Rhonda Barnet

Rhonda Barnet is a graduate of Trent University with a B.Sc. in Mathematics & Computer Science. Since graduation Rhonda has spent the last 28 years as a trailblazer in the advanced manufacturing sector.

Rhonda and her husband Don Barnet own Steelworks Design in Peterborough Ontario.  Steelworks Design is an engineering firm that designs and builds custom automation for companies around the Globe.  Customers include corporate giants like GE, Rolls Royce, Andritz Hydro, Irving Shipbuilding, Honda, Magna, and GM.  Rhonda spent the previous 12 years as VP of Finance for Steelworks Design Inc. where she managed the finance and business development portfolios. In June 2017, Rhonda took on an expanded role as co-president & COO to lead a major growth initiative at SWD.  With the support of her partner, Rhonda has taken Steelworks Design from its original concept of servicing the automotive industry with custom automation, to a full-service R&D firm which is now sought after by multinationals around North America.  In July 2018 Steelworks Design will open a brand new operating facility in Peterborough with a collaborative robotics training centre to engage the community in understanding more about robotics.

Rhonda is very active on the National front for Manufacturing and Exporting.  Rhonda is the Chair of the National Board of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), a historic appointment as the first female chair in 147 years.  CME is Canada’s oldest, largest horizontal trade association representing 90,000 companies across Canada.  Rhonda was recently appointed to the Federal Advanced Manufacturing Strategy Council.  This is a new model of industry-government collaboration and decision making.  The Sector Tables, a high government priority under the Innovation and Skills agenda, will set ambitious growth targets for 2025 and sectoral action plans to achieve that target.  Rhonda was also recently appointed to the board of directors for Next Generation Manufacturing Canada, one of the 5 Canadian Super Cluster’s to receive funding from the federal government to advance innovation.   NGM Canada will position Canadian companies as global leaders in advanced manufacturing technologies, support them in the world’s most competitive advanced manufacturing supply chains, and develop the world’s most talented advanced manufacturing workforce, ensuring future prosperity for Canadians.

Rhonda is actively working with CME to lead a major diversity movement in Canadian Manufacturing. In October 2017, Ms. Barnet released CME’s white paper on “Attracting and engaging women in Canadian Manufacturing” the findings of a national survey to increase the share of skilled jobs for women and improve the overall success of women in Manufacturing.  Rhonda continues to travel the country as a spokesperson for women in industry and talk about the opportunities that exist to close the gender wage gap by attracting more women to STEM studies with pathways to manufacturing careers.  At CME, Rhonda is leading women to share their success stories in the movement “If you can see me, you can be me”, understanding the importance of role models to encourage more young women to pursue technology careers.

Locally Rhonda volunteers for the regional boards of Kawartha Manufacturers Association, and previously with Start-up Peterborough.  Rhonda has been a spokesperson for the “Made in Peterborough” campaign, Peterborough Advanced Manufacturing, as well as BDC’s campaign to introduce advisory boards to SME’s across Canada.  Rhonda was recently a guest speaker at Export Development Canada’s international staff conference and is regularly asked to advise & consult with EDC, BDC and the Federal Government on the needs and issues of SME’s within Canadian Manufacturing & Export.  Rhonda has had the opportunity to tour with the Prime Minister on trade missions to Europe and China, and meet with heads of state from many global trading partners.