Companies hope to attract talent with more perks and training opportunities

It takes more than fat salaries to recruit talented workers in a market where skills shortages leave local companies scrambling to fill vacancies.

A jobs fair Tuesday in downtown Mississauga showed that companies and recruiters need to offer potential new hires everything from benefits and health services to training, creativity and career advancement.

Even in a sluggish economy, companies worry that the skills shortage will squeeze future growth, especially as more and more people retire over the next decade or so. For IT, biotech, engineering and specialized manufacturers in Mississauga and Brampton, the need for skilled workers is their top challenge.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce estimates about 100,000 skilled jobs can’t be filled in the province, even as the jobless rate hangs around eight per cent.

At Brampton’s Peel Plastic Products Ltd., the packaging maker’s flexible approach towards innovation is the biggest draw for potential hires.

Human resources manager Diana Suppa told at the Sheridan College jobs fair the company’s R&D department has lured new employees by showcasing its success in developing new patents.

In addition to such research opportunities, general manager David Troost said Peel Plastic also actively encourages its employees to innovate outside regular responsibilities.

“It’s all about making sure you give people that breather and that chance to spend a little bit of time to think of ways to do something differently,” he explained.

For power plant turbine maker Voith Hydro Inc., the company’s family atmosphere is a big draw. “We’re very close to our employees,” said talent acquisition manager Sandrine Vergracht.

Mechanical engineer Nelson Moleiro said it was both the competitive salary and the opportunity to work on specialized projects that interested him personally, like the company’s heavy equipment design and power generation design, that drew him to Voith.

Vergracht said there are also numerous training and personal development opportunities. “We do some exchanges with our subsidiaries,” she said, citing the company’s 18-month international trainee program for junior engineers. “And a lot of employees are going to work in Brazil or China.”

At the end of the day, Troost said many potential hires are looking for stability. “As we’ve watched manufacturing jobs move to the United States year after year, here we are doing the opposite, continuing to grow and recruit,” he said. “Moving to a bigger company does not necessarily mean job security for a Canadian engineer or a Canadian student.”

Peel Plastic is a privately-held business on Rutherford Road South. The company makes re-sealable packaging primarily for pet food, health products, lawn care companies and others. They employ 260 people and are currently looking to hire 20 additional staff.

Headquartered in Germany, family-owned Voith Hydro Inc. is a joint venture between Voith and Siemens. The company’s turbines and generators produce a third of the world’s hydroelectric power. Voith Hydro employs 300 people in Canada, 130 of them located at their Mississauga office on North Sheridan Way.

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