The Future of Work and Learning Brief
Issue 34 | May 11, 2023

Our series of focused briefs that examine recent innovations in education and training and the workforce continues with insights into barriers for underrepresented groups within the workforce and efforts to address those barriers.

Recent analysis of workforce barriers

Desjardins’ recent report, Charting a Course to a Brighter Future: How Canadian Youth are Navigating Education and Employment, provides perspectives on opportunities and challenges for those aged 15-34 including: the cost of education continues to be a barrier for lower income youth even though average earnings and education for youth have increased; newcomers make up a larger percentage of young Canadians, due especially to recent growth of immigrants in the 29-34-year-old age bracket; and young women, particularly racialized women, are more likely to face long-term economic scarring from the COVID-19 pandemic which can also lead to poorer mental health outcomes.

Labour precarity is a significant concern. But is it a good job? Understanding Employment Precarity in BC, a recent report from Understanding Precarity in BC, finds that 60 per cent of B.C.’s Indigenous men, Indigenous women and racialized women work in precarious labour. Individuals from these communities were more likely to find full-time work with regular hours in the Lower Mainland while those within the interior were more likely to work in unpredictable, unstable positions.

For newcomer women, wraparound services which include both social and employment supports are essential to removing barriers to community integration as Paula Calderon, CEO of Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, stated in a recent op-ed.

Dr. Deborah Saucier, president and vice-chancellor of Vancouver Island University (VIU), adds in another op-ed that universities need to work harder to provide access to everyone because “the playing field to access post-secondary education is far from even.” Saucier adds that institutions play an important role in building hope for all communities they serve.

Western Canadian initiatives to attract and retain a diverse workforce

British Columbia

The province will have 1 million job openings over the next 10 years with 37 per cent from new job creation and 63 per cent from retirement. The provincial government has launched a $480 million effort through the StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan to train new employees or upskill/reskill existing workers to jobs in high demand sectors. On August 1, 2023, the province will waive tuition for any individuals who were formally youth in care and provide $3,500 toward the cost of textbooks and other supplies. The province will also create an additional 3,200 spots in the Skills for Training Employment Program which supports those who face multiple barriers to employment and skills development. The plan will transition skills training programs from government-led programs in Indigenous communities’ to First Nation, Inuit or Métis-led programs.


Prior to the official start of the election in Alberta, the Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development announced $1.5 million for Higher Learning’s Alberta Women Rising Program (WR). WR provides mentorship and opportunities to receive feedback from women in industry. Edmonton’s Civic Youth Partnership between City Hall, the Africa Centre, Canadian Race Relations Foundation, MacEwan University and the Islamic Family Social Services Agency (IFSSA) will offer 13 youth from equity-deserving communities internships with Mayor Sohi and city councillors to build local government experience. The program includes training on how to navigate the local government context as a racialized person.


Saskatchewan partnered with the John Howard Society to deliver integrated youth services across the province currently through virtual delivery and then through three physical hubs. The government asked youth aged 12-25 to apply for the co-design team so that youth voices are included in the development process. Hubs will eventually provide wraparound services including mental health and peer support services, education and employment and training. The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities is also working to increase the representation of women on rural councils and within local politics through the creation of the Saskatchewan Women in Rural Leadership (SWIRL) initiative. SWIRL provides opportunities for women who serve or want to serve on councils to gather and support each other and share experiences.


The Métis Federation of Manitoba and the Government of Manitoba announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to partner on a Métis education strategy partially intended to assess and support high school graduates’ workforce and post-secondary outcomes. Manitoba education data does not currently provide a breakdown of Métis student outcomes but rather consolidates Indigenous education data. The Manitoba government has also announced almost $10 million for the Urban/Hometown Green Team program which will support the employment of 2,500 youth on 744 projects across the province this summer. Projects will focus on community development and help youth aged 15-29 build leadership skills through employment with local community and government organizations. The government is also providing $1.2 million over four years to Futurpreneur to provide those aged 18-29 with mentorship and financing opportunities for entrepreneurial initiatives.

The North

The Government of the Northwest Territories has tabled its Diversity and Inclusion Framework to improve representation and inclusion in the territorial public service. The news release states the framework is intended to help departments “identify and address any systemic barriers that may prevent employees from reaching their full potential or prevent people from accessing opportunities” within the public service. The territorial government also recently met with the N.W.T. Métis Nation to discuss an MOU to partner and share information such as increasing Métis representation within the public service.

The Yukon government will provide a sick leave rebate for employers, making it Canada’s first jurisdiction to provide government-funded sick leave. The rebate will cover up to 40 hours of paid sick leave for workers who make under $33.94/hour and have worked for the employer for a minimum of 90 days. Employers who already provide 40 hours paid sick leave are also eligible for the rebate. Those who work in local, territorial or federal public service are not eligible.

Indigenous-led efforts

Saskatchewan-based PLATO, an Indigenous owned and operated software testing and services company, launched a new training centre for its software tester training program for Indigenous people in Northern Saskatchewan. The program, now in its eighth year, provides an apprenticeship-model for tech training and has trained 300 individuals across the country. Graduates are guaranteed a job with PLATO but can then move to other positions in the industry if they choose.

Chris Henderson with Indigenous Clean Energy recently told the Canadian Press that Indigenous communities “own, co-own, or have a defined financial benefit agreement in place for almost 20 per cent of Canada’s electricity generating infrastructure” based on unreleased 2023 counts. Projects are spread across the country but include Cowessess First Nation’s Awasis solar farm in Saskatchewan.

Cedar LNG, the country’s largest First Nation-owned infrastructure project, has received its environmental assessment certificate from the provincial government. The federal and B.C. provincial government agreed that only one assessment was needed to fulfill the needs of both levels of government. The project will employ 100 full-time staff and 500 construction staff if given the greenlight. Provincial permitting for construction is the next phase in the approval process.

Amy Der-Ironstar has opened the first Indigenous-owned business in Winnipeg’s Garden City Shopping Centre. Ironstar Co. sells sacred medicine and Indigenous artwork from northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well as Der-Ironstar’s own artwork.

The Southern Chiefs Organization shkii Wadizaag Ga Niiganwendamwaad/Tec’a pi hena wowapi yuha skan youth gathering held in Winnipeg on April 25-27 saw two new Youth Council Chiefs elected: Tréchelle Bunn from Birdtail Sioux Dakota Nation and John Dorie from Sagkeeng Anishinaabe First Nation. The event also focused on youth employment and economic development and provided a series of workshops, booths and presentations.

The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty and Janet Lane. If you like what you see, subscribe to our mailing list and share with a friend. If you have any interesting stories for future editions, please send them to .