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 .
School of Advanced Technology for Calgary
In preparation for the digital future, SAIT will be creating the School for Advanced Digital Technology through a large donation from a local philanthropist and the City of Calgary’s Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund. The school will support the development of tech talent in the city, which has seen a shortage of talent for the 435 tech companies within Calgary. Read more on the school and what it means for Calgary here.
Access to STEM jobs and education
The federal Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has announced a Science Horizons Youth Internship Program for STEM post-secondary graduates. Women, Indigenous people, or those from rural or remote communities are eligible. The program provides $15,000 per intern to employers in clean tech. Read this story here.
Women in manufacturing
Build a Dream, which began in Ontario and has expanded into some Alberta and B.C. communities, has found that women are less likely to pursue education or employment in STEM or skilled trades due to lack of encouragement. The organization has partnered with the Trillium Network to use the results from one study to increase the number of women employed in manufacturing; the sector has seen little growth in the number of women employees since the 1990s. For more on their work, read the story here.
Saskatchewan’s rare earth minerals facility creates jobs
The Saskatchewan government has announced it is building a rare earth minerals processing facility; the project will create both construction and long-term jobs in the province. Once complete, the Saskatchewan Research Council will own and operate the facility. Northern Saskatchewan has proven to be a rich source of high-grade rare earth minerals, which are key materials for electronics and renewable technology. Previously, mining companies had to ship their rare earth minerals to China or other countries for processing. Read more here.
Acceleration of the inevitable
In the education and work spheres, COVID-19 accelerated technology changes that were already happening and exposed challenges.
The transformative potential of hybrid (mixed online and in-person) and remote learning is not new, but the pandemic has allowed more mainstream exposure to how these possibilities could be rolled out. Education tech start-ups in B.C. are on the front lines of this transition; they see how these changes could significantly alter how we perceive attendance and define the classroom. Read the full story here.
The roll out of remote learning by schools in the early stages of the pandemic had mixed success as educators were forced to adopt remote learning on the fly. Some institutions which had success with technology, used the pandemic to expand their cloud services. Athabasca University in Alberta, transitioned its IT services and other data needs to Amazon Web Services (AWS). Jennifer Griffin Schaeffer, Vice-President of Information Technology and CIO said of the efforts, “You just need some grit, drive and focus. We got that out West.” Read more here.
One challenge that was quickly identified was uneven access to technology among students. Help came from government, private and non-profit sectors. London Drugs and the BC Technology for Learning Society put out a call for gently used electronics to distribute to students. Great Plains College in Saskatchewan announced plans to buy laptops for students with money from the federal government’s Emergency Community Support Fund. Read more about the London Drugs initiative here and Great Plains College here.
The need to rapidly reskill or educate workers who are underemployed or unemployed is not a new problem (see this Colleges and Universities Canada piece from January 2020); the pandemic has accelerated the need to build initiatives to get people back to work quickly.
In order to meet its needs for tech workers, companies are launching or expanding their own credential programs. Grow with Google expanded its six-month certificates, which Google recognizes as equivalent to a four-year bachelor’s degree for in demand jobs like data analyst and project management. The company also provides grants and scholarships for those in the program. Microsoft has also developed its own program to help people achieve credentials and find career paths in high-demand tech jobs. Read about both initiatives here.
The State of Virginia has implemented a rapid reskilling program called VA Ready. The program credentials residents in 10-12 weeks in partnership with private industry and colleges and uses remote learning. The program itself was built from the ground up and launched in an impressive 10 weeks. Read the full story here.
In the workforce, we have also seen acceleration of technology and the need to retain or attract top talent as a result of the COVID-19 response.
EY and the Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) Division of Energy Safety Canada released a report on the future of automation in upstream oil and gas. The report predicts that, in terms of the pandemic, “A jobless recovery is becoming a real possibility, whereby companies look for ways to add capacity and capability not through hiring more people, but through using technology and automation.”
The report also gives details on how automation will affect different competencies found within the sector by 2040 and what the sector can do to prepare. Access the full report here.
What about COVID-19 recovery within the manufacturing sector? In a recent interview, Joel Blit, Professor of Economics at the University of Waterloo, predicts increased automation and reallocation of workers and discusses reskilling required. Read the full interview here.
With increased remote working options, we could also see a rise in companies with entirely remote workers located all over the globe. Businesses who cannot meet their labour needs in the local talent pool can reach out to top talent wherever they are, which could be key to recovery for small businesses and start-ups. However, this transition also means that employees have to compete with a larger pool of applicants. Read the full story here.
This push for remote and tech work comes at a time when the U.S. government has halted H1-B visas for individuals due to concerns of COVID-19 transmission. Canadian company Communitech has developed a campaign to recruit tech workers who are affected and draw them to opportunities across Canada. Read the full story here.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has also made it easier for companies to retain foreign talent who are already in the country, and whose work visas are expiring. The agency has allowed foreign workers to apply for an employer-specific permit without leaving the country and being subject to quarantine rules or other travel barriers. Read more here.
More broadly, COVID-19 has also accelerated the need for broad technology access and usage in cities or “smart cities.” In this futuristic concept, technology facilitates social distancing using technologies already available or in development, such as autonomous vehicles, contactless delivery and automated services. Read more here.
Not all regions are prepared for this type of future. In Canada, for the two million Canadians in regions and municipalities with limited access to broadband, the acceleration of technology and remote options has proven to be a significant barrier. These impacts have been seen both in terms of access to education and ability to work remotely. Read more on this issue here.
The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty and Janet Lane. 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 .