The Future of Work and Learning Brief
Issue 45 |April 2024

Canadian construction industry outlook 

Despite efforts to recruit 266,300 individuals under the age of 30, Buildforce Canada predicts  the construction industry may face a shortage of approximately 85,500 workers by 2033. About 263,400 workers – or 21 per cent of the existing workforce – are expected to retire over the same period. Across the West, 23 per cent of the construction workforce in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. and 20 per cent of Manitoba’s construction workforce will be eligible to retire by 2033. Based on estimated growth and retirements, the sector will need to hire about 351,800 workers nationally by 2033 to keep up with demand.  

Budget announcements 

Saskatchewan and Manitoba recently announced their 2024 budgets and both include funds for post-secondary education and workforce skills training. Saskatchewan is allocating $793 million to the province’s post-secondary sector, marking a 3.7 per cent increase from the previous year. The investment includes $3.5 million in new funding to create 66 additional training seats in programs for Registered Nurses.   

Manitoba has committed $26.6 million toward expanding the number of training seats for medical doctors. These investments are essential to guaranteeing that Manitoba can establish a strong and locally sourced solution to the province’s healthcare workforce requirements. The Government of Alberta announced the expansion of the optional career-based dual credit program with an additional funding of $4.5 million for the 2024-25 academic year. 

B.C. passed new legislation to guarantee annual funding of $8.45 million for First Nations post-secondary education in the province. The Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Murray Rankin, stated that “for years, the right to a post-secondary education was denied to First Nations learners. Culturally appropriate opportunities did not exist.” The funds will support program redevelopments and job specific training and upgrading at 44 post-secondary institutions under the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Act 

Labour ministers convene 

Federal, provincial and territorial governments met recently in B.C. to tackle recent workplace challenges and find collaborative solutions. Occupational health and safety (OHS) harmonization, manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) for women, and labour standards (and potentially even unionization) for gig workers were the main topics of discussion. The meeting concluded with ministers reaffirmed their commitment to collaborate to support “fair, safe, healthy and inclusive workplaces.”

AI & U

$2.4 billion for AI capacity 

The next federal budget will include a significant amount to build Canada’s AI capacity. Tech publication Betakit breaks down the numbers: 

  • $2 billion for “computing capacity.” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance remarks announcing the funds make clear that capacity is related to “the hardware and software systems specifically designed to support AI technology” and “data centres.”  
  • $200 million to Canada’s Regional Development Agencies to help startups build and commercialize and traditional industries to integrate AI. 
  • $100 million to the Industrial Research Assistance Program at the National Research Council. 
  • $50 million for workforce training. 
  • $50 million for an AI safety institute and a separate $5 million for an AI and Data Commissioner. CBC reports that the commissioner would “enforce the proposed Artificial Intelligence and Data Act” while the safety institute would focus on “advanced or nefarious AI systems.”  

Criticisms of the funding announcement and the previously announced Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA) are primarily focused on whether the government has sufficiently addressed security and regulation needs while still allowing for innovation. Headlines from around the globe show that the United States, India, China, and others are facing a similar challenge and are each taking their own approaches.  

Search and rescue 

If an orphaned Orca calf can get out of the lagoon it is currently stranded in, AI will hopefully be able to reunite the baby with its pod. Orca-identification tool Finwave currently “has a more than 90 per cent accuracy rate when looking for Bigg’s killer whales” which could help rescuers unite the calf with its family. The tool uses photo analysis to match pictures with an Orca directory.   

For humans, parkour robots may be coming to a search and rescue team near you. Robots such as Atlas from Boston Dynamics and Cassie from Agility Robotics are learning how to analyze and move through environments that require “split-second decisions” and could take the lead on searches in dangerous areas.  

AI on the farm 

Innovation guru Shawn Kanungo told attendees at the Alberta Beef Conference to “start playing around with [AI as] it is here to say.” Kanungo then demonstrated how AI can be used to analyze data to target markets in specific countries and other AI can then be used to translate advertising materials into languages for those markets.  

A recent paper published in Nature Communications is gaining attention as University of Minnesota researchers found that “a Knowledge-Guided Machine Learning Framework” could help enhance carbon monitoring on farms and produce a more accurate estimate of how much carbon a farm is producing. A more accurate carbon estimate can help farmers, policymakers and other stakeholders make better decisions related to carbon sequestration, credits and farming practices. 

AI in the Creative Arts: A Transformative Landscape 

Thanks to Microsoft Bing’s Copilot for writing the title for this section. Independent author RR Haywood raised the alarm about generative AI being used to write novellas and which are then sold through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or other online channels intended for up-and-coming and independent authors. While these channels have guardrails in place, Haywood adds that “teams simply can’t keep up” with the flood of novellas which is creating bottlenecks and delays for legitimate writers.  

Musicians have asked for protections against AI-generated copy-cats to ensure artists are paid for their creative products. SAG-AFTRA, Sony, Universal, Warner, and Disney have since reached a deal on AI in the music industry which limits the definition of artist, singer and royalty artist to humans only. Labels should also have “clear consent [and] minimum compensation” if AI is used.

Other News 

  • The federal government announced long-awaited provincial allocations for student visa applications under its revised rules. According to federal estimates, the revisions could result in approximately 47 per cent fewer study permit approvals in B.C., 16 per cent fewer in Manitoba, 10 per cent more in Saskatchewan and 23 per cent more in Alberta in September 2024. Those estimates do not account for any impact the changes have made on student willingness or ability to come to Canada. 
  • As teacher shortages continue, Lower Mainland schools continue to hire uncertified teachers to fill the gap.  
  • The Alberta government’s recent Provincial Priorities bill has post-secondary institutions and researchers concerned about how the legislation will affect federally administered research dollars 

    The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Jeff Griffiths and Lin Akkad. 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 .