Despite uncertainty stemming from the US election results, January was a bumper month for Canadian manufacturing, according to Statistics Canada. With manufacturing sales rising to their highest on record, and shipments of car parts, motor vehicles and food all surging, $53.1 billion worth of goods was sold in January from Canadian factories – an increase of 2.3 per cent on December. This news provides a welcome boost for the Canadian economy, which is still recovering from recession, and is hopefully an event that foreshadows better f things to come.
The low value of the loonie was a significant factor in increased vehicle sales – which increased 9.6% to $6.6. billion; the highest level in almost two decades. The volume of goods also seem to be returning to its highs before the recession, such as an increase in luxury car sales; something that can’t be explained completely by the loonie’s low value. Car parts rose to $2.7 billion, a 4% increase, and food sales also rose 4.6% in January to their highest level ever, that being $8.4 billion. The US also saw similar success, with manufacturing sales soaring to a 2-year high.
The news wasn’t good for everyone, though: the TSX suffered some losses in January, due in large part to energy stocks falling after uranium producer Cameco posted a negative outlook. As the company warned that analyst estimates were too high based on a weak uranium market, it also released news that it was planning to cut up to 120 jobs at three of its uranium mines in 2017. This created a ripple effect, causing a fall in its stock price and a knock-on effect to the stock prices of other energy companies. The layoffs will be completed by the end of May, and are necessary partly because Cameco lost a key uranium supply contract with Tokyo Electric Power, triggering a profits warning and concern about the company’s future.
As noted above, despite the Bank of Canada warning of ‘serious consequences’ if new US President Donald Trump enacts protectionist policies, so far this does not seem to be materializing. An interest rate cut remains on the table, however, if this shows any sign of changing. Financial stocks have rallied since November on expectations of reduced regulations under the new US administration, so this is one sector that is optimistic about future prospects for growth.
With uncertainty hitting primary resource production, and manufacturing output reaching such soaring highs, it’s more important than ever to make sure that workers are prepared for the upcoming revolution in manufacturing, automation, robotics and machine learning. While factory profits may be up, jobs aren’t necessarily going to follow it unless those jobs are trained technical workers like automation or Electromechanical Technicians. As human labour is replaced with sophisticated machines, skilled human workers will still be needed to repair, replace and maintain the factories’ equipment.
Of course, such skills are not usually taught in public schools, and the amount of skilled labour that will be needed as times change is larger than the pool that currently exists. Adult education using online technology courses is a growing part of the transition to the new economy, as workers who are unable to find a job can retrain themselves to be well-positioned for the future. Change can be difficult for many people who have been locked into one job type for a while, but such courses are an ideal way to update skills without too much outlay.
George Brown College offers courses that provide a certificate of completion and comprehensive training to prepare workers for jobs in the automated manufacturing industry. Jobs like PLC programmers and Robotics Technicians are and will become more highly sought-after, as companies search for highly skilled individuals. With these kinds of skills, employees will be able to take advantage of the current manufacturing boom and not be overwhelmed by the changing world ahead of us.