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 .

This brief will look at what impact the pandemic had on jobs within specific sectors, where the disruptions occurred, and what shifts are expected as recovery takes place.

Sector unemployment now and in the future

The latest Labour Force Survey shows that employment numbers are still fluctuating due to COVID-19 restrictions. As businesses reopen, expect to see further shifts as people determine what they need to move forward. Saul Klein, Dean of the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria, says employees “may start asking questions about how organizations treated people during the pandemic.” If employees find they were not treated well or they have different priorities after the crisis, they may switch.  

As vaccines roll out, employers that were hit hard may have difficulty finding staff when they are able to fully reopen, such as cruise operators on the coast. Other employers, as in Alberta, could have difficulty finding employees due to “skills, child care and education responsibilities, and health and safety concerns.” Read more on the reopening shift and concerns of hard-hit coastal employers here and Alberta here. 

Outlook for hospitality and tourism

In 2020, tourism spending across Canada plummeted 48.1 per cent from 2019 levels; the number of jobs dropped 28.7 per cent. Food and beverage sales dropped 32.3 per cent while accommodation was down 35.2 per cent in. Read more on the numbers here.  

Within B.C., recovery is expected to be uneven as those operators who rely on the larger cruise ships which are banned until 2022, or airlines, will have to wait longer than local, seasonal operators, such as campsites. Large music festival Shambhala has cancelled its festival for 2021 but is hopeful for 2022. The festival operates on a private family farm and has pivoted to allow on-site camping over summer 2021. Read more on the concerns for B.C. tourism operators here and Shambhala here. 

ATB Financial says Alberta, tourism and hospitality operators are in the downward leg of the K-shaped recovery. Rob Roach, Deputy Chief Economist at ATB said in a recent interview “[t]he economy hasn’t fully opened. If you’re a tourism operator or a large event operator, things are not even close to back to normal. So they’re the ones who are going to be struggling.” Read more on Alberta’s K-shaped recovery here. 

Airline pilots and attendants were also heavily impacted in the pandemic. Air Canada furloughed 600 pilots and reduced pay for 3,000. While some wait to return to the skies, others have taken lower-skilled employment such as courier delivery, or are considering employment that could result in skill underutilization. The B.C. government worked with airlines and cruise ship companies to hire underemployed or laid off employees for its vaccine rollout. Read more on underutilization concerns here and vaccination jobs in B.C. here. 

Meanwhile, annual expo organizers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Toronto wait to hear whether the Calgary Stampede will proceed this summer. If the Stampede does not go forward, the U.S.-based midway operator will not make its annual circuit to the other cities. Prior to the pandemic last year, the Calgary Stampede planned to hire 3,500 workers for the event. Read more on the regional impact of the Calgary Stampede decision here. 

Demand for tech jobs

This month, VanHack Technologies Inc. in Vancouver, which connects tech employers in the city with talent, set a record with 18 companies signing up in a week. There is a push for tech services and talent due to the pandemic across all sectors. There are new reskilling opportunities for those who want to move to tech sector jobs. Those who already have the requisite skills may find increased opportunity for remote work as local talent is snatched up. Microsoft recently announced it will hire 500 workers with the requisite technical skills in Vancouver, increasing its local workforce by 40 per cent. Read more on the demand increase here and the Microsoft announcement here. 

Calgary companies and service providers Vog App Developers, Immigrant Services Calgary, Windmill Microlending and Finney-Taylor Consulting are building their own reskilling programs.  According to Vince O’Gorman, VogApp Developers CEO, “on a scale of one to 10 the struggle to find qualified mid-career workers is a 10 right now. Calgary’s tech sector exploded last year, and companies have already drained the available talent pool.” The 16-week program, which is provided to immigrants, enrolls 15-20 people at a time. Read more on the struggle to find tech talent in Calgary and the program here. 

Manitoba-based EMILI, Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative, has partnered with the University of Winnipeg, with funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada, to build the skills needed for digital agriculture. Read more on the program here or watch a video which shows how the program uses technology to data map fields. 

E-commerce may also serve as a pathway to recovery. The Manitoba government allocated $62 million for businesses to develop e-commerce platforms or retrain employees for e-commerce in its latest budget. Read more on the budget provisions here and access budget documents here.  

The Economist looked at the future of online retail in its report Online Retailing: How to Navigate the New Normal. Three of the key findings from the report show how businesses need to adjust: 

  • “Retailers will need to devise winning strategies in three key areas: adoption of next-generation technologies; warehousing and fulfilment; and harnessing a new generation of digital entrepreneurs.”  
  • “Maintaining profitability and data security will be the biggest challenge facing online retailers, while labour relations and increased regulatory scrutiny threaten to increase costs.”  
  • “Many franchise business operators and in-store employees are likely to find themselves on the losing side of the retail transformation.” 

Green metals and energy in recovery

A recent report by Trish Saywell in the Northern Miner says “[t]he transition to electric vehicles could take a decade or two but demand for the key metals in batteries and energy storage systems will only continue to grow as the shift to a greener future gains traction.” 

In Alberta, the Alberta government funded a pilot by E3 Metal Corps to mine lithium. For those in oil and gas, lithium presents a new opportunity; from this article, “skill sets are easily transferable, from engineers and geologists to drillers, project managers and construction workers.” Alberta’s Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer said of the announcement “[b]y creating the infrastructure to supply the global need for batteries and other low-emission products, Alberta can be a global player in mineral extraction.” 

With the renewed focus on clean energy, Saskatchewan has included uranium production as part of its Growth Plan and budget with a goal to “[i]ncrease the annual value of uranium sales to $2 billion.” Access the full suite of budget documents here.

Saskatchewan is expected to make announcements related to a previous Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with New Brunswick and Ontario, and possibly Alberta, on small modular reactors (SMRs). The Conference Board of Canada recently broke down the job creation potential for SMRs in ON and SK. Potentially for SK, construction and manufacturing “has the highest rate of job creation per year” while fleet operation “accounts for most of the new jobs.” Read the full report here.  

TD has recommendations for policy makers and stakeholders on how to manage transition in its latest report Don’t Let History Repeat itself: Canada’s Energy Sector Transition and Potential Impact on Workers. The three recommendations from the report include a “redesigned retraining/upksilling framework,” “focusing clean energy infrastructure and development within the same communities that bear the brunt of energy transition, and “broad based income supports that can partially offset income losses.” 

Traditional energy’s role

Provincial recovery plans also include plans for traditional energy sectors. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers CEO, Tim McMillan recently said “[o]ur industry still has its best days ahead of it. In fact, over the past year, our industry has rallied and we’re approaching a future with cautious optimism.” Within the sector, technology will drive the future so current employees will have to upskill/reskill to develop the requisite competencies. Mark Hislop, with EnergiMedia, says “If you’re an oil and gas worker now, your job is going to change […] It will have data on it. You will be supervising computers instead of working on a rig with your hands, down on the floor.”

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 .

Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash