Pulp and Paper Canada

Industry Statistics: Human Resource Profile: Pulp and Paper Industry

October 1, 2002  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Total employment in 2001: 110,500.Employment in the industry has declined by an average annual compound rate of 2% in the 1990s. This has occurred mostly in the commodity paper production. Employment …

Total employment in 2001: 110,500.

Employment in the industry has declined by an average annual compound rate of 2% in the 1990s. This has occurred mostly in the commodity paper production. Employment in value added paper production had much smaller employment declines.


The top five occupations in this industry are:

Supervisors, forest products processing

Pulp mill machine operators

Papermaking and finishing machine operators

Stationary engineers and auxiliary equipment operators

Papermaking and coating control operators

Production workers account for 77% of employment in the industry.

The average age of the workforce was mid-forties and full-time employment is the predominant form of work.

The largest single category of workers in this industry consists of semi-skilled workers, including labourers, pulp mill machine operators, papermaking and finishing machine operators, papermaking and coating control operators material handlers and pulping control operators. These six occupations account for 32% of the workforce in this industry.

Women make up a smaller proportion of the workforce than in manufacturing as a whole. Younger workers are a large proportion of new hires in these occupations, indicating that these are often entry-level positions.

Increasingly skills such as computers, communications, literacy and numeracy are becoming more important in the industry generally. Those with these skill sets will have better employment prospects in these semi-skilled occupations.

Employment in the semi-skilled occupations fluctuates with the business cycle as well as being affected by long-term structural changes in the industry, which have resulted in employment declines.

Supervisors in forest products processing account for 6% of the workforce. Supervisors generally have a high school diploma, and many recent entrants have a trade/vocational or community college diploma. Supervisors usually require several years’ experience in their area. Some may require special certificates and licences.

Supervisors are predominantly, full time, male and with relatively few young workers (reflecting the need for work experience in these occupations). These earnings are among the highest for technical, paraprofessional and skilled occupations and among the highest for occupations in processing. Employment in these occupations is highly sensitive to overall economic conditions and moderately seasonal. There may be increased opportunities for new entrants with skills in the application of robotics and of computerized equipment in processing.

Updated employment indicators


Unionization is very high in the sector. The principal unions are the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union (CEP), which accounts for the majority of the unionized workforce, the Pulp and Paper Workers of Canada (PPWC) and, in Quebec, the Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN).

Training Patterns

Most operational workforce employees learn skills through on-the-job training. Apprenticeship programs are available in trades.

Specialized programs in colleges exist in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia for some trades where diplomas are required. College programs also exist for technicians and operators. Continuing education is provided through association and through colleges and universities.

The principal concern around the adequacy of the training and planning infrastructure is the ability to ensure a sufficient supply of key technical skills, including computer and communication technologies.

Training specific to new equipment is fairly common, with vendors providing the training.

Industry education links are good with specialized college and university programs, though links to more general programs may not be as strong.

Updated Training Indicators

HR Management Practices

Recruitment practices have traditionally been in-house except for entry-level positions. Increasingly companies are looking to external sources, especially technical colleges and schools, particularly in cases where they need to acquire key technical skills for their facilities. Apprenticeship is in a process of gradual decline for similar reasons.

Wages in the industry have traditionally been well above the Canadian average, with opportunities for overtime.

Shift work and shift rotation is common for the production workers in order to maintain a 24-hour operation.

Traditionally workers joined companies and entry-level jobs and then progressed through internal promotion. Companies are however beginning to look to fill higher level jobs from external sources.

The restructuring of the industry and productivity improvements have resulted in a lower demand for workers and downsizing at existing mills.

Initially downsizing practices typically focus on early retirement packages for older workers (55 and over) including bridging and ensuring no actuarial losses in pensions.

Additional downsizing practices provide for severance packages for laid-off workers. In addition, many companies use employment service firms to deliver seminars and counselling on resume preparation, job search techniques and other related services.

Contract work is generally absent in the industry. It is used mainly in maintenance and some trades where work is project based.


Downsizing following restructuring will be a continuing concern for employees and unions in the future. As a result industrial relations will continue to be a time-consuming activity. A 1998 survey of U.S. mill managers showed that labour relations were the most pressing problem, though fully two-thirds indicated labour-management relations were better than five years previously.

For additional information about this Government of Canada report, contact: Human Resources Development Canada – Sectoral and Occupational Studies Division (Sector Studies) Last modified : 2001.05.23 Important Notices

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