REGINA—Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) is pushing for “a comprehensive strategy to nurture” Saskatchewan as a place manufacturers want to do business—and the association has some ideas to make that happen.
Released by its Saskatchewan Manufacturing Council, CME released a five-point action plan tailored to growing the industry in the province through both industry- and government-led initiatives.
The plan, tabled during Saskatchewan Manufacturing Week, calls for new supports to boost productivity performance amid a growing skills gap, enhance the image of manufacturing, better align public investment with the needs of business, ensure a balanced approach to infrastructure renewal and improve the climate for the sector’s overall competitiveness.
In 2012, according to CME, manufacturing employed roughly 27,000 Saskatchewan residents, generating more than $14-billion in sales and close to $45-billion in total economic activity.
“These are more than just numbers; they tell a story of a sector at the forefront of global competition, innovation and technological change,” council executive director Derek Lothian said in a statement. “The companies within it however are also competing with the world’s best. And to succeed, they require a business climate that is equally world-class.”
In A Manufacturing Action Plan for Saskatchewan: Five Steps to Drive Investment, Improve Competitiveness and Create Jobs, the council and CME outline 18 recommendations, including the creation of a centre of manufacturing excellence—something Premier Brad Wall announced last month.
The proposed centre aims to help companies capitalize on an estimated $1-billion in lost sales due to workforce deficiencies and encourage more youth and First Nations to explore career opportunities in manufacturing.
Other recommendations from the council and CME contained in its plan are:
- Establish a strategic investment fund for programming joint partnerships;
- Support the formation of the Saskatchewan Workforce Development Partnership;
- Expand the mandate of the Saskatchewan Youth Apprenticeship program by investing in “education for the educators,” and enhancing public promotion;
- Encourage government to work with industry groups to create a platform for provincial ministers to publicly support manufacturing investment in the province;
- Commit to minimum required industry-related education curriculum for all students in Grades 6 through 10, with an emphasis on providing innovative hands-on learning opportunities;
- Implement an annual consultative review process with both the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission (SATCC) and the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST);
- Incentivize manufacturers, ideally through the introduction of a voucher program or tax credit to better leverage public research and development assets;
- Introduce an apprenticeship training bond to encourage individuals to remain with their employers after journeyperson status has been achieved;
- Create 500 new apprenticeship spots by 2015;
- Limit non-essential Crown Corporation spending to ensure utility rates are benchmarked and globally competitive;
- Proactively support Saskatchewan manufacturers in the identification and preparation of Crown procurement opportunities;
- Expand the mandate of the new SaskBuilds Fund to reduce the financial burden facing municipalities that are investing in large capital growth projects;
- Continue to support the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) Authority to promote the GTH, its value proposition and its available services to small- and medium-sized manufacturers, both in Saskatchewan and across Canada;
- Continuously evaluate municipal and provincial spend ing efficiencies to limit tax creep and ensure manufacturers have access to the services they need to be successful;
- Establish a one-window access point to assist new residents with both employment and non-employment relocation processes, such as the recognition of certifications and the transfer of health insurance;
- Transition the Manufacturing & Processing Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to include installation and proprietary upgrades only, and remove the provincial sales tax (PST) from both new and used production machinery and equipment; and
- Expand the mandate of the Saskatchewan Trade & Export Partnership (STEP) with new strategic funding commitments through 2020
“The reality is that other jurisdictions are moving aggressively to develop their value-added manufacturing base and create high-paying jobs,” Lothian said, pointing out that the sector pays wages, on average, 15 per cent higher than the provincial average.
“These are the types of jobs driving our communities—both urban and rural. Saskatchewan manufacturers have the products, the ingenuity and the passion to the lead the world; our job is to ensure they have to tools they need to make that happen.”