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 .

Alberta government pushes for diversification

The Hon. Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s Minister of Jobs, Economy, and Innovation, released an op-ed which acknowledges the province must face diversification, saying “The darkened office towers sitting empty in downtown Calgary will not fill themselves or provide the next generation with confidence that their future is in Alberta.”  

The provincial government’s Recovery Plan for the Future includes investments in hydrogen, agricultural infrastructure, artificial intelligence (AI), and tech development. 

Energy sector mergers, recovery and green jobs 

All eyes are on the Husky and Cenovus merger and whether the deal can work and provide a model for others in the sector. In terms of implications for jobs, the agreement resulted in 25 per cent job cuts at Cenovus, primarily in Calgary. If companies find mergers to be a viable solution and consolidate resources, additional job losses are possible. Read more about the job implications here. 

At the same time, there is promising news from the International Energy Agency (IEA). In its recent World Energy Outlook 2020, the agency foresees recovery for oil from the pandemic shock. However, the report also projects that oil demand will level off with renewable energy resources and natural gas gaining as sustainable development takes hold. 

What does this mean for jobs in Alberta? The provincial government is looking at hydrogen and thermal energy as possible alternatives to oil and gas in the province, which would require the transition of workers to renewable energy jobs.  

Green tech jobs and projects will receive Alberta government support with $750 million from Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) and other funds; the funding goal is to create 230 jobs, support the 9,000 jobs in the clean tech sector and draw in $1.9 billion to the provincial economy.  

Enel Green Power and Lethbridge College also announced a partnership to provide Wind Turbine Technician training to members of the Piikani Nation. Read more on this partnership here. 

Financial technology in Calgary, B.C. and beyond 

LendingArch, a Calgary-based financial technology (fintech) company which provides auto loans, personal loans, insurance and credit card comparisons was recently named the fourth fastest growing startup in Canada. The Startup List ranks Canadian businesses on two-year revenue growth. Read more on the list here. 

B.C. fintech companies RevoluGroup Canada, ClearlyPayments, foresee open banking as the wave of the future as consumers move from traditional banks to digital platforms. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this shift as consumers look for cashless and contactless payment options. Read more on their perspectives here.  

The federal government has restarted its hearings into open banking since the pandemic shut down. The government consultations initially assessed the merits of open banking in Canada and now the second phase has started with an assessment on how implementation would look. Read more on the federal government process here. 

Internationally, the fintech sector has shown its potential for both startups and large corporations. Plaid, a fintech startup based out of San Francisco, recently reached a deal with Australian company Basiq. This deal could help American and Australian fintechs access a wider range of markets. VISA recently purchased Plaid for $5.3 billion although the deal is under antitrust scrutiny. For more on this deal and its implications for data sharing, read this article 

Ant Group, a Chinese-based company which operates digital wallet app AliPay, was set to hold the world record folargest IPO at $37 billion. Saudi Arabia Aramco currently holds the record at $29.4 billion. However, the Chinese government has blocked the IPO from going forward at least for the moment. Read more on the Ant Group story here. 

Alberta scholarships available in AI and machine learning through Microsoft and Amii 

Albertans who belong to a group underrepresented in STEM or who experienced negative COVID-19 job impacts are eligible for a scholarship for the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) Machine Learning Technician I certificate. Microsoft Canada has partnered with Amii to provide the scholarships with 20 awarded this fall and another 20 set to be provided to the Winter 2021 cohort. Read more on the scholarships or apply to the program – scholarship applications for the Winter 2021 cohort close on November 30, 2020. 

Work-integrated learning in B.C.

The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and Canada’s particle accelerator centre TRIUMF are working together to provide work-integrated learning opportunities. The program will expose students to what a STEM job could mean for people from a multidisciplinary background and will be open to individuals at any stage in their career – from students to those looking to reskill. The program will include real-world experience in science and engineering to business and trades. Read more about the partnership here. 

Community engagement a factor in determining success during the pandemic? 

Vale Manitoba Operations workers are angry as the company eliminated 144 jobs following a review and seemed to replace those positions with contractors. The mine produces nickel, which is currently in demand for electric vehicles and other technologies. Workers have expressed frustration that the company, which is based out of Sudbury, has not been more involved in the local community. Read more here. 

At the same time, locally owned B.C. forest companies have seen community engagement as a boon to their business during the pandemic. Skeena Sawmills was met with skepticism from the community of Terrace due to negative impressions of the forestry industry. The company donated face masks to the local hospital and, as an essential business, continued to keep residents employed during the pandemic. Other locally owned sawmills around the province also saw gains while larger producers experienced significant pressures. Read this article for more. 

Businesses feel better prepared for crises; students see benefits of online learning

Microsoft conducted a survey of Canadian business leaders finding that 69 per cent reported that they were better prepared for future crises and 51 per cent reported that they felt better prepared for a second wave in the pandemic. Meanwhile, 54 per cent were confident that their business could adapt to whatever the upcoming year presents. Read more on the survey here. 

A Manitoba student provides perspective on online learning and how, despite the challenges, there are significant benefits. These benefits include learning how to stay productive and disciplined while working remotely and greater understanding of technology. Read about the student’s experience here. 

STEM educated immigrants in Canada fair worse than in the U.S.

Stats Can released its latest slice and dice of the STEM immigrant data. While the source data is getting old, it does show that Canada has work to do if it wants to continue to attract immigrants with STEM qualifications. In comparisons of 2015-2017 U.S. immigrant data and 2016 Canadian immigrant data, the findings include:  

• Only 20 per cent of STEM educated immigrants in Canada are working in a job requiring a university degree compared to 48 per cent in the U.S. 

• In Canada, immigrants with STEM education earned 25 per cent less than Canadian-born workers in STEM jobs while there was no gap in the U.S. 

Read more on these differences here. 

Pension and benefits for gig and contract workers

During the B.C. election, the NDP party included development of a pension and benefit program in the party’s platform. Work is now underway to deliver the program for gig and contract workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both the essential nature of these types of workers as well as the precariousness of their jobs. For more on the plan, read this article.

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 .

Banner image: An Amii educator teaches the ML Technician Certificate I program.
Photo credit: University of Alberta Faculty of Extension.