How we got started
With the support of the Government of Canada, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) have a successful record of collaboration that goes back over 30 years. The partnership started in 1984 with the formation of the Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre and continued in 1996 with the creation of the Canadian Labour and Business Centre. In recent years, the CLC and CME formed the Joint Venture Committee (JVC) to work together on a variety of innovative projects related to workplace training, given the looming crisis of retirements from the workforce by the boomer generation and the need for gearing up the development of the pipeline for new workers.
Lessons from the Roundtables on Workforce Skills
In 2010, The Minister of Employment and Skills Development Canada asked the JVC to organize five national Roundtables on Workforce Skills that would be led by a tri-partite agreement between the CLC, CME, and the Government of Canada. By inviting senior industry and labour leaders, they wanted to understand the issues concerning skills development, job mobility, apprenticeship training, and, other aspects of workforce development on which they could work together.
One of the significant outcomes of the Roundtables was universal agreement on the need for standards in manufacturing to support skills development in the sector. There is ample evidence to support the need for the development of work-based, employer and union-supported standards: According to the HRSDC study, “Looking-Ahead: A 10-Year Outlook for the Canadian Labour Market (2006-2015)”, there is, and will continue to be, a significant demand for manufacturing managers due to retirements and labour market development.
In addition to the need for supervisors and managers, workers on the shop floor are working in an environment quite different to the one in which they worked over a decade ago: the move to lean manufacturing has had an impact on all levels of the organization. Moreover, the introduction of more sophisticated technology and workplace restructuring in the manufacturing sector has made it critical for its production workforce to acquire increased technical skills, and, often, the required essential skills set as a building block for more technical training.
The birth of CertWORK+
In Canada, the JVC received funding to develop CertWORK+, an integrated system of standards, competencies, and performance indicators that covered six positions in operations: Manager, Supervisor, Lead Hand, Machine Operator, Assembler, and, Material Handler.
The system of standards and competencies was based on the excellent CertWORK program from the Centre for Education and Work in Manitoba. It had been originally been developed to help immigrants with management experience from their home country “Canadianize” their expertise for the Canadian manufacturing industry. It was based on a Prior Learning and Recognition (PLAR) model. The addition of Production Worker standards made a full complement of occupations in manufacturing operations. The new standards and competencies were validated by nationally by employers and unions.
In the United States, the National Association of Manufacturers, recognizing the same needs, contracted with the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC) to develop standards for entry level positions in manufacturing, resulting in the creation of the Certified Production Technician certificate.
Once it was known that the U.S. and Canada were on the same path regarding standards, the MSSC analyzed the CertWORK+ production worker positions and found them to be virtually the same. It was agreed that Canada and the US would sign an MOU, agreeing that the standards were equivalent, thus providing Canadian industry and labour international recognition of the CertWORK+ standards for workers who became certified.