Story by Jennifer Cameron
In Halifax there is a huge demand for machinists. These people are experts in the machining of various raw materials to create custom machined components from customer engineered drawings. According to Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour and Advanced Education, the number of employed machinists is up nearly nine per cent from the previous year and employers are projecting another 41 per cent growth in the next three years, not including additional opportunities for machinists associated with the 30 year Irving shipbuilding contract.
“Because of this shortage, we were all competing against one another. Companies were recruiting machinists from other companies but it wasn’t solving the problem,” said Ron Marks, president of Techtronics Machine Works Ltd.
The long-term solution was to recruit more students into NSCC’s machining program. Having worked with Greater Halifax Partnership’s SmartBusiness team on a number of growth strategies, from gaining ISO certification to accessing government programs to assisting in the acquisition of capital equipment, Techtronics Machine Works approached the Partnership for help with their labour issue.
Greater Halifax Partnership brokered a meeting at the request of three local machine shops, MacKenzie Atlantic Tool and Die, Advanced Precision, and Techtronics Machine Works Limited to discuss industry needs directly with NSCC and the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education. This led to the formation of the Machining Association of Nova Scotia (M.A.N.S.) and now 71 companies, including Irving Shipyard, come together as an industry and address issues collaboratively.
“For us, Greater Halifax Partnership was like the spoke at the hub of the wheel, helping us connect to the right people. Today, our industry is organized and we are directly contributing to the training of machinists that we will hire,” said Marks.
Training includes conventional hand-controlled machining and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) for more efficient machining of complex work. M.A.N.S. is pursuing a 3 phase approach with NSCC and the NS Department of Labour and Advanced Education; the first is to revise the machining apprenticeship curriculum (well underway); the second is to review NSCC’s curriculum with the third major thrust being the reinstatement of a machining program in metro Halifax to ensure there are graduates to meet current and projected industry needs.
With 28 employees and looking to hire more, Techtronics Machine Works Ltd. specializes in precise machining for prototyping, production work and customized jobs for the marine, aerospace, defence, and communications industries. Between 2006 and 2012, the shop has pursued an aggressive growth strategy, having invested $2 million in machinery and to expand its manufacturing facility to 9,000 sq.ft.
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