AIME North accepting applications for training grant program
The AIME North initiative, designed to help manufacturers in Northern Ontario innovate and find new markets for their products, is accepting applications for training grants. Launched by the Yves Laundry Foundation with funding through FedNor, the Canadian government agency responsible for economic development in Northern Ontario, the program helps smaller manufacturers cover the cost of training employees tasked with upgrading their operations or transitioning into new areas of growth.
AIME – the acronym stands for Achieving Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence – is restricted to companies with between 10 and 500 employees. Karyn Brearley, executive director of the Yves Landry Foundation, said that the program focuses specifically on training because there are other sources of funding for equipment, software and other capital purchases.
“Not too many other organizations that I’m familiar with actually educate and train workers, so it’s kind of unique from that perspective,” Brearley said. The program synchs up with the foundation’s philosophy of valuing workers and the principles espoused by Yves Landry, who served as CEO of Chrysler Canada. The foundation was created from a legacy fund in his honour after his death in 1998 “for business, education, and government to collectively be part of the solution to advance technological education and skills training in order to resolve the skilled labour shortages facing Canadian industries.”
“Ontario and Canada are only as strong as its people,” Brearley said. “People need jobs, people need good jobs… and they want to feel good about the quality of work that they do. We want the manufacturing sector to flourish.”
Innovation is a key part of that, Brearley said, because Ontario manufacturers need to compete on the global market on quality, not quantity.
“Investing in your people … is really what will set Ontario and Canada apart in the global export market. We cannot compete with 30 cents an hour for labour. We have to customize products. We have to make high quality, low quantity products.”
AIME North and its counterpart, AIME Global in southern Ontario, provide established companies up to $50,000 to cover training costs and subsidize wages while workers are training. Grants are reviewed by six to eight expert adjudicators who ensure the training program and objectives make sense, though few applications are rejected outright, Brearley said.
In the first phase of the program, approximately 50 companies received an average of $23,000 in funding to train 980 people, Brearley said. Additionally, 138 new jobs were created and companies self- reported that 271 jobs were saved due to the program. About 20 per cent of funding went to companies in northwestern Ontario, and 80 per cent to companies in northeastern Ontario. The first phase of the program was successfully completed this year.
Phase two is scheduled to launch in 2015.
Although few mining companies can directly benefit from the program due to their size, many mining supply companies have received funding. Among them are companies in fabrication, chemical manufacturing and transportation. One of those suppliers, Makoose Wood Innovations (MWI) in Wabauskang First Nation, north of Kenora, supplies Goldcorp with core trays and other wood products. It expanded its operations to supply Aspenware, a manufacturing company, with highquality planed poplar for the production of wooden disposable utensils. The expansion required new equipment – and training.
“The funding provided resources to develop processes and help us understand what the cost structures would be, the people and training that would be required, and the production targets we could meet,” said Doug Riffel, president and founder of MWI.
Other Northern Ontario companies that benefited from the program include Schauenburg Industries in North Bay, a manufacturer of engineered ventilation ducting, and B&D Manufacturing in Sudbury, a manufacturer of super jacks and tire handlers for haul trucks used in surface mining operations.