The Future of Work and Learning Brief
Issue 38 | September 2023
What disruptions are affecting the labour market? Which skills and competencies are required for new and evolving jobs? How can people and institutions adapt to the future of work and learning? Through this monthly brief, keep on top of developments in the workforce and how education and training are changing today to build the skills and competencies needed for the future. Priority will go to stories focused on Western Canada. If you know of something relevant and want to send for inclusion in the next brief, email .
Pressures top of mind for international students
As post-secondary classes resume for the fall and Canada continues to increase immigration to meet new federal targets, international students and their families face long visa wait times, struggle to find housing, meet high tuition costs, and battle predatory practices. Iranian Justice Institute of B.C. student Tara Javeheri told the Daily Hive that waiting for her husband’s spousal visa is a challenge and that “sometimes I think maybe I should forget about it.”
While provincial governments may freeze or restrict domestic student fees, international student fees are not subject to the same rules and often help offset restrictions on domestic tuition. For international students, the promise of permanent residency (PR) helps justify the higher cost.
CBC News reports a private recruiter convinced Shivani Sharma, from Punjab, to switch her plans for Vancouver Community College and enrol at Granville College instead. Sharma then learned that her new program would not set her on the path to PR, but Granville College refused to return her tuition fees. B.C.’s Private Training Institutions Board eventually ordered a refund, but the challenge of private recruiter regulation remains. As Balraj Kahlon, co-founder of One Voice Canada says, “it’s just like playing a game of whack-a-mole.”
Cost of living pressures in Canada, including the lack of affordable housing, has some students considering education elsewhere. Universities Canada and Colleges and Institutes Canada advocate for federal funds for student housing while the federal government has proposed a cap on the number of international students who can be admitted each year. There are concerns that such a cap may hinder efforts to attract and retain international talent and increase pressure on a system heavily reliant on international students and their tuition fees.
Innovative solutions to housing and construction
International students are just one part of the overall housing crisis as students across the country struggle to find places to live. Construction on new student housing at Okanagan College Salmon Arm is underway with 60 beds expected to be available in time for the 2024 fall semester. The Kelowna and Vernon campuses will also see an increase in student housing as part of the $67.5 million housing project (the provincial government provided $66.5 million).
The Klondike Visitors Association in Dawson City, Yukon, will soft-launch its seasonal housing initiative in September. The full initiative will see a community of ten wall tents in the city for workers next summer. A cook shack, bathroom and showers will also be provided.
Construction labour shortages and now wildfire reconstruction efforts are expected to add pressure to construction efforts. Desjardins’ recent report, Global Housing Supply Success Stories: A How-To for Boosting Home Construction in Canada, provides recommendations for how the federal, provincial and municipal governments can support the construction sector to build more housing, including incentives and tax breaks.
The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, PLACE Centre and REALPAC have partnered to propose A Multi-Sector Approach to Ending Canada’s Rental Housing Crisis which includes support for innovation in the construction sector and the creation of a “national workforce and immigration strategy on housing.”
Cost of living sparks labour disputes in Western Canada
Workers across sectors are advocating for higher wages to address rising costs, leading to a series of labour disputes. Labour experts attribute the surge of job strikes to declining workplace conditions, widespread dissatisfaction and efforts to regain purchasing power.
After a five-week strike, unionized liquor workers in Manitoba are returning to work. However, another strike is on the horizon as Manitoba Public Insurance workers, represented by the same union as liquor workers, have rejected an offer that fails to meet the inflation rate, as stated in the union’s press release.
Hospitality workers in oil and gas camps in B.C. seek a pay increase to align with the growing cost of living. A recent agreement saw hospitality workers receive a pay increase of up to 40 per cent as well as increases in vacation pay, medical benefit improvements, a retirement plan and workload protections.
Lights, camera, disruption in western Canadian film
Hollywood strikes are severely impacting British Columbia’s film industry. Minister Lana Popham notes there are only five active productions, down from the usual 50 which affects catering, construction and costume sectors.
Alberta’s film industry is also grappling with layoffs and economic challenges. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees notes an 85 per cent reduction in work compared to the previous year.
Concerns over AI are also forefront in the dispute. Dr. Jim Parker from the University of Calgary emphasizes that AI could adversely affect the quality and creativity of productions. Makeup artists, actors and other professionals might face job losses due to AI’s influence. All eyes are on Hollywood as AI agreements could help inform upcoming contract negotiations in Canada and elsewhere.
Companies pursue efficiency with AI
B.C.-based Emperor Metals created the first-ever 3D model of a gold deposit using AI, which allowed them to do a proper evaluation of the property within a month. Conventional methods might take years to produce the same evaluation. Emperor Metals’ CEO explained the boost in efficiency provides a competitive advantage over competitors who can’t do a property evaluation as fast.
Tourism Jasper is researching how AI could help enhance visitor experiences by studying travel patterns, accommodation capacity, weather and human-wildlife conflict.
Manitoba teachers are adopting AI chatbot ByteAI to assist in lesson planning and administrative tasks such as seating charts. Students can use the tool for background research and teachers will encourage critical thinking about the results. The Manitoba Association of Educational Technology Leaders have committed three-year funding to operate ByteAI to bridge the gap between technology and education.
- Rapid population growth in Alberta has made it a challenge to predict the number of teachers required. Calgary Board of Education needs to hire 747 more teaching staff, and may bring on substitute teachers as the board expects enrolments to outpace projections.
- Normandin Beaudry’s annual Salary Increase Survey finds that to adapt to economic pressures employers increased salaries by an average 4.1 per cent in 2023 and projects a 3.6 per cent increase for 2024. In 2023, only one per cent of respondents froze salaries while two per cent expect to freeze salaries in 2024.
- A recent Statistics Canada report based on the 2021 Census provides more information on their labour market outcomes and where internationally educated healthcare professionals (IEHPs) find work. Only 57.7 per cent of IEHPs were employed in a health care field. For the western provinces, Saskatchewan led at 67.3 per cent followed by Manitoba at 59.6 per cent.
The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane, and Ethan Johnson. 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 .