Canadian Manufacturing

Recruit to retiree: Skilled workers want financial security and wellness benefits

by Derek Dobson, CEO and Plan Manager, CAAT Pension Plan   

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Manufacturers are ramping up recruitment efforts by seeking under-represented groups (namely women), increasing use of employment agencies, and relying on immigration.

Among the many sectors being impacted by labour shortages, in few industries are the potential long-term economic consequences of talent drain more evident than in manufacturing. Employee demands are shifting and outpacing traditional attraction and retention strategies. Supply chain issues and the changing nature of manufacturing are putting even more pressure on employers to win the global competition for talent and make Canada a preferred destination for future investment.

Access to a large, skilled workforce is critical to the output, productivity and growth of manufacturers and the sector. This is further demonstrated by the federal and provincial government increasing investments in training and apprenticeship initiatives to increase the supply of skilled workers. Yet according to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association, more than 85% of manufacturers struggle to fill vacancies.

Manufacturers are ramping up recruitment efforts by seeking under-represented groups (namely women), increasing use of employment agencies, and relying on immigration. With 55% planning to hire more in the third quarter of 2022 – the highest industry hiring outlook in Canada – manufacturers can enhance the workplace culture to match and amplify the industry’s rapid modernization to attract attention from top talent.

Like the correlation between employee engagement and retention, recruitment strategies are more effective when backed by strong attraction drivers. Enhancing the workplace culture with what workers want – more focus on holistic wellbeing, financial wellness benefits, and corporate social values – as part of the overall employee experience in the innovating industry could set smaller and growing manufacturers apart as employers of choice, especially when competing with large global brands. These rewarding benefits signal to job seekers that the company will go beyond the paycheque to invest in employee wellbeing.


Workers are prioritizing holistic wellness and long-term financial security when choosing employers, particularly among younger demographics. Not only are they concerned about the cost of living impacting their ability to save for retirement (85%) and afford day-to-day expenditures (88%), but they also believe that all employers should contribute in some way towards pensions for all workers (77%). In fact, among those under the age of 35, finding a job with a defined benefit (DB) pension plan is considered the most effective way to save for retirement.

Employers have started to recruit for retirement by capitalizing on this once highly attractive cornerstone of the employee experience. Even more important in today’s economic climate, benefits that help workers save efficiently towards predictable lifetime retirement income can reignite interest in Canada’s industrial workforce, building loyalty, enhancing retention, and boosting the bottom line by lowering turnover costs. While DB pensions have been trending downwards in the private sector over recent decades due to balance sheet volatility, modern fixed-cost DB pensions that solve historical issues are growing, including in the private sector.

Organizations can also capitalize on the manufacturing sector’s digitization to overcome myths that may pose barriers when recruiting top talent. Digital transformations underway to integrate artificial intelligence, cloud technology and advanced data utilization are introducing technologies that pique interest from young job seekers. Renewed systems and increasingly retrofitted facilities represent homegrown innovations and potential opportunities for sustainability strategies, which further shape attractive workplaces for young workers who tend to be more values-driven when selecting employers than their predecessors.

From my conversations with leaders about production recovery, including former president of George Brown College, Anne Sado, the industry is evolving quickly with promising opportunities for young, skilled workers. While more upskilling and training are much needed to close the skills gap, manufacturers can expand their applicant pool by enhancing the workplace culture with attractive features that meet the evolving needs of young workers and demonstrate a long-term commitment to supporting career growth in the sector.


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