My name is Linda Hasenfratz. I am CEO of Linamar Corporation, and I'm very pleased to have been given the opportunity to speak to the committee this afternoon.
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, we are a diverse manufacturing company. We do a lot of business in the automotive sector, in commercial vehicles, energy, access equipment, construction equipment, and the like. Our sales last year were $2.8 billion. We have about 16,000 employees around the world. About 9,000 of them are in Canada.
We are very focused on growing our business. If I look back over the last several years, we've more than doubled our employee base. We've added 8,000 people since 2009, and actually 1,500 since the end of last year. More than half of them are right here in Canada.
We're a company that is very much focused on prosperity and growth and finding opportunities. So I thought this was a great opportunity to talk a little bit about what I think is important to allow that to happen and particularly about how we try to create that kind of future for our young women and girls.
When I think about prosperity and what makes us prosperous, as a person or as a country or as a company, I think it is driven by three key areas. One is competitiveness. We need to be competitive to win business. Another is opportunity, so we need to have the opportunity to pursue. Finally, we need to have a strong culture that supports our growth as a company.
All of those things are equally true for people. We all need to be competitive, so we need to have the right skill set. We need to be given opportunities. And we need to live in a culture and a society that values us so that we can grow.
If I look at those different areas, at competitiveness, what's that all about? Really, it's all about innovation. It's about efficiency. It's about product innovation and process innovation and continuous improvement in both of those things: productivity and efficiency. All of that really is driven by having very skilled, capable people, particularly technically skilled people, to enable that growth.
Great innovation is driven by great scientists, great engineers, great tradespeople, and great technology. A recent study by the World Economic Forum noted that “[t]he most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human talent – the skills, education and productivity of its workforce”.
Women represent half of our population. Engaging women in innovation by building their skills dramatically increases our talent pool and therefore our global competitiveness.
When I look at what we're doing here in Canada in terms of our education broadly, and more specifically, in terms of our education of women, I think there is more we could be doing. We need to be acting in a more collaborative way and a more coordinated way. We have a lot of great schools in this country, maybe too many in some areas. We have a lot of repetition. All of them are doing things individually. Some of them are doing some great things. I wonder what we can do to better coordinate their efforts. How can we challenge them to make us the best?
When I look specifically at women in these fields, I think that there are just not enough. There are not enough girls and young women engaged in the areas of science, engineering, trades, and technology from which, as I've just discussed, our competitiveness is driven.
I think we need to start very young in the primary years to build an interest in these areas for our young girls and our young women and then build on that in a secondary school system to encourage young women to choose those careers.
There are things we're doing here at Linamar to try to encourage that. Again, we're trying to start young. For instance, we hold a summer skills camp for young girls, aged 10, 11, or 12, to try to introduce them to the idea of skills and trades as a potential career.
Last year we held the first of a six-year commitment for those camps. We had a great turnout and the girls really enjoyed themselves.
So just trying to get some interest in it, to get young girls interested in these areas of science, trade, technology, and engineering, is really critical. We've also held several workshops, at which we bring together high school students with female tradespeople within our own company and in other companies to learn about these careers. We've had more than 300 young women attend these workshops. They get to learn about all kinds of different careers in skilled trades, science, and technology and hopefully get inspired to head that way in their education.
We're running a program here in Guelph. We're headquartered in Guelph and have a large percentage of our Canadian employment right here in town. We're working with local schools in terms of interactive programs, again reaching out with our own tradespeople, who teach them about careers in manufacturing. More than 1,000 young people have been reached through these programs.
Finally, we again are working with local school systems to sponsor female apprenticeships. We've committed to five female apprentices per year for the next five years. We have two signed up in our first year, so we're not at our goal, but we're close to halfway there. We're glad to see the interest starting to bud.
I think the key is trying to interest and encourage our young people to get into these fields, and particularly to encourage our young women to get into these fields, where there are great opportunities to build a career that can be so satisfying and so lucrative for them. You can take a skilled trade or take your engineering degree and end up as an entrepreneur building a business and creating something really fantastic.
So first you get the interest going. Then, I think, we need to really work with our education system and try to prioritize our education system in these fields. I would love to see us in Canada setting a goal to be the best in the world in terms of an education system that's going to create the smartest, the most innovative, and the most successful scientists and engineers in the world, with the highest percentage of female grads.
You see a lot of examples of making a commitment like that, of being bold and putting a statement out there that we want to be the best in the world in terms of generating tradespeople, scientists, and engineers, and also that we want to graduate the most females. Let's make that a goal. Let's challenge our schools to come up with programs and to find ways to work together to make that happen.
Let's own the scientific podium. We've seen the results when you do get a focus, make a commitment, and set a goal for yourself.
So that was a lot about competitiveness and trying to drive an education that can help us as a country, and about women in particular and how to be competitive and get the opportunities in terms of these types of jobs, but as I mentioned at the outset, opportunity is the second key element driving prosperity. I think the frustration here for a lot of people is that girls and young women still just aren't getting enough opportunities.
I think there's a real mixed bag out there. Some companies are great. They really do look with open eyes at all the candidates and pick based on skill, capability, enthusiasm, and work ethic. But others still don't look at male and female candidates equally.
I think a key difference in my own success is that I was always given the opportunity to try. I was always given the chance at that next job, the chance to show that I could do it and I could take it on. I had a huge champion in my own father, who encouraged me without ever undermining my authority.
So I had it easier, I think, because I had that champion. I had that mentor who wanted to make me a success and wanted to give me those opportunities, and then it was my own passion, excitement, and capability that let me step up, take on those responsibilities, and be successful at them.
My question would be, how can we get companies to give those opportunities to women? Shall we ask them to self-declare diversity goals? Are there regulations we should consider at the board level, for instance? Certainly we've seen that in other pockets in the world, where regulations have been set to enforce certain levels of diversity and female representation on boards.
But the first step is really—