Camosun College will be ground zero for the advanced manufacturing sector this month, as the industry comes together with its constituent stakeholders for Innovate 2017.
Designed to highlight the issues the industry faces and discuss possible solutions, the one-day event on Oct. 24 will be a step toward improved collaboration within the industry and with training and education partners.
“They want to gather and meet, organize and talk about the issues they have — and figure out how to solve them,” said organizer John Juricic, owner of Harbour Digital Media. “Getting people to talk about them is key. This showcase, the one-day symposium, is the first attempt at gathering people to start to talk about these issues,” said Juricic, who has been studying and consulting with the manufacturing sector on the Island for years.
At the top of the agenda is discussing how to better integrate innovation into the workforce and into company operations, and seeing what impact that could have on the labour force.
“We want a dynamic conversation about this, about growing the industry and increasing employment,” Juricic said.
The showcase has booked four keynote speakers: Bill Collins of Quester Tangent, Dave Curtis of Viking Air, Tim Walzack from Camosun and Doug Pauze of Coastland Wood Industries. They will talk about the issues manufacturers face and how they’re being dealt with.
There will be a panel discussion and back-and-forth to allow for an exchange of ideas on best practices and solutions.
Curtis, Viking’s chief executive, said the forum to share ideas is essential for the industry, as each Island company faces a series of shared challenges. They include connectivity with the outside world, cost of living, labour shortages and transportation costs to get products on and off the Island.
“As a group, whether it’s the [manufacturing associations or industry organizations], training, attracting and retaining a skilled workforce is top of mind,” Curtis said, noting his company is always looking for ways to shorten the training cycle and to attract new people.
Curtis said that’s what his keynote will focus on, as well as telling Viking’s story and the impact various global factors have had on its production.
The company, which manufactures Twin Otter aircraft, is in the midst of growing pains.
It is both dealing with a production pause — it laid off more than 200 employees in the spring and is only now starting to hire people back — while it continues to explore the possibility of expanding its production to include the CL-415 water bomber, which until 2015 was manufactured by Bombardier.
The addition of the water bomber to Viking’s production line could mean 900 new jobs. Curtis said they are working on the business plan and expect to approach Viking’s board for a “green light” early in the new year.
Juricic said that alongside manufacturers, the showcase will attract economic development groups, human resources professionals, consultants and education institutions.
So far, 80 people have registered for the event. There are tickets available for 120.
The conference will be live-streamed for those unable to make it to Victoria. More information is available at: mfgcln.com/conference-agenda/.