The Future of Work and Learning Brief
Issue 46 |May 2024

Demand for wide-ranging, front-line emergency services amidst an early wildfire season and emergency healthcare pressures have policymakers and service providers looking at new training and delivery models. This issue provides a look across the West at what governments and others are doing to meet these challenges. 

Wildfire training and preparedness 

The B.C. Wildfire Service received 2,000 applications for 250 spots in its bootcamp which is “more than double the number that applied last year.” Of those, 200 will be selected to join the wildfire service. Four additional attack groups will be added, which will include “three-or four-person, quick response teams [which] include smokejumpers and helicopter crews.” Thompson Rivers University will be home to North America’s first wildfire degree-granting and research centre with first admissions expected in 2025.  

B.C.-based Ascent Helicopters will expand its nighttime training into Alberta to help build 24/7 wildfire fighting teams. Owner Trent Lemke told Global News that night fighting is advantageous as “you have less fire activity so you can actually action the fire with a higher success rate.” Pilots and others on the team will learn to fly and work with night vision goggles. Researchers with the Environmental Forensics and Arson Lab at Mount Royal University in Calgary use drones and light detection and ranging cameras (LiDar) to study the components of wildfire smoke and how to “better characterize it for human health risk.” 

While provinces are increasingly using AI and drones instead of human lookouts, others such as former lookout and now journalist Trina Moyles argue that humans are still essential for such roles. Graham Erickson with AI-company AltaML told CBC that AI / drone technology “lacks a lot of context” and understanding that context is where humans can still play a vital role. 

Indigenous wildfire training 

The federal budget includes $175 million for First Nations wildfire response and training and to help address the unique needs of remote and rural First Nation communities. In Alberta, each First Nation will have an emergency management coordinator who will support “planning and preparing” for wildfires according to Federal Indigenous Services Minister Patti Hajdu.  

Last year, the Prince Albert Grand Council in Saskatchewan received $524,780 for the Prince Albert Grand Council Indigenous Wildfire Stewards pilot program which will continue this season. The program trains both wildland fire practitioners and Indigenous fire stewards. The practitioners receive “traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) training with Elder advisors” while the stewards are trained “through fire camps and fire guardian programs.” The B.C. government is “expanding First Nations bootcamps” which were piloted last year at the Cariboo Fire Centre and will now also be offered at the Coastal Fire Centre.  

Yukon First Nations Wildfire’s Beat the Heat boot camp gives young people ranging from 16 to 30ish in the northern territory a chance to join a crew. The program is not limited to First Nations individuals with newcomers from around the world also eligible to apply for one of the 40 positions.  

Managing EMS delivery 

Ambulance drivers and other emergency vehicle operators in Winnipeg can now remotely change traffic lights to green at key intersections on Osborne Street in Winnipeg as part of a pilot program. The move is intended to help responders get to and from emergency scenes more quickly. The province has also opened consultation on a change which proposes to expand and refine a Niverville-based program to other communities. Niverville Fire Chief Keith Bueckert describes the program as “a new community based Advanced First Aid Program.” While emergency medical responders have to register with the College of Paramedics and have 350 hours of training, Advanced First Aid responders to not have to register and have 70-90 hours of training. EMRs and Advanced First Aid responders can work together to handle emergency calls for a community. 

A Saskatchewan pilot to triage emergency calls “aims to alleviate pressure on EMS resources” such as ambulances. Registered nurses will take calls and decide if EMS should be dispatched or if the caller could receive support through other, non-urgent care. 

Non-urgent patient transfers in Edmonton and Calgary will be contracted out to private sources to free up ambulances for emergencies.  

The B.C. government rolled out three types of models for EMS station staffing in 17 rural and northern communities. The first model will always have eight positions on duty while the second model is only staffed for 16 hours with the remainder of the time on call. The third model will have “full time paramedic unit chiefs to provide support” while all others will be on call. 

AI & U 

Unveiling Canada’s AI landscape: Insights into government projects and initiatives 

Western University researcher Joanne Redden’s analysis of federal government projects finds that “nearly 300 projects” used AI. While some departments stopped using the technology after the project, others have continued. Redden told CTV News that “there needs to be far more public debate about what kinds of systems should be in use, and there needs to be more public information available about how these systems are being used.”  

Shaping tomorrow: How AI could revolutionize the Canadian workforce 

A report by the Work Time Reduction Centre of Excellence and Autonomy suggests that AI adoption could potentially allow over 90 per cent to reduce working hours by 10 per cent enabling 25 per cent of workers to shift to a four-day work week without productivity loss by 2034. The report mentions that AI could enhance productivity while improving overall quality of life. CEO Joe O’Connor emphasizes equitable distribution of productivity gains between corporations and workers. The report, matching government data with productivity models, challenges traditional work notions, with critics raising concerns about disparities in benefits but proponents highlighting broad AI applications, including in healthcare, shaping the future of work. Critics raise concerns about potential disparities in benefits, but proponents argue that AI tools could have broad applications, including in sectors like healthcare, ultimately reshaping the future of work. 

Risks and benefits of AI in heart health 

A new study finds ChatGPT-4 “provides highly inconsistent risk estimates, diagnostic classifications, and test ordering recommendations when presented with identical clinical data” for individualized, cardiac patient data sets. The findings suggest that traditional assessments still be used, and that ChatGPT-4 is still “inappropriate for clinical use.” Meanwhile, researchers from Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) have developed WARN, a deep-learning model which has predicted atrial fibrillation 30 minutes in advance with 80 per cent accuracy. Traditional methods “are only able to detect atrial fibrillation right before its onset and do not provide an early warning.” The system could notify at-risk individuals that they need to take precautions and “reduce emergency interventions.” 

AI in policing 

The AI Policing Paradigm article published in Police Chief Magazine (pg. 28), discusses the recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and their “potential to bolster accountability, transparency, and public trust in a police force.” Predictive AI can help determine where “and how they can “allocate resources more efficiently, focusing on areas with a higher likelihood of violence” to prevent both under and over policing in areas. For such benefits to be realized, police using these tools need to confirm the technologies are doing “what they were designed to do” and whether they “align with the agency’s ethical standards” Recent changes to government AI standards also bear consideration as these changes have  implications for potential AI tools in policing. 

Other News 

  • The Yukon government’s partnership with Nation Defense will see military personnel working in the territory’s hospitals. Yukon’s Minister of Health and Social Services Tracy-Anne McPhee describes the move as a way to “boost the health care of all Yukoners” while personnel can “maintain existing and learn new skills.” Meanwhile, the opposition’s healthcare critic said that “if calling in the military isn’t a sign there is a problem, [then] I don’t know what is.” 
  • The latest Early Childhood Education Report from researchers at the University of Toronto provides a status update on the federal government’s childcare agreements with the provinces. Out of the planned 250,000 new spaces by 2026, just under 98,000 new spaces were created by 2023 with delays due to several factors including post-pandemic challenges and increased, for-profit competition.  
  • A new hemp processing plant in Elk Point, Alberta, will be predominately Indigenous owned and operated. The plant, which will receive $5 million in federal funding from PrairiesCan, will be owned by Askiy Hemp Partnership Ltd. with Frog Lake First Nation and Logistik Unicorp comprising the partnership.  

    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 .