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 .

Construction Innovation

Tall wood lumber requires changes for education in construction industry

The 2020 National Building Code comes into effect in December 2020 and will allow tall lumber construction to go from six storeys to twelve storeys. UNBC professor Dr. Guido Wimmer highlights the education shift that tall wood construction requires, “starting with architects and engineers, down to the construction site carpenters, etc., need to be trained properly in this kind of setting as well because it’s all about pre-fabrication.” Read more here.

Nicola LogWorks, one B.C. company, is on the forefront of innovation in terms of tall wood construction. John Boys, the owner of Nicola LogWorks, has invented a custom lathe and the company also worked with another B.C. company to create ‘ABBy’ a log-building robot. Learn more about the company and their innovations here.

Energy Efficient and Net-Zero Homes

Energy Efficiency Alberta funded a recent report from the Canada Green Building Council on what skills and competencies are needed for tradespeople to construct net-zero buildings in Alberta. The report highlights communication, green literacy, project design and problem solving as key soft skills. The key technical skills, such as building science and energy storage, reflect the higher degree of complexity involved in net-zero construction compared to traditional construction. The report identifies a lack of incentives, modes of training, green illiteracy, market infrastructure as well as a lack of affordability and access, as the barriers to building these skills. Read the full report.

Winton Homes, based in Prince George, and Design Smart Construction, based in Fort St. John, have jointly received a B.C. government grant to design and prefabricate passive housing components for northern Canadian climates. The companies hope that the project will spur local job creation as well as energy efficient construction in colder climates. Read more about the project here.

Post-secondary institutions and tech sector work together


Olds College in Alberta and Silicon Valley accelerator program Thrive, have joined together to explore the future of tech and agriculture. The college is already home to the Smart Farm which allows for agriculture technology to be tested in a real-world context. Read more here.

An American company, AGCO, recently purchased Winnipeg-based start-up 151 Research – developer of GrainViz, an innovative solution allowing farmers to measure moisture in grain bins. AGCO plans to keep operations running in Manitoba and look into partnerships with University of Manitoba as well as other projects. Read more on this purchase here.

Tech sector accelerators and education

The University of Calgary is in talks with MaRS, an accelerator hub based in Toronto, to launch a tech sector innovation hub in Calgary. However, the project would need local stakeholders for financial and location support. The Platform Calgary Innovation Centre is also due to open in 2021 and has a similar model to MaRS. Read more on both projects here.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Lighthouse Labs will be providing twelve-week tech bootcamps and six-week introductory courses in web development, data analytics and data science. Students qualify for the training through a technical skills test and interview. Read more on the offerings here.

Vancouver-based tech company, Thinkific, which focuses on helping individuals and companies develop online learning, has announced it plans to generate 350 tech jobs after the company raised $22 million in capital. The number of courses developed through the company’s platform has grown 200 per cent since the start of the pandemic. The company forecasts that this year’s $650 million in revenue will grow to $1.5 billion by the end of 2021. For more, read this story.

Indigenous representation in education

A recent study in Rocky View County, Alberta, shows that, during the 2017-18 school year, 30 per cent of students who identified as Indigenous were chronically absent and 80 per cent of on-reserve Indigenous students attending off-reserve schools were chronically absent. Rocky View County schools fall on Treaty 7 Land and serve the Stoney-Nakoda First Nations communities of Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley, as well as the Tsuu T’ina Nation. On-reserve Indigenous children’s enrollment in off-reserve schools had also declined over the five years prior to the study. The study attributes the decline and absenteeism to cross-cultural anxiety and experiences with racism. Read more on the report here.

The Saskatchewan government has announced $34.5 million in funding for a permanent Cree bilingual school which will serve 700 students. Read more on the school here.

Following reports that at least nine Indigenous or Métis professors and an unknown number of senior staff have left employment at the University of Saskatchewan over the past five years, a group of 200 alumni from the College of Education sent a 15-page letter to the university. The letter asks the university to do more in terms of supporting Indigenous staff and teachings and to address allegations of racism within the college. Read more on the alumni letter here.

Opportunities for Northern Canadians

Mayor of Yellowknife, Rebecca Alty, said plans to revamp Aurora College into a polytechnic university were not ambitious enough. In two letters send to Government of the North West Territories she said current proposals are too similar to the current structure of Aurora College with too much focus on skilled trades. A committee with the city recommends that the school offer social sciences, for public sector employment, and digital skills, such as coding. Read this article for more on the Mayor’s thoughts.

One area the new school may wish to partner with industry is in journalism and media. The CBC has recently reorganized so that the North is now separated from Saskatchewan and Manitoba in terms of news coverage and program delivery with operations to be set up in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. The managing director for the region, Mervin Brass, has said he wants to work with Aurora College to train Indigenous youth and adults from around the region to locally source talent for the region. Read more here.

The federal government is currently reviewing the sale of TMAC Resources’ assets to China-based Shandong Gold Mining. The review is necessary as Shandong Gold Mining is partially owned by the Chinese Government and the Investment Canada Act requires federal review for all investments from state-owned entities. As the companies wait for either approval or rejection of the sale, potential workers wait as well. Before the pandemic hit, TMAC Resources’ Hope Bay facility was the largest private employer in the Kitikmeot region. The review comes at time of heightened tension between China and Canada.  For more on this story read this article.

Western Canadian labour market data for September

Statistics Canada has released its latest labour force survey for September 2020. Key highlights for the Western provinces:

Fiscal impact of COVID 19 on post-secondary institutions

Statistics Canada has released new figures which show the 2018-2019 financials for post-secondary institutions (PSIs) across Canada as well as projections for fiscal impacts of COVID for the 2020-2021 academic year. These scenarios show that institutions could collectively see losses from $377 million (-0.8 per cent) to $3.4 billion (-7.5 per cent). These projections are based on scenarios for impacts to enrollment, particularly from international students; decreased operational spending, such as staff reductions; as well as additional capital expenditures to increase online program delivery. For more, read the Statistics Canada summary 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 .