Canadian Manufacturing

BioTalent Canada report shows plenty of opportunity but not enough workers

The reports note that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed significant gaps in the Canadian bio-economy, particularly in bio-manufacturing and processing capacity.

December 13, 2021  by CM Staff

OTTAWA — The bio-economy is poised to create jobs, but the current pipeline for those positions is three-quarters empty, according to a new report by BioTalent Canada.

This was the conclusion of an unprecedented labour market study by BioTalent Canada released this fall. on Dec. 13, the organization released eight reports that unpack the current landscape, trends, challenges, and opportunities facing each region.

The report on Ontario — and an accompanying report on the Greater Toronto Area — conclude the region will require another 24,500 bio-economy workers by 2029. However, current estimates indicate there will not be enough people to meet labour demands, and significant pressure exists now and will mount throughout the decade. Ontario companies will be challenged to fill positions due in part to a highly competitive labour market and an ongoing lack of capital to attract and retain candidates.

The reports note that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed significant gaps in the Canadian bio-economy, particularly in bio-manufacturing and processing capacity, which saw Canada initially unable to produce sufficient protective equipment and having no domestic capacity to develop and manufacture vaccines. Efforts to close this gap could be hampered by a lack of qualified labour, especially in a province like Ontario seeking to expand its manufacturing sector.

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Estimates suggest Ontario will need an additional 5,820 bio-manufacturing workers by 2029 (2,170 in bio-health manufacturing alone) even without considering expansion growth due to recently announced investments. Only 25% of those positions will be fillable by predicted supply during this period.

“Naturally, as the country’s largest region, the talent need is greatest in Ontario,” says BioTalent President and CEO Rob Henderson. “The industry has to develop new strategies focused on breaking down barriers to entry for recent immigrants, Indigenous workers and workers with disabilities — all of whom are seriously under-represented in the bio-economy today. That starts with improving human resources capacity and practices within bio-economy companies.”

Other notable findings in the Ontario regional analysis:

  • Ontario accounts for 36% of Canada’s bio-economy, with 4,100 organizations – mainly small and medium-sized businesses – collectively employing about 75,000 people in 2019.
  • The Ontario bio-economy workforce covers a wide range of occupations, with research & development and manufacturing accounting for nearly half of all jobs.
  • Following expansion in 2020 and a slight downturn in 2021, employment in the Ontario bio-economy is expected to grow by 1.3% annually in the short term and 1.1% over the medium/longer term.
  • Ontario is home to a high proportion of Canada’s post-secondary programs related to the bio-economy. In 2016-2017, more than one-third of Canada’s master’s and doctorate students and nearly half of undergraduate students in bio-economy related programs were enrolled in Ontario institutions.


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