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 .
A look at how western provinces target skills development for recovery
COVID-19 recovery plans in recent provincial budgets have featured a variety of reskilling initiatives. These focus both on areas of expected demand for talent in the future and on who exactly will need jobs. More clarity on how funds will be rolled out is needed.
B.C.’s fiscal plan has allocated $200 million to boost job training and creation initiatives. The plan includes more skills training opportunities for Indigenous people, an increase in youth work placement and job opportunities, as well as a boost for micro-credentialing programs that will “help people to quickly move into good-paying jobs.” $585 million is also allocated to “recruit, train, and employ up to 3,000 health care workers over the next three years.” Details have not yet been released, but the plan is expected to include staff for long-term and assisted-living facilities.
In Alberta, the latest budget featured the Alberta Jobs Now Program to provide on-the-job training. The government planned to carry over funds from ‘20-21 federal programming, and then top that up with provincial dollars. The program was set to begin at the end of last fiscal year with $62 million, and $136 million in ’21-22 and another $136 million ’22-23 and ’23-24. It’s not clear if the carry forward is possible or if the approach will need to be rethought.
The budget also highlights the energy; agriculture and forestry; tourism; finance and fintech; aviation, aerospace and logistics; and technology and innovation sectors as those with “the greatest potential for growth and job creation.” Speaking of job creation, Suncor and ATCO recently announced a potential hydrogen project near Fort Saskatchewan. Stakeholders may be interested in the United States Office of Energy and Efficiency Renewable Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Career Map for an idea of what types of jobs such a project could bring to Alberta and where Alberta workers may need transition support through federal and provincial programs.
Saskatchewan post-secondaries are set to see a budgeted $60 million over two years from the province for “COVID-19 recovery, revenue generation, sector collaboration and achieving priorities set out in Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan.” The budget also includes $18 million (including $8 million from federal funds) for Employment Assistance for People with Disabilities and “$27.3 million in increased funding for Workforce Development, Employability Assistance for Persons with Disabilities top-up, the Canada-Saskatchewan Job grant, and the Newcomer and Settlement program.”
The Manitoba government recently rolled out its own Skills, Talent, and Knowledge Strategy which resulted in a new $1.5 billion Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration. 4-H Manitoba Scholarship Program also got a $1 million top up for current and former 4H members “to further their post-secondary studies.”
This University Affairs roundup of university sector provincial funding concludes that B.C. and Saskatchewan will boost while Alberta and Manitoba will reduce spending.
Alberta makes big moves on post-secondary front
The recently released Alberta 2030: building skills for jobs: a 10-year strategy for post-secondary education report includes six goals: Improve Access and Student Experience, Develop Skills for Jobs, Support Innovation and Commercialization, Strengthen Internationalization, Improve Sustainability and Affordability, and Strengthen System Governance. In a move the larger universities across the country will be watching, the University of Alberta, University of Calgary and University of Lethbridge will also now deconsolidate their finances from those of the province and some parts of board governance under the plan.
Deconsolidation comes as those institutions bore the brunt of budget cuts, with the University of Alberta cut $170 million, University of Calgary cut $87 million, and University of Lethbridge cut $10.5 million since 2019. The most recent cuts have affected bargaining at the University of Alberta, which remains locked in difficult negotiations with both faculty and non-academic staff. The University of Lethbridge, meanwhile, is hoping to win back students post-COVID by giving vaccinated students the chance to win one of nine grand prizes, including fall tuition, as tuition has increased due to cuts.
Mixed reaction to provincial skills budgets and plans
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade called the B.C. budget “pandemic prudent” since it allows B.C. a “solid fiscal footing despite a substantial amount of new debt.” Others were less kind. “It’s not clear this budget puts B.C. on the fast track to thrive in an increasingly competitive world” said Greater Vancouver Board CEO Brigitte Anderson. Other critics decried a lack of support for businesses struggling through the pandemic and the absence of a provincial paid sick leave program for workers. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour suggested the Saskatchewan budget “missed a crucial opportunity to invest in working people” at a time when workers are struggling due to unemployment, illness, and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The University of Manitoba will increase student tuition and fees to compensate for its funding shortfall. University of Alberta’s incoming Students’ Union president and chair of the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) Rowan Ley noted the budget contained 90 per cent of CAUS and the Students’ Unions’ suggestions, but said more details are necessary. NDP critic David Eggen says “[there is a] discrepancy between Alberta 2030 and the recent actions of the provincial government” as a $690 million budget cut, in his view, does not prepare institutions for the future.
Skills for recovery in federal budget
The federal budget includes funding for Employment and Social Development Canada for a few programs related to skills, including $960 million over three years for a new Sectoral Workforce Solutions program. This program will “support communities to develop local plans that identify high potential growth organizations and connect these employers with training providers to develop and deliver training and work placements to upskill and reskill jobseekers to fill jobs in demand.”
$55 million over three years will go to a Community Workforce Development Program to “help design and deliver training that is relevant to the needs of businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses, and to their employees. This funding would also help businesses recruit and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce.”
$298 million over three years for a new Skills for Success program, which “would help Canadians at all skills levels improve their foundational and transferable skills.”
The state of national deficits and debt will make it difficult to follow through on promises and permanent programming in the federal budget, according to Yves Giroux, Parliament’s budget officer. There is also concern that the budget does not do enough to support “performance and innovation” in traditional sectors such as energy, agriculture, mining, and forestry.
Transitions to tech sector
As highlighted in last month’s brief, the demand for tech and tech skills has accelerated due to the pandemic and is one area where the provinces and federal government have targeted skills training. Listen to this interview with Ron Thiele, founder and CEO for Calgary-based EdTech company Xpan Interactive. Ron discusses what it has been like to grow a tech company and attract tech talent in Calgary, particularly in the space of digital learning.
The federally funded Future Skills Centre has provided an additional 5.4 million to EDGE UP. (Energy to Digital Growth Education and Upskilling) EDGE UP “partners with academic institutions […] to offer free education to eligible, mid-career oil and gas workers with an engineering or similar background to train them to work in the technology industry.”
In a recent op-ed for the Hill Times, CWF’s Stephany Laverty laid out a possible plan for how to build digital skills earlier in education as Canada moves towards 5G.
The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane and Mehera Salah. 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 .