The Future of Work and Learning Brief
Issue 42 | January 2024
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 .
The Workforce and Immigration
B.C.’s latest labour market outlook for 2023-2033 projects 998,000 job openings – 653,000 due to retirements and the remainder from the creation of new jobs. The outlook estimates that newcomers will fill 46 per cent of jobs, which is higher than previous estimates and reflects the changes in federal immigration policies.
Other provinces are also taking direct or indirect steps to attract newcomers. Saskatchewan recently completed another recruitment mission in Philippines. The government reports the mission resulted in “over 1,000 anticipated nominations for permanent residency” to fill high demand occupations. Alberta is the fastest growing province in the country with non-permanent resident migration a significant driver of the increase.
Population Booms and Students
Global Education Communities Corporation has purchased a vacant lot, worth $13.27 million in 2022, to build a student housing tower at Langara SkyTrain station in Vancouver. The purchase comes after students struggled to find housing in densely-populated urban areas at the start of the academic year.
K-12 schools are looking for more classroom space as population growth impacts student numbers. B.C.’s Ministry of Education and Childcare announced $156 million for 104 additional classrooms across eight high-growth areas, including Kelowna, Dawson Creek, Burnaby and Colwood. The Alberta government announced $30 million to fund the “unprecedented” number of new students across parts of the province which exceeded budget estimates.
Capital projects to either expand or build schools are costly and take time as population booms also raise property values and construction can take three to five years. There are no easy solutions to ease immediate pressures unless parents are willing to move to areas experiencing lower demand. Lacy Poytress, vice-chair of Livingstone Range School Division which includes communities in southwestern Alberta, said in an interview to “send those families to us. Help us get affordable housing in our small towns. Let us fill up our schools and offer these families what you promised them when they came to Alberta. Let us build up our rural communities.” Some communities surrounding Edmonton and Calgary have already experienced vacancy drops as individuals choose smaller urban and rural centres over larger cities.
Math, Science and Literacy Skills in Decline
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is a test of 15-year-old students across 81 countries for math, science and reading skills, released its 2022 results. Among the four western provinces, Manitoba has had the lowest scores across all metrics followed by Saskatchewan. While Canada was in the top 10 for math scores, University of Winnipeg mathematics professor Anne Stokke told CTV News that the country is “seeing more students performing at the lowest levels and fewer students performing at the top levels.” The drop brought renewed attention to math instruction and discussion as to whether the inquiry-based method should revert to a “back-to-the basics approach.” Between 2012 and 2022, scores generally declined across the western provinces.
Change in PISA Scores, 2012 to 2022, Select Canadian Provinces
Source: OECD and Statistics Canada Table C.4.4, CWF calculations
AI and its implications for education were top of mind at the start of 2023 and the trend has continued as ChatGPT and other AI software provide tools for learners of all ages. As CBC reports, AI policy that specifically considers the needs of young people still lags even as apps targeted at youth emerge with different privacy and educational standards.
Paul Leblanc, the President of Southern New Hampshire University, resigned his position to specifically take on the issue of AI in advanced education. Leblanc told Times Higher Education that he feels “disappointment and concern that U.S. higher education has not taken much more seriously the need to quickly address the potential and the implications of AI for institutions and their students.”
Industry-specific AI applications are also emerging.
- Bovine Expert Tracking and Surveillance, or BETSY, allows cattle ranchers to monitor livestock more efficiently.
- A machine learning pilot could also help eliminate the guesswork to match antibiotics with bacterial strains causing Bovine Respiratory Disease.
- The Canadian-built Oscar recycling system, guides users in office spaces to ensure waste is appropriately sorted.
- Amazon’s YEG2 facility is North America’s “most technologically advanced fulfillment warehouse” due to robotic integration.
- The Lexum AI tool allows those in the legal profession to easily access case law and legislation summaries.
- The Yukon First Nation School Board has opened the Watson Lake Individual Learning Centre where those in the community can access drop-in, part-time or online supports to earn their high school diploma.
- The federal government raised the required amount of funds that international students must have in addition to tuition to receive a student visa from $10,000 to $20,635. The government also extended permissions which allow students to work more than 20-hours per week off campus to April 30, 2024.
- University of Northern B.C. in partnership with the Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute has announced a new, four-year bachelor of arts degree with 70 per cent of programs to be provided in Nisga’a language.
- Star Wars: A New Hope will be translated into Ojibway and screened in Winnipeg and shown on APTN through a partnership between LucasFilm, the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council and the University of Manitoba. Voice actors will be recruited in Manitoba as the recording will take place in Winnipeg.
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 .