25/07/2024 6:15 PM

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Exceptional automotive

Canadian auto parts firms say they have jobs for Ukrainian refugees

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Canadian automotive companies are ready and willing to hire hundreds of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion of their country by Russia.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), said Friday the firms “could probably place 500 people” if Ottawa can help them get to Canada.

“This applies to refugees into Canada from every country,” he said, noting Russia’s war against Ukraine led to this “special appeal.”

“We are all Afghans, we’re all Syrians, we’re all Ukrainians. We all become Canadian when we get here,” said Volpe, the son of an immigrant who arrived from battle-ravaged Italy after the Second World War.

“You sit here and you watch the news and you feel helpless and you wonder, ‘What can you do?’”

Volpe noted Ontario has a severe “labour shortage” and the province has determined that some 300,000 jobs need to be filled.

“We think we have a 10 per cent shortage in the (auto-parts) industry,” he said.

Last week, Premier Doug Ford said the province was “working collaboratively” with the federal government to help Ukrainian refugees once they escape the war zone.

“If we can get the people here, we’ll take care of them — and we need lots of people, because the economy is really moving forward,” Ford told reporters on Feb. 28.

The premier said Ontario could easily accept 50,000 to 100,000 or “whatever amount you can get over here.”

“You have a home here and we’re going to take care of you here. There’s employment here, so I just have to get these people to Ontario as quickly as possible.”

Volpe emphasized the auto-parts manufacturers “are looking for skilled and unskilled workers” and can train refugees for their new jobs.

In December, the APMA won an award from the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion and Advancement, which helps racialized people in the auto industry.

Last year, Canadian auto-parts firms partnered with governments and community groups on a $7 million equity, diversity and inclusion fund to “remove barriers that equity-seeking groups face in gaining employment.”

With the backing of provincial Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, that initiative helped some 800 people from diverse background into well-paying auto-sector jobs.

The program is designed for under-represented groups in the automotive industry such as women, Black and Indigenous people, other people of colour and the disabled.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie



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