Crafting Opportunities: Women Training in Cabinet Installation at Möbel Cabinetry
Möbel Cabinetry, with support from the Wood Manufacturing Council, is offering free skills training to women in the Hamilton area, creating opportunities for women to enter the wood industry while alleviating the ever-persistent strain of the skilled-labour shortage.
Möbel Cabinetry is a second-generation business born out of Harry Sihra’s Hamilton garage in 1977. Having established an excellent reputation and relationships with local builders, the company has been continuously expanding to this day, currently under the leadership of CEO Rick Sihra, and standing with a footprint of 50,000 sq ft. across two nearby facilities. Their shop is decked out with a fully automated suite of machinery (which they proudly display in a gallery on their website) and staffed by a team of 40 professionals, some of whom have been working with Möbel since the beginning.
However, despite having a reliable team and state-of-the-art machinery, Möbel has still been affected by the labour shortage both internally and externally. To address the lack of skilled installers, CEO of Möbel Cabinetry, Rick Sihra, and Vice President, Chacko John have turned to address the industry’s lack of representation, offering a free 12-week intensive installation training program for women, followed by a three-month-long work placement, supported by the Wood Manufacturing Council.
“We operate though an extensive dealer network across Canada and in the United States and were receiving a lot of feedback from our partners about their trouble finding installers, which is where Chacko started to come up with this idea,” Rick Sihra explains. “And we noticed that on the manufacturing side, as we continue to grow, and while manufacturing 90% of our own components, five-piece doors, wood doors, MDF doors, we’re finding it difficult to find trained people, so this project is also helping us to fill the void on the manufacturing end as well.”
“There is a huge gender disparity in the installation sector,” says Chacko John, “and considering that 95% of the decision-making clients of kitchen renovations are women, we saw the potential interest in this kind of training. It’s not rocket science. So, we decided to offer a women’s training program with a focus on installation and the objective of skills development in and outside the factory. The training includes putting them across all the functions of our production as well as practical and theoretical training on installation, after which they are free to pursue independent contracts.”
Möbel has taken on this project as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, which is a mandate instilled in the company from its inception by Harry Sihra. The company has prepared a classroom and practical learning space for base and wall cabinet installation, led by 2 of Möbel’s most experienced and certified staff.
The program, the first of its kind at Möbel, received over 20 registrations for the 12 seats they’ve had available. After 6 weeks of the 12-week program a dedicated group of 8 trainees who Möbel anticipates will finish the training remain.
“In talking with the trainees, they are very keen and are enjoying the training.” Chacko John reports, “They understand the importance of it and the potential. It’s a very niche market and they understand there’s a potential if they specialize in it.”
As the program has picked up news coverage at CHCH, Sihra and John say they have received encouragement and increased interest in the program, which they hope to continue in the future. In particular, they have reported interest from some women who want to own and operate their own installation business.
Support from the Wood Manufacturing Council
The project is being supported by federal funding secured by the Wood Manufacturing Council, a leading force combating the skilled labour shortage in our sector.
Since its inception in 2002, the council’s primary mission has been to bridge the gap between human resource challenges and skills development for the value-added wood products industry. The council plays a pivotal role in curating strategies that foster long-term growth and ensures the vitality of Canada’s advanced wood products manufacturing industry. For the past 10 years their pre-employment training program, aimed at build good quality, entry level workers, has been one of their most successful initiatives. Over the years they have delivered the program in a variety of general and specially targeted formats for women, new Canadians, disadvantaged youth, and indigenous groups.
“It’s an opportunity to make people aware of careers in wood and give them some good basic training so they can go on to the companies and continue to learn from there” says WMC President, Richard Lipman.
With the training at Möbel Cabinetry, one of WMC’s roles has been outfitting the program with hand tools, drills, table saws, miter saws, jig saws, and all the proper on-site equipment involved in installation. WMC’s program also provides reimbursements for bus fare and additional certifications such as CPR, First Aid, and WHMIS.
Rick Sihra and Chacko John say that without the support of the WMC, the project wouldn’t be possible. However, Richard Lipman states that WMC became aware of and chose to deliver this program through Möbel Cabinetry because of their interest and willingness to step-up. Together, Möbel Cabinetry and the WMC are helping to ease the skilled labour shortage while encouraging the introduction of women into the wood sector.
Tyler Holt is the Editor of Wood Industry / Le monde du bois magazine. He has a master’s degree in literature and publication, and years of experience in the publishing and digital media industry. His main area of study is the effect of digital technologies on industrial and networked production.