Roughly 10,000 baby boomers retire every day in North America, millennials are transforming the dynamics of today’s job market, and about 75 percent of current jobs will no longer exist by 2040. Moreover, the tools we will need to get the new jobs done have yet to be invented. But that is not all: the Canadian industry faces skills shortages, which in turn will cost the economy billions of dollars each year. Adding insult to injury is the declining birth rate in G7 countries. All Western economies are facing similar labor force challenges.

A case in point is Ontario, Canada’s largest province of 14 million people, and a strong contributor to the Canadian economy. In 2013, citing a comprehensive study on skills shortages, the widely respected Conference Board of Canada reported that the province would lose out on more than C$24 billion in economic activity and nearly C$4 billion in provincial tax revenues each year because “employers could not find people with the skills they need to innovate and grow in the current economy.”

Those results corroborated the report by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on Canada’s Skills Gap in 2012, which revealed that employers’ most needed post-secondary graduates in science, engineering, technology, business and finance are not keeping pace with demand. The most widespread needs are for employees with two- or three-year college diplomas (57 percent); four-year degrees (44 percent); and trades (41 percent). Estimates show that 40 percent of new jobs will be in the skilled trades and technologies between now and 2035 -more than double of what was reported in 1998. There is resounding evidence that the challenge is real and likely getting worse as the population ages and available workers far exceed those needed to fill vacancies. Sadly, the baby boom predictions of 20 years ago are now proving true.

How do the millennials fit into this picture of skills shortages? They clearly do not view the labor market in the same way as boomers do. Recent studies suggest millennials are committed to short-tenure positions and greater mobility compared to boomers who favour long-term employment with a particular organization. Millennials’ priorities include working for companies that are not simply focused on profit but that have a strong commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. A telling concern for the coatings sector is that millennials rank manufacturing and insurance at the bottom of the list of professions with the most desirable careers.

Many companies are addressing the skills gap in various ways, and associations, for their part, can be an important part of the solution by raising awareness of the many positive aspects of job prospects in the coatings sector. We must continue to tell that positive story to attract the best and brightest entering the job market.

Over the last five years, studies have shown that “careers and professional development” has ranked third highest among all types of information sought by association members, trailing only “industry news” and “advocacy.” New job seekers also use career centres and job networks as sources for employment leads. Members have also expressed their desire to see students become more aware of industry and the benefits it offers. This is possible by establishing strong linkages with universities and colleges as a valuable source of job prospects.

The time for talk is over. Given the persistent discussion about the growing skills shortage in Canada, CPCA is rolling out a Human Resources and Skills Development program for members to help support their individual staffing challenges and to increase awareness of the industry as an attractive place to work. The coatings industry is not a one-dimensional world; diverse job opportunities exist in multiple sectors. Industry has helped mitigate the need for costly recruitment by providing specific, in-house training courses for skills development. More focus in this area by the coatings industry will put us at the forefront of the fierce competition that is already underway for the strongest contenders entering the workforce.

CPCA’s existing Coatings Technology Training Course ( is one example of helping attract new entrants to the industry. Job enrichment should be part of a person’s life-learning experience, and training can save companies time and money. CPCA seeks to play an instrumental role in helping its members find ways to attract qualified people to the coatings industry and effectively compete in a shrinking workforce.