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 .

Health sector under pressure

Mandatory vaccination deadlines in western provinces are closing in as many health-care systems across Western Canada struggle to manage the fourth wave of COVID-19.

All health workers in B.C. are required to have their first dose by October 26th, a change from last month’s health order that required staff be fully immunized by this date. In a similar move, the vaccination deadline for employees in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities has been extended due to staffing concerns. About four per cent of staff in the long-term care sector remain unvaccinated and have been suspended without pay. As of October 6th, 97 per cent of long-term care staff in Vancouver and the surrounding areas have at least one dose, compared to 89 per cent in northern B.C.

Danielle Larivee, vice-president of the United Nurses of Alberta has expressed concern about the impact COVID-19 has had on Alberta’s nurses: “This is now the fourth wave. Every single wave has been challenging for them, and the cumulative impact on that is very traumatic.” Larivee said she is concerned about nursing shortages, noting that the pandemic has “exacerbated” a shortage of nurses that has existed for years.

A COVID-19 unit in a Winnipeg hospital received resignations from seven staff over a nine day period. Stressful conditions that are unsafe for patients and a lack of support are among some of the reasons for the resignations. Many of those who left are senior nurses, according to an internal medicine physician at the hospital. Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, says there are currently 2,000 vacant nursing positions in Manitoba, 1,500 of which are in Winnipeg.

Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) employees will need to be fully vaccinated or submit to a monitored testing program in a requirement that comes into effect in November. The deadline for employees to self-declare their vaccination status or intentions was October 15th.  By the deadline, SHA stated that 98 per cent of employees had declared they are fully vaccinated, an increase from 80 per cent on October 1st when the mandate was announced. 

Vaccine mandates in the resource sector

Canadian Natural Resources (CNRL) announced that as of December 1, 2021, vaccines would be mandatory for all staff and direct contractors both at the Calgary headquarters and those in the field. B.C. Hydro said staff must be vaccinated by November 22 and contractors and their subcontractors must be fully vaccinated by January 10, 2022. LNG Canada has given employees until November 30 and has recommended staff at affiliated companies also be vaccinated. Adam Savaglio, employment law expert with Scarfone Hawkins LLP, said in a recent CBC interview that “[e]ventually we’ll get to a point where this will become more commonplace than not, given the burden on employers.” Savaglio pointed to the need for employers to “try to balance workplace safety, operations, government mandates and employee resistance to vaccination.”

Mines in the Northwest Territories could face staffing challenges as the federal government makes vaccinations mandatory for flights in the country. Cabin Radio interviewed four unvaccinated workers, one from Diavik and three from Ekati diamond mines, to get their take. One individual who has been with Diavik for 18 years will resign with no severance. Cabin Radio estimates that if 10 per cent of staff are unvaccinated, a combined 200 people or more could be placed on unpaid leave at the Diavik and Ekati mines. Airline operators who operate in the north need clarity as air travel “is often a necessity [for communities], not a luxury.” There is particular concern over those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons but need to travel for treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Charles Dent, Chair of the Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission, told CBC News in another interview “that a person who chooses not to get vaccinated because of a personal choice or belief is not protected under the [NWT] Human Rights Act, and therefore they would not have the right to be accommodated.” Dent also “added that any vaccination policy should be evidence-based and in proportion to the health and safety risks the policy works to address.”

Pandemic exacerbates previous staffing challenges

A recent Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Study shows “[f]ifty-five per cent of small and medium-sized businesses in Canada are struggling to hire the workers they need, which is limiting growth and forcing businesses to delay or refuse new orders.” A CBC report on labour shortages discusses the variety of sectors hit. Ernie Tsu, owner of the Trolley 5 Community Brewpub in Calgary and president of the Alberta Hospitality Association, told CBC “[t]here’s been a lack of trust in our industry in terms of us having to open and close so many times in the last 18 to 19 months.” However, the article also notes that Romaniuk Heating and Air Conditioning has had to get staff from Ontario to support its Alberta and B.C. operations.

B.C. ski resorts face a staff crunch, particularly in terms of foreign workers. Big White Ski Resort has 230 confirmed staff but needs 600 total. With western countries snapping up the vaccine supply, other countries lagged in their rollouts or purchased vaccines from other sources, such as Sinovac, which are not approved in Canada. Foreign workers who have come previously now cannot meet the federal vaccine requirements.

The Prairie School Division in Saskatchewan does not have enough substitute bus drivers to cover regular drivers who have symptoms, have to be tested, or test positive. Also in Saskatchewan, the police union will not mandate vaccines but will make regular testing a requirement. Those who disclose that they have been fully vaccinated will be exempt from regular testing.

Educators make changes to support transition

Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Moose Jaw campus will offer an Agriculture and Food Production diploma starting in 2022. The three-year program will include three paid cooperative work terms and provide training in “farm management, agriculture machinery, agricultural technology, crop production and livestock production.” Lakeland College’s Vermillion, Alberta, campus has opened its new Agriculture Technology Centre. The facility includes a “technology hub with displays and analytical tools, combined lab and classroom space, and an area for large farm equipment demonstrations and training.” The space will also allow students to gain a two year, post graduate Bachelor of Agriculture Technology.

Manitoba’s Red River College has rebranded as the Red River College Polytechnic or RRC Polytech. The Winnipeg Sun reports the rebrand “allows for growth and innovation. Apprenticeships will be modernized. The institution will expand in areas characteristic of polytechnics – practical college education and a depth of study associated with university programs. The institution will continue to expedite [students’] transition to the workforce.”

British Columbia will expand micro-credential offerings to include 35 new programs. The B.C. government has committed $5 million for the expansion and the programs will be “aligned with government and labour market priorities [and] delivered to 7,500 learners over a three-year period.” The province will also expand the Canadian Tech Accelerator Program to include NPower Canada’s junior IT and junior data analyst programs. This expansion, according to the B.C. government news release, “will give priority to Indigenous, Black, people of colour (IBPOC), women, 2SLGBTQ+ people, immigrants and people living with disabilities.”

In an update to the June Future of Work and Learning Brief, Calgary-based InceptionU will launch its Full Stack Designer Program on November 15. The program is “a 6-month, full-time learning journey that allows [participants] to dive deep into the User Experience (UX), User Interface (UI) design, and testing.” The program is “currently in a virtual format, but there is the option to transition to in-person learning at its space in the Calgary Library.”

Other News

  • Despite an anticipated peak in the demand for new home construction in 2024, Canada’s residential construction sector could see a shortage of over 40,000 workers by the end of the decade. According to a recent report released by BuildForce Canada, 22 per cent of the sector’s current labour force is estimated to retire by 2030.
  • Trucking HR Canada has projected 23,000 unfilled truck driving jobs in 2023, 3,000 more vacant positions than were identified in 2020. An aging workforce, lack of safe and secure truck parking and difficulties with the recruitment of both youth and women are some of the leading issues ‘driving’ the industry’s difficulties with attracting and retaining truck drivers.
  • Yellowknife-based Diamonds de Canada will ship its first batch of diamonds to the U.S. for grading next week after the territorial government granted the company approved NWT Diamond Manufacturer status. The boutique diamond manufacturer has committed to cut and polish all their diamonds in Yellowknife.
  • Yukon university is raising funds to provide emergency grocery funds for students and stock the Whitehorse campus food bank. The initiative highlights the realities of food insecurity in the Yukon and the need for targeted community supports.

The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane and Justin Rodych. 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: Unsplash.com