The Future of Work and Learning Brief
Issue 47 | June 2024

In this issue: Over-promise and under-delivery of jobs for international students partially behind labour crisis in skilled trades, Manitoba launches new breast cancer detection technology, Canadians fear AI-driven identity theft, and more.

Governments, industry, labour shortages and training 

Alberta’s population boom and aging infrastructure are exacerbating labour shortages in the province’s construction sector. Mark Martens, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, told CBC News the shortages are “literally the No.1 issue on everyone’s mind.” Grant Zeitner with Abalone Group of Companies told CBC in the same article that “we have an asset base of equipment that would allow us to do much more work than we’ve done in the last five years, but we simply can’t get the labour force that would be able to make use of all of that equipment.” 

While credential recognition is one barrier for newcomers to enter skilled trades, recent CBC analysis of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship (IRCC) data finds that Canada’s push to recruit foreign students failed to match them to job market needs to the detriment of skilled trades and healthcare. Between 2018 and 2023, 27 per cent of study permits were in business programs while only six per cent were in “health sciences, medicine or biological and biomedical sciences programs” and 1.25 per cent were in “trades and vocational training programs.” Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates told CBC News “I don’t think it had much to do with labour market needs, I think what it had to do with was colleges’ financial needs.” 

Governments across the west are funding much needed, costly tech and skilled trades spaces: 

  • Innovation Saskatchewan provided $92,500, matched by project partners, to fund four technology pilot projects through the Made in Saskatchewan Technology program. The program allows innovators to work with Saskatchewan based organizations to pilot technology to improve public service delivery.  
  • The B.C. government is funding the creation of 500 new student spaces at Simon Fraser University in existing tech-focused programs. 
  • The Government of Alberta announced $43 million for a new advanced skills center at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). The center aims to create space for an additional 4,200 skilled trades students, a 33 per cent enrollment increase.  

Investments and innovation in rural, remote and northern healthcare 

Manitoba is the first province to adopt magnetic seed localization, an innovative technology that improves breast cancer treatment. Magnetic seed localization involves using a small metal seed to locate cancer tissue more accurately and less invasively than the traditional method of metal wires inserted into a patient’s breast.  

The Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies and University of Saskatchewan are creating an Indigenous-led Virtual Health Hub, the first virtual hub in Canada. Using Remote Presence Technology this hub hopes to provide virtual, remote health services for up to 30 communities through funds from the federal and provincial governments.  

The B.C. government aims to recruit and retain rural/remote healthcare workers for high-need areas with $155.7 million for targeted initiatives. These initiatives include signing bonuses for filling critical vacancies or short-term deployments to rural and remote communities and mentorship/professional development.  

Alberta continues to build on the success of the Rural Integrated Community Clerkship program mentioned in a previous brief to increase rural doctor attraction and retention. The University of Lethbridge (UofL) and University of Calgary (UofC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a Rural Medical Education Program Training Centre at the UofL. UofC students can complete the entirety of their degree at the UofL.  

Labour market access to newcomers still in the spotlight 

The B.C. International Credentials Recognition Act, which received Royal Assent in November 2023, will come into force this summer. The Government of B.C. says that “this new act will help regulatory bodies improve the credential recognition process and make it fairer, faster and easier for people to use their skills to work in B.C.”  

Alberta’s Foreign Credential Advisory Committee Act will also come into force at the end of June. While committee members are not yet known, they will be tasked with reviewing legislation and rules established by regulatory organizations and making recommendations to improve foreign credential recognition processes. 

The Government of Canada announced a new pilot program to provide home care workers with permanent residence on arrival in Canada after the cessation of two separate home care programs. The pilot will see language requirements eased as those admitted under the new pilot will require Canadian Language Benchmark 4 instead of 5. 

AI & U 

Canada’s AI Strategy and the Public Service 

The Hon. Anita Anand recently held a roundtable to discuss the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the federal public service. According to the government news release, attendees discussed “building AI-ready workforce through innovation, enabling infrastructure and engagement and implementing tools for responsible and effective AI adoption.” In an interview with the CBC, Anand made clear that the government does not plan to use AI tools for confidential or classified documents, but further details will be revealed once available.  

A new Angus Reid Institute survey highlights broader tensions about work-life balance, economic impacts, and workplace modernization in a post-pandemic world.  More than half (52 per cent) of public sector union members support the federal government’s new return-to-office policy, which requires at least three days of in-office work. Amid potential summer job action because of the return-to-work policy, two-in-five (40 per cent) union members believe the government should let workers continue to work from home.  Most Canadians (59 per cent) would like to see federal public servants return to in-person work. Support is lower among younger women, with 47 per cent of women aged 18-34 opposing the policy. In Ottawa, the center of the public service, 57 per cent of workers and 53 percent of Ottawans oppose the new policy and sparked debate over the role of public servants in downtown revitalization  

Canadians Concerned about AI Threats 

Canadians are increasingly worried about identity theft as the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to grow. New research from Okta Solutions, reveals that three-quarters of Canadians fear AI-driven identity theft, with less than a quarter confident in recognizing AI-generated fraud. Dan Kagan, Senior VP at Okta, highlights that around 25 per cent of British Columbians are educating themselves on AI, over 30 per cent fear AI will target their banking and social media accounts, and about five per cent worry about work credentials. Kagan distinguishes cybercrime from AI threats, noting AI uses impersonation techniques to deceive, as seen in a recent “grandparent scam” involving his family. He advises making social media profiles private and using multi-factor authentication to mitigate AI threats. 

AI in Hospitality and Management 

Research from Ohio State University explores the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on concierge services in the hospitality and tourism sector.  The paper outlines four primary forms of AI concierges, including dialogue interfaces, virtual avatars, holographic projections, and tangible robots, each catered to specific needs. The study emphasizes the need for multidisciplinary testing to ensure equitable and widespread application of these technologies, underscoring the relevance and potential implications of AI integration in service-oriented industries. Additionally, the paper addresses the need to consider consumer privacy concerns and the psychological impact of human-AI interactions.  

Another study from Washington State University highlights the risk of labour shortages in the hospitality industry due to “robot-phobia,” which could lead to increased job insecurity and stress among workers. These findings underscore the importance of understanding the societal and psychological implications of AI integration in the hospitality, tourism and services industries. 

Other News 
  • For Indigenous individuals who want to enter the aerospace and defence sector, a new training program in Victoria, B.C., from “Indigenous-owned and women-led” RaceRocks may be of interest. Melissa Lundy with RaceRocks says “the program integrates Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing with Western science to broaden the world around us.” 
  • ECO Canada’s latest report, Canada’s Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain Sector Profile, provides insight into how current jobs such as those in the skilled trades, engineering, or technical or supervisory positions can be transitioned for employment in the EV supply chain. For those currently working in oil and gas, the analysis suggests that critical mineral mining could be an area to transition skills but “there are currently no clear pathways to do this.” 
  • Aspiring TV series creators in the north can build their grant application skills and receive mentorship through a partnership between the Independent Production Fund and the film branches of the three territorial governments. The Whistler Film Festival will lead training and application processing. 
  • Employment and Social Development Canada made a series of funding announcements in mid-May for the provinces and territories to increase daycare spaces. The announcements come amidst concerns that the planned expansion of spaces to meet demand for the $10/day program will not meet 2026 targets.   

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 .