Help wanted: P.E.I. manufacturer scrambles to find workers after expansion

Business is booming for Charlottetown Metal Products, and the company is having trouble finding qualified workers. 

In spite of the pandemic, Charlottetown Metal Products is hiring

Charlottetown Metal Products is looking to hire 20 welder fitter fabricators and five senior designers. (Kevin Morgan)

Business is booming for Charlottetown Metal Products, and the company is having trouble finding qualified workers. 

When COVID-19 hit in March, manufacturers in Canada said the future looked bleak as they faced supply chain disruptions and some plants shut down. But not at CMP.

"Demand for our equipment is going through the roof," said James Gillelan, the company's production manager. "The demand for workers to manufacture it and install it is constant." 

The business provides stainless steel food-processing equipment to large companies such as McCain and Cavendish Farms. 

Us being so small in population just means that tradespeople aren't as numerous. We've had to get very creative.— James Gillelan

In early 2019, Charlottetown Metal Products was bought by another company in Richmond, B.C., and underwent an expansion at its plant. 

And there was no slowing down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit — the business was deemed an essential service. 

"We've been truly blessed over the last six to eight months with all the issues with COVID, and, you know, we've been able to grow through this tough time. We've had no layoffs," said Gillelan. 

Right now, the company is looking for 20 welder fitter fabricators to install the equipment, and five senior designers to design it. But they're having trouble filling the positions. 

"P.E.I. is not the biggest province in Canada, and us being so small in population just means that tradespeople aren't as numerous," Gillelan said. 

"We've had to get very creative and we are looking at partnering up with Holland College and UPEI, for example, to understand where the talent is and develop it when it's still in school."

Looking to hire newcomers, women 

The company provides samples to classes at Holland College so students can practice making the kinds of products they would end up making in the professional world. 

James Gillelan, production manager at Charlottetown Metal Products, says the company is having trouble finding qualified workers, despite partnering with both Holland College and UPEI. (Simon Reid)

"That gives the students the opportunity to practice on stainless steel products that we're manufacturing here, so that when they make the transition from school to the workplace, it's not all foreign to them," said Gillelan. 

The company has also explored other avenues for hiring. 

"We've also looked at, you know, newcomers coming to Prince Edward Island. They've been a good fit for us, too. And women in the trades is also another good avenue that we've found for providing us with talent," said Gillelan. 

'Do whatever we need to do'

He said that the company won't have any trouble completing its orders despite the struggle to hire workers. 

The company uses strategies such as overtime work, building efficiencies into the manufacturing process and sometimes adjusting delivery dates. 

"And if we have to, partnering up with local fabricators to ensure that we have the products ready when we need to deliver is critical, and we do whatever we need to do to make it work," said Gillelan. 

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Angela Walker


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