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 Future of Work and Learning Brief will look at recent developments related to arts and culture jobs and education across Western Canada.

Hard hit arts and cultural sector 

The pandemic has been enormously disruptive to Canada’s arts and culture sector. PostMedia took a close look at the effects and found that according to the Canadian Association for the Performing Arts, 114,400 arts, entertainment and recreation workers – that includes artists, technicians, marketing staff and administrators – lost their jobs in 2020. Further, the Canadian Independent Music Association reported that in 2020 the live sector saw a nearly 80 per cent drop in income from 2019. Independent sound recording and publishing companies saw a 41 per cent decline in revenue and there 2,000 full-time-equivalent jobs lost in the first six months of the pandemic. Read more in the PostMedia article here

Art Gallery of Grande Prairie (AGGP) Executive Director Jeff Erbach says support for the arts from governments is truly an investment in the community. The arts “do contribute economically. The gross economic multiplier for museums is 1.4 […] We pay wages, we pay contracts, we pay artist fees, we deal with professional services and we have an extensive amount of insurance.”

Live arts and cultural events reopen 

As the summer begins, many individuals look to the arts and culture sector for both entertainment and jobs. Performers and venues are starting up again in July or later in the summer and fall while others, such as the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and Winnipeg Folk Festival, have cancelled for another year. Cathie White, executive director of Arts Club Theatre Company in Vancouver says everyone at the company is thrilled to reopen with live performances on July 22.

The Alberta Government has created the $2 million Stabilize Live Music Grant program for live music professionals. Live musicians can apply for $1,500 grants to help them prepare to get back on stage for live performances. Venues can apply for $25,000 grants to “support innovative projects to help Alberta’s music industry adapt and relaunch.” Both grants are one-time funds.

Some venues are getting creative with their mode of delivery including the Gabriola Arts Council, which recently announced plans for a COVID-conscious Cultivate Festival. GAC executive director Carol Fergusson said she’s “absolutely over-the-moon thrilled” by the response to the sold-out festival.

Ideas for how to move forward 

Of interest to those who work in the arts and cultural sector or make policy that affects the sector, France’s President Emmanuel Macron is launching his national Culture Pass after a regional trial. The Culture Pass is open to 18-year-olds and grants them €300 (roughly CDN $440) to spend on arts and culture – everything from movie tickets to dance or art lessons, art materials or live music and theatre events.

The New York Times listed “10 Ways for Museums to Survive and Thrive in a Post-Covid World.” TLDR: Focus on the museum’s own collection; create programs that move beyond the museum’s walls; join together and co-produce; partner beyond the art world; create digital content but don’t worry so much about making everything polished and perfect; reboot, remake, recontextualize; education is for everyone; build less for exhibits; and, have a clear mission but understand delivering on that mission can take many forms.

Understanding non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and art 

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, drew widespread attention in March when Christie’s Auction House auctioned an NFT for $69.3 million. Now, Christies is auctioning off a lot of NFTs and a physical piece of artwork by FEWOCiOUS, an 18-year-old trans artist, in an auction called “”Hello, I’m Victor (FEWOCiOUS) and This Is My Life.” “What’s an NFT?”, you ask, and “What does it means for the art world?”

Foreign Policy provides a great explainer and the implications for NFTs. In short, blockchain technology is used to generate a “certificate of authenticity for a digital asset such as an artwork, a piece of music or a video” and record who owns that digital asset. This certificate allows for digital artworks to be authenticated and sold similarly to physical artworks.

A Vancouver artist held an NFT course to help other artists understand the implications of NFTs, including the ability to copyright and negotiate royalties from future sales into the digital certificate. Calgary artist Jonathan Wolfe, a student at Calgary-based Alberta University of the Arts, has made roughly US $1.3 million from his 130 NFTs since October, 2020. Jessica Angel’s public art installation at Vancouver’s Cambie Bridge, called Voxel Bridge, will include both physical installations as well as NFT components. It is being described as “the largest digital public art installation of its kind” and will allow people to use the 3D digital app as they move through the physical installation.

Innovations in Indigenous arts and culture representation 

A new online interactive map is extremely helpful for those who wish to learn about Indigenous languages, arts and culture in B.C., Alberta, and the Yukon and North West Territories. This a one-of-a-kind project; Cathi Charles Wherry, special advisor to the map creators, the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, says “no other map weaves together Indigenous languages, arts and cultural heritage information in one space.”

Within the modelling world there is a new Indigenous agency helping to “uplift emerging Indigenous talent through skills development, employment, and healing.” The agency, called Supernaturals, aims to remove barriers for their clientele as much as possible and aid in building their professional training and vets each of the companies before models work with them. The agency was featured in a recent Vogue article here

Attracting artists and designers to video game work  

People interested in video game work, including artists and designers, can be deterred by the notorious use of “crunch.” Crunch is the 70–80-hour work weeks sometimes worked to meet game release dates. This practice can make the industry unattractive to newcomers or cause workers to leave. Hinterland is one of the studios leading a new standard of employment centered around “no crunch development.” Upcoming game Psychonauts 2, by Double Fine for August release, was also made with no crunch. The transition to more manageable and moderate work hours may help attract and keep talent around for longer.

When art, neuroscience and psychology collide 

Edmonton’s NeurAlbertaTech will host Canada’s largest neurotechnology hackathon this summer. Eden Redman, who holds a Bachelor’s of Psychology and is now working towards a fine arts and design undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta, co-founded the start-up neurotechnology innovator network. NeurAlbertaTech and team lead Redman created remBRAINdt for submission to the Neurotech Cup 2020 where the project won a People’s Choice award. The program website states remBRAINdt “enables the user to generate customizable and dynamic art via their live brain data.”

In other news: 

  • The Economist took a look at how COVID inspires education reform around the globe. While the pandemic has shown that in person education is key to students’ mental and physical health, remote learning has accelerated the use of technology and a push for learning tailored to each child. As workplaces look at a hybrid work model, schools may do the same with students only required for in person learning a few days a week.
  • With the increased use of technology across all sectors as a result of COVID, VanTech journal asked experts to share their views on how businesses are prepared for cybersecurity risks. Alex Dow, the chief technology officer at Mirai Security, says “blinded by pro-innovation and near-miss biases, leadership focuses on success and disregards potential weaknesses, indifferent to the evolving threat landscape and unaware of their growing legal and regulatory obligations.” Dow adds “Businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on software we expect to be engineered like bridges, but are more often than not hacked together like my childhood treehouse.”
  • How can the Alberta economy prepare for the future? ATB’s Chief Economist Todd Hirsch shares his thoughts in a report published through the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy “The State of the Alberta Economy and the Path Forward.” Interestingly, between 2011 and 2021 “[e]mployment growth has been greatest in three sectors: health care and social assistance (+38 per cent), utilities (+32 per cent) and educational services (+27 per cent).”

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 .

Photo by Maxime on Unsplash