Foreign workers a ‘godsend’
22 Oct 2014
Foreign workers a ‘godsend’
Newcomers in demand at Degelman
A lot has changed since Degelman Industries Ltd., started making rock pickers in company founder Wilf Degelman’s barn in 1962.
Now in its 53rd year of business, Degelman produces a wide range of agricultural and industrial equipment, including bulldozer blades, harrows, and tillage machines, from its 145,000-square-foot plant at 272 Industrial Drive north of Regina.
“In 1965, we moved into our current location and we’ve had about five expansions since then,” said Blair Flavel, general manager of Degelman Industries. “In the last few years, what we’ve been doing is adding a lot of equipment, a lot of robotic welders,” Flavel said.
“We’re trying to get more volume out of our company. We’re working seven days a week, 20 hours a day, Monday to Thursday, and then 12 hour shifts Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We’re currently using about five outside manufacturers to manufacture for us in various parts of Saskatchewan, Alberta and North Dakota,’’ he added.
“So, we’re definitely at capacity. We’re looking at other opportunities to address our capacity issues.”
Besides outsourcing and automation, the other thing Degelman has done to increase its capacity is hire foreign workers.
“We have about 255 employees at this location,” Flavel said. “We have about 200 (workers) on the shop floor and, in the last seven years, we’ve done an enormous amount of recruitment out of the Philippines. We probably have 100 employees and their employees who have immigrated from Manila to Degelman’s,” he said.
“They’ve really been a godsend. They’re experienced. They’ve been well-accepted into the workforce.” Unlike many food service companies and retailers that have used the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, all of Degelman’s foreign workers have been brought to Canada under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP).
“We’re not hiring them for the next 18 months,” Flavel said. “We want these employees to have 25-year rings.”
Jeremy Harrison, minister responsible for trade, immigration, innovation and tourism, said the province would like to see the federal government increase the number of immigrants coming to the province under the SINP.
“What we need are permanent solutions to the labour shortage we have here,” Harrison said. “That means training more of our own folks, investing more in basic adult education and more in apprenticeship, and we’ve done all that. But it also means going abroad for more (foreign workers). That’s why we’ve asked for more SINP allocation from the feds and more from the new Express Entry program.”
Derek Lothian, vice-president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters and executive director of the Saskatchewan Manufacturing Council, who organized the plant tour as part of Manufacturing Month activities, said manufacturers would prefer to hire Canadian workers, but just can’t find them.
“They want to hire Saskatchewanians first and, where that fails, they want to hire Canadians. The immigration system is the last (resort) to get the product out the door.”
Flavel, who’s been with the company for 33 years, added that Degelman used to hire “farm boys” like himself but that source of workers has all but dried up. “That was the crop we were looking and that’s not there anymore.”