Premier Ford in London with Monte McNaughton

The Ontario government has announced two projects officials said will help over 360 people land full-time jobs in the province’s growing automotive manufacturing sector.

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford learned about transmission part production at Transform Automotive in London, Ont., and said his government is showing “lots of love” to southwestern Ontario.

The tour came moments before an announcement from the province in which $4.7-million in free training will be invested towards new auto workers.

NEW TRAINING FOR AUTOMOTIVE WORKERS

According to a release from the province, “The free programs will provide participants with skills for rewarding careers in machine operation, assembly, quality control, and logistics while also preparing automotive technicians and those interested in the industry for work in the emerging electric vehicle field .”

The first project, managed by the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), will include three-month paid job placements through their network of more than 300 members.

Jobseekers will complete online and hands-on training focused on manufacturing essentials, health and safety, effective oral communication, planning, troubleshooting and other critical industry skills.

After completing the program, each participant will transition into full-time employment.

The second project, managed by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA), will help 90 technicians and 70 jobseekers gain the skills needed to transition and launch their careers in the electric vehicle industry.

“Careers in the auto sector are meaningful, well-paying, and for many people, offer a path to a better life,” Minister of Labor, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton said in the release. “Our government will continue to invest in innovative training programs that help people gain the skills they need to land life-changing jobs so they can earn bigger paychecks for themselves and their families.”

Training will be offered at Conestoga College (Guelph Campus), Fanshawe College (London Campus) and St. Lawrence College (Cornwall Campus) and will consist of in-person classroom and shop components.

The $4.7-million being invested into these projects are funded through the government’s Skills Development Fund.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is seen at Transform Automotive in London, Ont. on May 24, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

TACKLING THE WORKER SHORTAGE

Ford said he hopes it will ease the province’s worker shortage, but added that “there are still about 380,000 unfulfilled jobs everyday” — many of these positions are in the automotive sector.

“In auto parts we think there is a shortage of about 10,000 people on a permanent basis,” explained Flavio Volpe of the Automotive Parts Manufactures Association.

Speaking with workers at Transform Automotive, the shortage was evident, and workers said there weren’t enough people entering the industry.

Job training is just one piece of the automotive agenda between London, St. Thomas and Windsor, and it’s something the Ford government is well aware of.

The St. Thomas Volkswagen battery plant and Stellantis battery plant in Windsor will lead the transformation, but both projects are not without their challenges.

During Wednesday’s announcement, Ford said routes between London and St. Thomas will see significant highway upgrades. Currently, Highbury Avenue, Wellington Road and Colonel Talbot Road are only twinned in a few sections.

“Because you can’t have a massive auto parts manufacturer like Transform, or down the road like Volkswagen, and don’t have proper roads,” said Ford.

STELLANTIS BATTERY PLANT HANGS IN LIMBO

Ford’s announcement on training more auto workers comes on the heels of Stellantis pausing construction of its EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont.

When asked about where the deal stood, Ford blamed the federal government for the political crisis jeopardizing the plant.

As previously reported, Stellantis said, “the Canadian Government has not delivered on what was agreed to therefore Stellantis and LG Energy Solution will begin implementing their contingency plans.”

Ford previously responded in the halls of the legislature and said, “Hopefully, the federal government will step up and I’m always willing to work collaboratively with them, just like we have with all the other auto deals.”

Volpe is however optimistic, and expects the situation to be dealt with soon.

“We’re going to see a resolution on this the next few days. Stellantis is committed to Windsor and so is [the] provincial and federal government,” he said.

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