An Ottawa-based national organization is trying to attract laid-off manufacturing workers to the biotech industry.
BioTalent Canada has launched an online tool encouraging workers in Ontario cities such as Brockville, Cornwall and Kitchener-Waterloo to help fill a nationwide skills shortage in biotechnology.
BioTalent.ca now has a tool to help workers learn whether their skills in manufacturing can transfer to vacant jobs in biotechnology.
Many of those jobs exist at Iogen, which manufactures industrial enzymes for the pulp and paper, textile and animal feed industries. One of its demonstration plants produces ethanol from straw.
"It's a challenge for us getting millwright, operators with experience in heavy manufacturing with a good focus on health and safety," said Chris Judge, vice-president of human resources at Iogen.
BioTalent Canada is starting to focus on recruiting in southern Ontario, beginning with Waterloo. That city is home to the headquarters of Research in Motion.
RIM laid off 2,000 workers in 2011 and recently underwent a major shakeup highlighted by the resignations of its two CEOs, who were also the co-founders.
"We're trying to get the right people with the right skills to help grow these firms because they're the gas to our economic engine," said Rob Henderson, executive director of BioTalent.
"The biotech sector is a growth sector."