Alberta Labour Shortage – Lean Can Help

by | Jan 9, 2023 | Industry Article, News

Written by Bruce Ennis, Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, MEE Cluster Process Improvement Guru

In a story aired on November 25, Gary Manku of Altex Industries told CTV news welding companies are having trouble bidding on projects because “they can’t find enough workers”. The struggle to find skilled workers is becoming all too common in Alberta. Trade workers were quick to provide feedback on why there is a serious labour shortage in Alberta:

“The trades in Alberta are a boom & bust cycle. People are tired of being laid off. Companies lay off their workforce as soon as resource prices fall”

“Today’s welders want a work-life balance. They don’t want to work nights six days a week. Every welder I know in their 40’s is super tired of the expectation for people to work multiple long days.”

“At many places the wage is worse than it was ten years ago. Businesses need to offer more than 50 cents an hour shift differential for graveyard shifts. They take a toll over the years.”

“Make it a desirable place to work and you will have no trouble finding quality employees”

Recently, I spoke to business leaders from across Alberta about how Lean can dramatically improve efficiency and workplace morale, at the MEE Cluster’s inaugural Lean for Leaders workshop in Red Deer.

Lean can remedy pay stagnation, layoff fears, boom & bust work cycles and undesirable work conditions. If you haven’t heard of Lean, it’s a business methodology that focuses on making a business run more efficiently by fixing or eliminating all the things that frustrate employees and slow them down.

Lean attacks wasted motion, bureaucracy, defects and more. These frustrations are often what drive a worker crazy – it’s why they sometimes even abandon their career altogether. Today many of the most world’s successful businesses utilize the principles of Lean to make their business run more smoothly and efficiently.

There’s also less of a boom-and-bust cycle. Lean calls this “production leveling”  – manufacturing at a nice, steady pace. The work is evenly paced, and the hours are more palatable. Overtime and “graveyard shifts” often become unnecessary.    

Hiring more people isn’t the answer. There’s a better way to solve Alberta’s labour shortage problem through Lean.

If you would like a Lean expert to come to your business to perform an on-site workplace assessment, contact the MEE Cluster at or 1-403-356-4935.