The Future of Work and Learning Brief
Issue 48 | July 2024

In this issue: Job vacancies fall, AI-screening creates problems for employers and employees, Saskatchewan addresses shortfall of speech-language pathologists, and more. 

Training & Employment: numbers and news

Canada’s tightening job market

StatsCan is reporting that job vacancies across Canada have fallen to levels not seen since the beginning of the pandemic, dropping to 575,400 positions. Lower numbers indicate a weakening economy and lower prospects for job seekers.  

The drop in job vacancies may shift wage and bargaining power in hiring back to employers from job-seekers, reversing recent trends. 

Productivity numbers continue to decline

Canada’s productivity numbers continue to disappoint, with economists from the Quebec-based Fédération des caisses Desjardins reporting that all provinces showed declining output per worker for the first time since the pandemic.  

The data suggests that while the economy is still growing (mostly due to immigration) there are serious concerns about the future, with Canada’s productivity declining against the U.S. and other major economies.   

AI in hiring causing issues for employers and job seekers 

Shifts in hiring practices to AI-based screening may be causing problems for employers as well as job-seekers.  

According to a recent report, over 40 per cent of Canadian hiring managers report making less than satisfactory hires, with some believing that AI’s over-emphasis on technical vs human skills was resulting in more candidates who were a poor fit for open positions.  

Experienced and skilled candidates also report feeling frustrated by the time it is taking to find work, as well as with the process itself.  

As job requirements shift, and the half-life of skills decreases, constant re-skilling and upskilling remains the key to continued relevance for skilled workers. 

Alberta announces new immigration pathway for law enforcement 

The Alberta government announced a new immigration pathway under the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program (AAIP) aimed at recruiting qualified overseas candidates in law enforcement. The move addresses concerns by some police forces in Alberta at a lack of domestic applicants.   

Eligible employers for this program must be members of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP) and overseas candidates must meet federal Express Entry immigration criteria. 

Healthcare education gets a boost in Saskatchewan  

The University of Saskatchewan is launching new masters programs to address shortages in speech-language pathology and occupational therapy. The new programs will have capacity for 40 students, each beginning in 2026, and are funded by $8.1 million from the provincial government.  

Student aid policy change in Alberta  

In other post-secondary news, the Government of Alberta has announced that students receiving provincial student aid will no longer be able to use those funds to attend private career colleges outside Alberta. Students in their final year, as well as those in a select number of programs in high-demand fields, will be exempt from the new rules.  

The move comes as a response to similar measures in British Columbia and Alberta at a time when private career colleges are under increasing scrutiny.  

Other News 

  • Manitoba government supports new incubator and acceleration program for Indigenous entrepreneurs.  
  • Government supporting Indigenous agriculture
  • ‘Fix your system’: Winnipeg rally Calls for more international workers to remain in Manitoba  
  • Saskatchewan invests $100 million in major Indigenous wind project  
  • Long-awaited Arctic port and road project restarts with regulatory filings 

AI & U  

Challenges keeping Canada’s AI edge

Canada has the potential to be a global leader in AI. The country currently has 10 per cent of the world’s leading AI talent including two of the “godfathers” of AI, Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio, leading research at Canada’s Mila Institute and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence. A recent report from TD economics has identified that generative AI could boost Canada’s GDP by 5-8 per cent in the next decade. The report notes that AI driven innovations may offer a solution to Canada’s productivity problem by helping people work smarter and more efficiently. 

However, Canada is currently failing to capitalize on this potential. Experts have identified several key issues preventing Canada from being the AI leader it aspires to be: 

  • According to Abhishek Gupta, founder of the Montreal AI Ethics Institute, part of the problem is that Canadian talent is seeking higher pay in the U.S. and other countries where bolder wealthier venture capital firms can outspend those in Canada. 
  • Benjamin Bergen, president of the Council of Canadian Innovators, also noted that funding the talent side of the equation but not the business side and has “institutionalized the transfer of our AI intellectual property to foreign firms.”  
  • Canada also continues to face regulatory uncertainty without clear legislation and guidelines around appropriate use of AI. Jeremy Barnes, Element AI’s former Chief Technology Officer, and Manav Gupta, vice-president and chief technology officer at IBM Canada, have recommended that Canada’s AI policy follow in the footsteps of the U.S. and EU, noting that not aligning with international standards could create friction that would make it harder for Canadian businesses to succeed. 
  • In a recent statement the federal government noted “insufficient domestic computing capacity exposes Canadian researchers and firms to fragile international supply chains for AI computing power, posing challenges in terms of cost, security of access, and the privacy and security of Canadian data.” 
  • According to Statistics Canada, only one in 10 businesses are currently using or planning to use generative AI. This lag in adoption of AI means that there is limited domestic demand for Canadian technologies. 

The Government of Canada is currently undertaking consultations on how to spend the $2 billion allocated for AI investments in the 2024 budget in hopes of addressing some of these challenges. Alberta is also seeking to lead Canada in AI computing infrastructure as developers are looking to build three large data centre hubs in Alberta. The provincial government has assembled a cabinet working group to ensure the province becomes the top choice in Canada for AI tech facilities. 

AI in medicine 

Researchers at UBC were able to use AI to identify a distinct type of endometrial cancer that puts patients at much greater risk of recurrence and death. The research team is now exploring how the AI tool could be used in clinical practice. According to Dr. Jessica McAlpine, professor in Gynecologic Oncology at UBC, and surgeon-scientist at B.C. Cancer and Vancouver General Hospital “this AI-based approach will help ensure no patient misses an opportunity for potentially lifesaving interventions.” 

University of Saskatchewan researchers are looking to use AI to detect early Alzheimer’s through eye screenings. They believe that changes in the retina and optical nerve could be identified by AI based on routine retinal scans, possibly even decades before the onset of symptoms. Their project has received a $150,000 Impact Grant as part of the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) Solutions Program. 

Alberta Innovates has provided a total of $9.5 million in grants from 12 groups aiming to use AI to improve diagnoses and treatment in health care. These projects include a technology to assist in the automation of paperwork and data entry for health-care professionals and using AI to predict health outcomes for people with disabilities. 

AI in agriculture

A Saskatchewan based company Ground Truth.Ag has developed a technology that can grade grain by having an AI visually inspect each grain. This technology is aiming to remove the guesswork and subjectivity of grain grading, while also reducing time required for the process. Ground Truth COO Divyesh Patel suggests that this technology provides a much more consistent damage score and “will make the whole supply chain move more efficiently.”  

Manitoba-based company Mode40 is using AI for carcass quality control in the meat sector. Their project involves using the Internet of Things and AI to regulate meat processing temperatures to enhance food safety and meat quality. The technology uses sensors that monitor temperature, humidity and wind speed among other factors to provide an AI with the data needed to predict optimal cooling time for carcasses. The company is still in pre-commercialization but hopes to have a commercialized system by 2026. 

AI is being used in a range of other ways across the Canadian agriculture sector. Projects include using an AI Ranch Hand to help farmers identify their animals, keep them in good health and identify when they are going into labour. 

AI policy conversations
  • The Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner has made recommendations on revisions needed to the Personal Information Protection Act including establishing the “right to be forgotten” and specific protection for children’s personal information.  
  • Saskatchewan is asking the federal government to ban AI voice cloning to protect democracy and electoral integrity. The provincial government is looking to see what it can do under provincial legislation leading up to the provincial election but ultimately the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is best positioned to address these concerns. 
  • The Manitoba government has expanded the definition of non-consensual distribution in the Intimate Images Act to include fake pictures to restrict the distribution of AI generated pornography. 
  • There continues to be uncertainty if the federal Online News Act applies to AI services as well. The federal government has not given a clear answer to this question, suggesting it is up to Canada’s broadcasting regulator.  

The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Jeff Griffiths, Lin Akkad and Shreya Shah. 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. If you have any interesting stories for future editions, please send them to .