourth-generation soap business in Canada (Globe & Mail, Jan. 13/19).
- Are Refugee Employees Good Talent Source for Manufacturers? (Industry Week, May 24/18).
- Factories are desperate for skilled workers (Globe & Mail, Feb. 4/18).
- 12 participants successfully complete Refugee Training and Employment Program (Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (May 30/17).
- They fled war in Syria. Today, they manufacture emergency equipment for Canadians (Canada’s National Observer, Mar 9/17.)