Jim Jarrell
President & COO - Linamar
Part of the Spotlight on the Forces Shaping the Future of Work

The Future of Canada’s Manufacturing Sector and Workforce


  1. Globalization, emerging and disruptive technologies, and the addition of millennials to the workforce are the key trends shaping the future of work.
  2. Companies need to be flexible and commit time and money to retraining, reskilling and adapting their production to meet future workforce demands.
  3. The manufacturing industry should collaborate more with academia to trade on fresh ideas and ensure students are prepared to enter the industry.


Canada should continue manufacturing within the country because it leads to economic growth and prosperity for our businesses and communities. Governments should incent businesses to manufacture in Canada and reduce red tape. Finally, we need to ensure the top talent in our country is trading on ideas and information, to ensure that everyone in the economy moves forward together.

What are the biggest forces shaping the future of work and skills development in Canada? How and why must Canada adapt to these emerging forces?

In general, a major trend is globalization—that has been going on for some time—and a lot of people are concerned that with COVID-19 that that may go away, but globalization is a really key trend that we are all going to deal with.

Connectivity and communication skills around the world are another really important aspect to get a handle on. There is no question that millennials and young people coming into the workforce have a completely different way of thinking about a problem, work time, et cetera—so there are big issues in regard to that as well.

Ultimately, another one would be new technologies, which is a pretty easy thing to understand with machine learning and robotics. We have hundreds of things inside Linamar that we are working on in this area.

Specifically, on manufacturing and skills development, this term “factory of the future” with big data is a critical thing that is on many minds. How does that adapt our supply chains globally? And how do excite people to get into the skilled work world? You have to create a passion because it is very difficult for young people to feel that passion.

“To me it is pretty simple: you will not compete if you do not recognize there is a challenge.”

In general, first and foremost, we have to look in the mirror and recognize there is a problem and a challenge. Often that sounds easy, but people get complacent and you do not really see things happening. That is number one if we are going to compete in a global marketplace, otherwise we will not catch up. To me it is pretty simple: you will not compete if you do not recognize there is a challenge.

How can our governments, schools, businesses, employers and employees adapt to these new realities?

In general, there are just few important aspects that have to adapt for this, and one would be that we have to be flexible. Again, it sounds simple but for a big business or big government, how do you keep it nimble and flexible? To me, that ultimately will be the driver of this.

“We must not forget about the people who have been working for many years and will need to retrain.”

Certainly, we have to invest as a company—and the government, and all stakeholders also need to invest as well. Training is really critical. Training to me is going to be critical to young people so that they understand these trends and the skills that are required. Also, we must not forget about the people who have been working for many years and will need to retrain, and we will have to get them retrained. There needs to be a fundamental attitude of flexibility combined with an investment into training with money and time.

How do you see the disruption within the manufacturing industry caused by machine learning and robotics evolving? Is Canada’s manufacturing sector and workforce ready for this evolution?

We are getting ready for it. There are a lot of things that we do not know about technology or where this will go. I think people are ready, but I don’t think we know exactly how to be ready yet, however, there is definitely a desire for this evolution.

The big driver of this is really big data and getting the data first. With artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and these technologies, it is all about clean, quality data with which machines can can learn and repeat, over and over again. If you have that clean data to start, then you could really move down the road. Because it is all about cheaply predicting the outcomes of performance. That is what this is really about with regard to machine learning or AI.

Ultimately, if we can get people around that, I think there will be new types of jobs that will come at us there will also be more room for expansion and growth and prosperity for our workforce. But it all comes back to getting tons and tons of data so that the machines can learn and apply this cheap prediction model that is critical.

How can small- and medium-sized enterprises leverage these advances as well?

To me, you create a big brother, big sister program almost to line up Linamar, with two or three smaller manufacturing companies that we could work with to ensure that those companies are also being able to work on those global trends because that will impact all of us.

How should stakeholders collaborate to identify and cultivate the skills our future workforce will need?

It is a great area and I think it needs a lot of discussion. When you talk about stakeholders, I am thinking about businesses, government and schools, and at Linamar, there are a few things that we do that are pretty interesting. We do co-ops and placements. We do hundreds of these things a year and it is so fascinating to have these young people come in. It really helps us with our thinking, and we get things going forward.

“When you can create things like workshops or case studies and align them with the academic side, government can become a conduit to make sure that information is being shared.”

We also do research projects, which we have done in conjunction with universities or colleges.  We actually have developed co-curriculums, so you get curriculums thinking as well; advisory roles, where I sit on an advisory role at a business school here at the University of Guelph, and vice versa, we have advisory roles coming into businesses as well. When you can create things like workshops or case studies and align them with the academic side, government can become a conduit to make sure that information is being shared.

Those are a few things that we do at Linamar, but there are probably hundreds of innovative solutions. Ultimately, you have to be flexible in the approach because it is not one stop shopping for everything on this.

What do you say to individuals who may not speak English as their first language, have done many years of physical work, and may not have a degree or education?

We have to get some retraining and skill upgrading going on immediately. Again, a company needs to offer that. If a company is not offering that or a company is not trying to grow beyond that, I think that company is going to be left behind. If you say to an employee that you will never speak, and they can lave, then they may decide to run out, and you will never get that upgraded program.

Ultimately, what is going on with AI and cheap predictability, is that people want to pay less. At the end of the day, we are not doing this just for the fun of it—businesses are doing this because it is aggressive out there. Because of globalization, which is a key trend, we are competing against people in India. How much are they getting paid per hour? We do not want to pay that over here, so we have to be smarter and upgrade through this technology.

“Ultimately, what is going on with AI and cheap predictability, is that people want to pay less.”

I would go to that employee and say let us upgrade your skills, here is a pathway. As an employer I should make sure you want to stay on this team. It is really important that both sides do it—the employer and the employee have to connect the dots. I would also say it is up to you, I cannot push it on you, you have to make your own decision to be able to upgrade to the new level of technology.

But I have to offer the training program, I have to pay for that training program because I am going to need that new skilled worker. The incentive is you are going to make some more money on that, you are going to have a better skill level that you can bring forward, and that just moves the whole system up.

What is your pitch on how to improve the competitiveness of Canada’s workforce?

I am really strong believer in making things in our country. Manufacturing things in our country will create prosperity, security, and growth for our whole society and community—that would be number one.

Secondly, incent people and businesses to manufacture within Canada—and you do that though taxes. Make sure your taxes and regulations are globally benchmarked and that you are offering the best place to do business, because that is critical. Often around the world, I have seen jurisdictions roll out the red carpet and sometimes here, we put out red tape. You have to benchmark manufacturers around the world to really know what you are up against. Until you know that, how can you actually create a competitive environment? I would suggest that is very important.

“I have seen jurisdictions roll out the red carpet and sometimes here, we put out red tape.”

We also need to reward innovation and have that flourish in our economy because we have no idea what is coming at us, but we have to have a lot of failures to get some successes. Finally, we should create a top talent culture and economy. We need to make sure that top talents are communicating and sharing, so that we can move our economy forward together.

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Jim Jarrell
President & COO - Linamar

Bio: Jim Jarrell joined Linamar in June of 1991 as the Director of Marketing, and was promoted to the position of Chief Operating Officer in 1999. He is also responsible for the Linamar Sales Department. Jim was appointed to the position of President of Linamar in 2004.


Organization Profile: Linamar Corporation is a publicly traded Canadian manufacturing company that operates worldwide. It is Canada’s second largest automobile parts manufacturer and it supplies products to the automotive and industrial markets.