CKCA helps establish BC pilot training program


CKCA helps establish BC pilot training program specific to kitchen cabinetry 

OTTAWA / May 1, 2023 — The Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association is pleased to be a partner in establishing a Kitchen Cabinet Production Worker (KCPW) recruitment & training program in British Columbia. The Northwest Skills Institute (NWSI) and Kaizen Learning Partners Inc, working in partnership with CKCA, has developed a program that will help participants gain the skills and knowledge needed to be immediately employed within the kitchen cabinet manufacturing industry.

There are considerable labour shortages in the cabinet manufacturing industry in BC, similar to the challenging job market throughout Canada. To explore innovative solutions to this issue, the CKCA program committee began talking about a possible solution to attract and train potential employees. Discussions evolved with NWSI, a well-established industry-focused training association in BC, and with the Chris Leonard from Kaizen Learning Partners. CKCA members in BC provided their input into a NWSI course curriculum that is specific to kitchen cabinetry.

The results is the KCPW training program that is delivered over seven weeks (210 hours) of classroom and wood shop instruction, using hands-on activities. Upon completion of this NWSI program, the participants will have the skills and knowledge of an entry level production worker for any kitchen cabinet manufacturer. Graduates will have foundational workplace skills such as using basic hand and power tools including cutting equipment. They will also obtain the ability to assemble products based on schematics, complete work orders, and ensure quality control.

The program is expected to attract new employees for the industry. Young people and newcomers to Canada will find the program instructive. The KCPW training program will present an accurate view of modern cabinet makers, providing important information for those who are not aware of the employment opportunities with cabinet manufacturers. It provides an overview of the diverse jobs and various careers that are available. Most importantly, the course provides some pre-employment skills training and work experience.

CKCA expects that the experience gained from this BC pilot training program will be helpful in supporting similar programs across the country. CKCA is committed to supporting its members gain an advantage in attracting new employees, especially in these times of critical labour shortages with skilled trades.

CKCA Executive Director Sandra Wood says:
“The Kitchen Cabinet Production Worker training program is the result of a six-month consultation process with our BC members. We are excited to be part of this BC pilot program. The combination of class instruction and hands-on skills training will ensure that the participants can walk into any one of our members’ companies and start work”.

Established in 1968 CKCA is a national trade association representing the kitchen cabinet industry in Canada. CKCA works to inspire progress and innovation in the industry, by promoting excellence, facilitating continuous improvement and working to ensure high standards for design and manufacturing are upheld. If you have any questions or would like more details on this initiative, please contact        Sandra Wood, CKCA Executive Director at 613-493-5858 or

Growth through Culture – Four Key Ingredients

Article prepared by: Amrita Bhogal, People and Culture Leader, Sunrise Kitchens Ltd

Did you get a chance to make your Masala Chai? On the tour at Sunrise Kitchens, Amrita Bhogal, People and Culture Leader and the VP of CKCA, shared with us a special Masala spice blend.

You may be thinking how does Masala Chai connect to manufacturing cabinets?

The recipe of Masala Chai has been passed down through many generations and today families have their own unique spice blend of brewing masala chai. Culture is like masala chai. There are many variations on how to build your organizational culture and to share our process we have identified our top 4 ingredients for our recipe, Growth through Culture.

  1. Respectful Community

An important attribute to building a strong culture is having respect. Some ways you can build a respectful community within your teams is to practice active listening skills. Being an active listener can help you build trust, mutual understanding and empathy with others.  Active listening can break the barrier of listening to any objectives when teams are faced the resistance to change. In LEAN perspective, “walk the Gemba or where the activity is and listen to the people”.

  Furthermore, approaching conflict as a collaborator will also help mitigate those who are most troubled with the changes. Collaborating and understanding where they are coming from will show your team you are willing to listen and be flexible to come to an agreement both are okay with.

2.Encouraging Environment

In order to have an environment that encourages your team to build their careers with your organization, it is important to provide opportunities of training, courses they can enroll in and participate in organizational workshops. Policies can also help streamline career development such as an employee transfer policy that is initiated by the employee.  An open-door policy also allows employees to come in and share their thoughts furthermore, for Managers, Amrita provides a monthly People and Culture Coversation with her management team. This allows managers to build a personal and professional connection along with providing extra support with their teams. Building a comprehensive onboarding program that includes, new hire presentation, safety training, QA training etc. will help new hires transition into the organization.

3. Inclusion, Equality and Diversity

A unique way to share the diversity of the team is to visually represent where your team is from. There are endless ideas how this can be brought to life, a few examples can be in the format of a map on the wall or a pin able globe.  Achieve team cohesiveness through being transparent in your communications such as creating an internal newsletter or having organizational meetings every quarter. Furthermore, making employee focused decisions will help create equality. Lastly, building a two-way communication in majority of conversations will help create collaboration and ownership. Another way this can be achieved is through creating a marriage between self-evaluations and performance reviews.

4. Organization Empowerment

Empowering the organization can take place through many activities. A good place to get started is by embodying company values by setting examples through actions and communications along with positively reinforcing desired values by providing verbal rewards when the employee demonstrates the values. Another empowering action can be to celebrate failures. This will help break down the fear associated with doing some wrong or the worry of termination. It is important to create a safe environment that allows employees to make mistakes and learn from them.  Empowerment can also show up in the form of system integration. Allowing departments to work together and access information when they need it will allow them to make powerful decisions.


Tapping the “Feeder Lanes”

Where do we get the workers? Colleges have been providing our industry with workers for many years. In fact, this was obvious very recently when we toured manufacturers in Waterloo, ON as part of the CKCA National Forum. A number of attendees to the forum commented that they had graduated from Conestoga College. Its obvious that Conestoga College, located in Waterloo,  has done a great job of training and then feeding our industry with trained candidates. But given the shift in the employment market, it’s now even more important to engage with colleges to tap those “feeder lanes” when the opportunities present.

There are many ways to do this and a great example is an initiative Conestoga College started called “Jill of All Trades” which works to introduce students Grades 9-12 to the trades. This program is gaining traction and Cambrian College recently started the program as well.

We spoke to Joni Jean, Chair, Schools of Engineering & Technology and Trades & Apprenticeship at Conestoga College, who explained more about the program.

Jill of All Trades (JOAT) is a Conestoga College initiative, which Conestoga started about 8 years ago. (They were unable to run the event during the pandemic.) The college invites approximately 225 young women from local high schools to participate in the full-day event. This includes a keynote, followed by the opportunity to participate in three hands-on workshops (15 different workshops, including woodworking are typically available) throughout the day, which are led by mentors, many of whom are female. The JOAT videos can found on the following webpage. Be sure to check out the Jill of all Trades video (dated 2018), its a great visual of what takes place.

Conestoga recently trademarked the name and logo in both Canada and the United States. With the support of a national sponsor, the college is providing resources so other colleges, like Cambrian, so they can offer their own JOAT event. Conestoga’s goal is to run events across Canada at 25 separate institutions in 2025, so there will be a handful of events this year, ten or so next year, and so on.

The opportunity lies in the fact the colleges are always seeking sponsors for programs like this as well as people who can assist in delivering these unique programs. In exchange, you get a chance to meet with a demographic you may not otherwise have and you can plant some seeds. While we know students coming from college level are most suitable as employees, we also have to promote our industry to the younger generation who know little to nothing about the trades. Jill of all Trades is focussed on women in the trades, but even so, it’s a successful program you can get involved with.

But that’s not all, many colleges are looking for volunteers to sit on their Program Review Committees as well as participate in their co-op programs and offer placements, plus there are other ways to engage (watch the video presentation with Joni Jean). But one thing you may not have considered is that colleges are suffering from the labour shortage too. Which means they are looking for teachers from the industry. If you can afford a small amount of time on a regular basis to commit to teaching, there’s no better way to meet your future employees.

If you have a local college with programs that can feed your business, reach out to them and see how you can strengthen those ties. Remember, it’s not just woodworkers we need in the industry, so don’t rule out other faculties.

Recently CKCA visited Conestoga College and we met with the Faculty of Design students. It was a great afternoon and whether or not those students knew about kitchen design as a career option – they sure do now!

Watch the presentations:

American #CICM campaign attracting new people to skilled trades careers

Oct 31, 2022

Article prepared by: Chris George, CKCA Communications Consultant, CG&A Communications

Through the month of October, American construction companies conducted a public awareness campaign designed to attract new workers to consider career opportunities in the various skilled trades required in the construction industry.

The expressed goals of Careers in Construction Month (#CICM) are to inspire, recruit, and train the next generation of craft professionals and to shape positive perceptions of a career in construction.

This campaign helps construction companies effectively outreach and promote their job opportunities with attractive social media materials and useful information. And the #CICM appeal is compelling for young people and workers looking to enter the workforce or advance their careers.

The #CICM messages are a calling that is both inviting and promising: Build Your Career. The overarching theme encourages “anyone looking for a profession with life-long learning and limitless potential for growth and advancement to check out construction.”

In a day and age where most people have misconceptions about work in the trades, it is very important to highlight that a career in skilled trades offers a great opportunity. The #CICM campaign emphasizes this point by stating “Construction careers in today’s market are all about high-tech, high-stakes, huge earning potential and the opportunity to travel the world.” One of the catchy campaign taglines suggests the potential for upward mobility: “A career in construction can take you all the way to CEO.”

American companies were encouraged to reach out to local high schools and colleges to introduce themselves, tell their story and provide a glimpse of the career opportunities in construction. They were encouraged to dispel misconceptions by sharing information and data on skilled trades and explaining a student’s route to entry, including education and training contact information.

There are important take aways from this American campaign for the Canadian kitchen cabinet industry. For CKCA members, consider that we have an attractive story to tell students and all who are interested in cabinetry…. Our task is to paint the picture:

  • Given the current job vacancies and the great number of retirees in the next decade, there is a growing demand for skilled trades in jobs that provide good salaries and endless possibilities for career growth.
  • There are so many specialties within the kitchen cabinet industry, something for everyone whether you are creative, mathematically inclined, attentive to detail, wanting to work with your hands, or to acquire technological expertise.
  • When you complete a technical degree, apprenticeship or craft training certificate, you are highly marketable in the job market. And that skilled trade can take you anywhere in Canada or around the world.

Just as the #CICM campaign has, our kitchen cabinet companies must speak directly to the next generation of Canadian workers and inspire them to “Build Your Future.”

CKCA supporting members with their skilled labour shortage concerns

August 2022

Written by Chris George, CG&A Communications and CKCA Communications Advisor

We have all become too familiar with the realities of Canada’s skilled labour shortages. Two-thirds of Canadian businesses struggle to hire workers and a quarter have difficulties retaining employees. Skills Canada documents a 40 per cent shortage in skilled trades today and this is projected to grow as workers age and retire.

Certainly, the country’s skilled labour shortage is impacting all areas of Canada’s business community. Given its critical importance, CKCA is actively supporting its membership by keeping a pulse on the issues at play and by providing tools for members to profile their businesses and attract new employees.

CKCA keeps its members abreast of the latest news, whether it is the data from Statistics Canada Labour Report or a new government program for skilled trades. For example, recently a 2022 StatsCan study was shared that provided current insights into private sector business strategies to deal with personnel recruitment, retention and training.

A 3M Canada survey tells us that there is much work to still be done to attract students to consider a career in skilled trades. Even though 96 per cent agree that the country’s workforce needs more skilled trades workers, three in four Canadians (76 per cent) say they would never pursue a skilled trade for themselves.

This 3M survey also revealed that nine in 10 (92 per cent) believe there is a lot of opportunity in skilled trades, and 91 per cent trust vocational or trade schools to give them the education needed to have a successful career. Eight in 10 (81 per cent) believe they would earn as much money in a skilled trade as they would in a career that requires a university degree.

With this appreciation for skilled trades, it remains a wonder why young people do not consider a career in a trades business. In a recent Forbes Magazine interview, CEO Mark Perna of consulting firm TFS urged employers to target messaging about the value of skilled trade careers to young workers, their parents, friends, classmates and teachers. Also, Perna asserts young people need to know more about the significant financial incentives in pursuing a career in the skilled trades.

On this point, CKCA is supporting its members by developing materials that better describes our businesses and the varied career opportunities within our industry. The Communications Committee is developing presentations for business and community meetings, for student tours, school visits and to share with guidance and career counsellors.

Statistics tell us that skilled labour challenges will be with all trades, manufacturers and retailers for years to come. We must all plan accordingly. CKCA’s efforts on this issue are aimed to give members a competitive advantage when dealing with the attraction and retention of employees.

Kitchen Spot is growing at a comfortable pace

Mustafa Mohammed opened up his new business in May 2021 and decided from the get go to build a solid foundation for his business that will grow steadily. This story demonstrates there are many ways to hire and sometimes a little creativity can go a long way to finding people that you would never think would be interested. It’s a great story for anyone in HR who is hiring and/or looking to grow their company.

Read story here»

CKCA stands with CMC on EI reform

CKCA is a member of the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition (CMC) and attended a recent meeting that invited the EI Employers Commissioner, Nancy Healy to provide an overview of the EI reform currently underway. Proposed changes pose concerns for employers still recovering from the impact of Covid-19.

As a group, the CMC discussed that reform of EI should lessen the burden on employers and not add to it. While there is no question that the EI system is in need of updating (it has been 25 years since the last revisions were done),  the challenges business face in Canada are substantial as we experience unprecedented labour shortages. Most recent statistics revealed there are approximately 1 million jobs in Canada now available and we are at record lows for unemployment rates.

Therefore CKCA, along with a number of other manufacturing industries have written to Government asking for meaningful reform of the EI system that strikes the right balance for the employer and the employee. Consideration must be given for the challenges business currently face. The current plans include passing along some of the EI costs to employers in the form of increased premiums, meanwhile increasing the EI benefits to employees.

EI must be responsive and available to the unemployed workers while they seek other employment, but benefits should not act as a disincentive to work.  The EI system should remain as a temporary job-loss protection program.

Without sufficient workers, industry will be forced to reduce capacity, which our industry is already experiencing, or even worse, face closing. Closed business will diminish the Government’s ability to collect much needed funds to support EI benefits. Increasing business costs continue to threaten business in Canada and our ability to compete globally. The kitchen cabinet sector faces these challenges with the low cost of foreign kitchen cabinet imports. Therefore it is critical that  Government policy and reform of existing systems help to support and strengthen Canadian industry.

We’ll keep you posted on how this progresses in the weeks ahead.

Overview of Government’s Review here »

Current Consultation (ending July 29) here»

Institute for Research on Public Policy here»


Labour shortage is a very serious issue for kitchen cabinet industry (Part 2)

The Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association is active in pursuing solutions to the shortage of skilled labour in the kitchen cabinet industry. It is working with its partnering associations, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters and Canadian Federation of Independent Business, to track the complex issues surrounding labour shortages. CKCA is engaged on a number of fronts: attracting and retaining skilled labour, increasing awareness of attractive career opportunities within the industry, and advocating for better immigration and foreign workers programs. There are interesting developments in each of these areas.

In a recent report, the Conference Board of Canada and the Future Skills Centre assessed that the unrealized value of Canada’s skills shortage is equivalent to 1.3 percent of the country’s GDP. This unrealized value has  topped $25 billion in 2020, up from $15 billion in 2015. All levels of government recognize this is a critical problem and are finding ways to encourage greater numbers of skilled tradespeople. For example, in Ontario, the provincial government launched Skilled Trades Ontario, a new Crown agency, to improve trades training and simplify services. The new agency will promote and market the trades, develop the latest training and curriculum standards, and provide a streamlined user-friendly experience for tradespeople. It is hoped that the agency can deliver more skilled workers for in-demand jobs.

Specific to the kitchen cabinet industry, CKCA is supportive of the training program at the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing. The new program’s objective is to attract professionals and entrepreneurs to the wood products industry. Kudos to CAWP for opening the program to people without a background in wood products, who are preparing to take on supervisory or management roles in the industry.

CKCA is also working with four leading industry groups to offer an online jobs portal that will make it easier to promote job opportunities and attract new skilled workers to woodworking. Companies can post “help wanted” ads free-of-charge on in order to connect with potential candidates.

Effective immigration policies and foreign workers programs are necessary for Canada to increase the size of the country’s workforce. Canada needs one million workers over the next five years according to the latest federal analysis. This has prompted Ottawa, in early April, to give several provinces the ability to hire significantly more temporary foreign workers as part of changes to its immigration rules. The changes are meant to streamline the application process for employers.

In conjunction with this, the federal government is accepting 1.3 million new immigrants over the next three years, in part, to help fill critical labour shortages. On the surface this needs to be applauded. However, it is disturbing to learn that the government has actually cut its target for skilled workers because of the existing backlog of 1.8 million immigrants in the queue to be processed. In fact, some reports indicate Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has paused new invitations altogether because the department cannot process them.

There is no silver bullet to solving Canada’s labour shortage. It is the reason why CKCA is approaching the issues in a multifaceted manner. It is essential the Association continues to foster and support educational and awareness initiatives, attract new talent from available pools of executive and skilled workers, and work with government to improve immigration and foreign worker programs.

If you are interested in knowing more details about what CKCA is doing regarding the shortage of skilled tradespeople, or wish to join our efforts in advancing industry solutions, connect with the CKCA executive director Sandra Wood –

What did we say in Part 1?  Read here

Benefits of working in the kitchen cabinet manufacturing sector

Walk through a kitchen cabinet manufacturing company in Canada these days and you will see a diverse range of jobs.

Everything from design to engineering to woodworking and management. There’s something for everyone.

So why consider working in our sector? There’s lots of great reasons to get in to our industry. Most people you talk to who have been in the industry a long time will tell you that they love it and it’s why they stayed. But we know there has to be other reasons to enter this industry so here’s some of the top reasons:

  • Regular working hours to balance with friends and family
  • Lots of employment opportunities
  • Essential industry, everyone has a kitchen! (our industry kept very busy through Covid-19)
  • Make a difference in people’s lives by designing and building beautiful spaces where people live and work
  • Wide range of jobs to choose from within the industry
  • High School or College level apprenticeships
  • NO large student debt
  • Career Advancement to work your way up in the business
  • More independent to be able to fix things and have the confidence to do it
  • Option to work with your hands and create – the skies the limit!
  • Lots of tech, software/robotics etc.
  • Great working environment, part of a team
  • Canadian industry, manufacturing a Canadian product and being proud to do so
  • Good for environment – Wood is a sustainable product
  • Men and women are in this industry – women make great woodworkers!
  • Own your own business – be your own boss!
Continual Work!
"I don't think there will ever be a time that we are no longer making things out of wood. I feel like there's always a place for woodworkers in the world. I can't think of a lot of disadvantages to it because it's a pretty useful trade and you can be creative, add your own flair."
Learning and Growth
"You learn something new every day. It's a satisfying and fun job because you're building something and you're done and you look at what you've done and you are proud and impressed with what you can do."
Skills for Work and Home Life
"It's super fun once you get used to it. It's something that you'll always have, you'll never forget it. It's handy if you ever need to build something in your home and it's just a good skill to have."
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Labour shortage is a very serious issue for kitchen cabinet industry (Part 1)

It cannot be overstated: the Canadian kitchen cabinet industry is facing a serious labour shortage issue – and there are signs that it will get worse if the industry and government does not immediately take action. The Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association is sounding the alarm bell to heighten awareness and accelerate strategies to attract and retain workers in the industry.

In its Fall 2021 study on labour shortages in our country, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) reported:Labour shortage is not a new phenomenon in Canada, yet the pressure has intensified in recent years. More than half (55%) of Canadian entrepreneurs are struggling to hire the workers they need, leaving them with no choice but to work more hours, as well as delay or refuse new orders.”

There are many signs that the situation may have passed the tipping point.

  • Ontario Chamber of Commerce reported a total of 62 percent of Ontario businesses are confronting labour shortages and they expect this to be a long-term problem.
  • Canadian Apprenticeship Forum states skilled trades require an average of 75,000 new apprentices to be hired every year in the next five years in order to meet the demand.
  • Buildforce Canada reports the construction industry requires 309,000 new recruits by 2030.

What kitchen cabinet businesses are experiencing with its labour force is not unique, yet this industry must find solutions to its labour shortage issues or its future prosperity – perhaps survival – is in question. This industry in Canada employs almost 25,000 and Statistics Canada employment figures reveal there is currently a ten percent job vacancy rate. So, there is a significant shortfall of labour today.

Then there is the matter of a greying workforce. The federal government recently launched a campaign to promote skilled trades after its recent projections that estimate 700,000 skilled trades workers are expected to retire between 2019 and 2028. On this point, one CKCA member revealed that his company will have 40 percent of its workforce retiring in the next five years.

Technology also creates a challenge for all skilled labour industries. The World Economic Forum estimates that 44 percent of the skills that employees currently have will need to change by 2025. So, industries today must not only plan to recruit and train thousands, but adopt upskilling and engagement strategies that will retain talent – just in order to keep the doors open.

To address this complex issue, the CKCA advanced a policy statement on the skilled labour shortage in Canada:

The CKCA and the Wood Manufacturing Council calls for support from industry and government in: 1) communicating the benefits of working in the kitchen cabinet industry, while building educational programs that include mentorship and relevant skills training, 2) financial assistance for the retention and re-training of employees for shops investing in automation and continuous improvement, and 3) creating a support network that promotes and makes more accessible existing tools that address shared labour challenges. (CKCA policy statement can be read here.)

Watch for – Part 2: CKCA reviews proposed solutions addressing the labour shortage problem in Canada.