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 .

Funding support for a changing workforce

Sectors such as hospitality, food services and health care experience high job vacancies throughout the country as younger workers are more willing to switch career paths to attain the terms of employment they desire. According to a survey by Leger, almost half of British Columbians aged 18 to 34 say they had looked for a new job in the past 18 months. The B.C. Institute of Technology has seen an increase of new students looking to reskill for new careers and has experienced a 20 per cent rise in interest in programs, with digital transformation seeing the highest demand.

The Alberta government looks to strengthen the province’s workforce with increased funding. The Alberta Jobs Now program offers a grant that can be used by employers to cover training costs or a portion of an employee’s salary for up to 52 weeks. A second, almost $50 million program funded through the Alberta Innovates TIER Economic Recovery Program, will support 23 projects to advance innovation in the energy industry. The program could create 1,307 project-related jobs and add $169 million to GDP.

The government of Saskatchewan aims to recruit workers for hard-to-fill positions through international recruitment efforts with a new pilot under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program. The Hard-To-Fill Skills Pilot will launch this month and focus on accepting applicants into low and entry-level positions in sectors with the highest labour demands such as health, hospitality, manufacturing and agriculture.

Two million dollars in funding from the Canada-Saskatchewan Labour Market Transfer Agreements will allow Northern Career Quest Inc. to provide training and employment services to Indigenous job seekers in northern Saskatchewan.

Labour shortages as oil and gas booms

As Alberta’s oil patch is predicted to see a boom in 2022, the CBC reports that there is a skilled labour shortage as recruiters look to the Maritimes to lure back workers. They are finding reluctance however, as concerns remain over how long the boom will last.  CTV reports that while the Canadian Association of Energy Contractors (COAEC) does not see the boom reaching the same levels as 2014, the association does expect “the increased drilling activity in 2022 to create 35,000 new jobs in Western Canada …” A COAEC spokesperson said, “Long-term, the traditionally 24-hour-a-day, hard-charging oil and gas industry may also have to make some concessions to millennials and members of generation Z …”

Alberta has announced new legislation which could help workers who do decide to make a move. Premier Kenney said the Act “will help make Alberta a magnet for skilled professionals by making it easier for them to come to our province and have their credentials recognized.” The Act, according to the Edmonton Journal, establishes timelines that give regulatory authorities 10 business days to notify applicants they’ve received the application, 20 business days to make a decision, and another 10 to notify applicants once a decision has been taken.

Tech continues to grow in the west

Amazon Web Services and Plug and Play LLC both announced offices in Calgary in recent weeks. Amazon Web Services will build a cloud computing centre which means a $4 billion investment and about 900 jobs created by 2037. Plug and Play LLC will run a start-up accelerator in partnership with the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund. The accelerator will support approximately 80 start-ups a year.

The Manitoba government will invest $1.6 million to support training initiatives for 300 new and 32 existing employees of fintech company Neo Financial Technologies. The growth opportunity means that the company will open a second headquarters in Winnipeg.

Increased use of technology means privacy and security are integral to the protection of data and systems. To help prepare the next generation, CISCO Canada and STEM Fellowship have partnered to deliver cybersecurity training to 40,000 Canadian high schoolers. The materials are free and can be integrated into a variety of subjects.

Olds College and the University of Saskatchewan have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) related to agri-tech. The MOU, the Red Deer Advocate reports, relates “to automation and increased incorporation of digital data in agriculture.” The Advocate also wrote, “Areas that could benefit from working together include sensors and sensing, data transfer and security, data analytics, and artificial intelligence and controls to support the growing technical shift in agricultural production.”

Agri-tech is also assisting the cattle industry. The Canadian Beef Breeds Council and Alberta-based company Xerris Inc. have partnered to gather genetic data from cattle so ranchers in Western Canada can “better understand their cattle’s genetics.” The data will help ranchers link data from birth to consumption; the partnership is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

Broadband update

A new report from the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) on broadband for rural and remote communities in Canada provides some interesting food for thought. The report states that “the 50/10 targets are insufficient and will not meet the needs of rural and remote Canada by 2030 and beyond.” The report goes on to suggest that “having internet in rural and remote regions comparable to urban centres in terms of quality and price is a more equitable and suitable goal.”

Northwestel recently launched fibre service in Dawson City, Watson Lake and Upper Liard, Yukon. The launch marks the first upgrades as part of the company’s Every Community Project which aims to have 10,000 homes connected to unlimited high-speed internet. This launch will be good news to those who intend to take advantage of the Yukon Government’s new remote work policy. Yukon News reports that employees will have to meet three criteria to work under the policy: a suitable work position, personal suitability, and an appropriate work space. 

Other news

Forty-seven universities and colleges including 15 from across western Canada have signed a charter that outlines a national plan of action to fight structural anti-black racism. The Scarborough Charter outlines the “[…]principles, actions and accountability measures that should guide the letter and spirit of the academic mission, across institutional levels within universities and colleges and at the sectoral level across Canada.”

After over 20 years of no school bus service, families in Inuvik now have the opportunity to send their kids to school on a bus. The Nihtat Gwich’in Council has purchased two school buses with funds from two federal programs.

The University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) and the university have reached an agreement to end a five-week-long strike. To make up for lost classes, this fall semester and the upcoming winter semester will go past their originally scheduled end dates.

The Government of Saskatchewan has announced an International Education Strategy in an effort to attract more international students to the province. Part of the strategy includes increased recruitment and branding efforts and a new International Education Practitioner Program.

The Saskatchewan government announced fee reduction grants for families with children under six that attend provincially licensed child-care facilities. While the grants start at the beginning of February, they are retroactive to July 1 2021. The announcement has the already fatigued child-care sector concerned with the tight timeline and lack of a comprehensive workforce strategy.

To advance engineering education in northern B.C. the University of Northern British Columbia now offers a master of applied science in engineering degree. The research-based degree focuses on engineering challenges and needs specific to colder environments.

In the new year, B.C. will implement a permanent paid sick leave program for full and part-time workers covered by the employment standards act. The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade says that without financial support from the government, small and medium-sized businesses will struggle to fund the program’s minimum five employer-paid sick days.

The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum – Forum Canadien sur l’Apprentissage (CAF-FCA) will replicate their 2009 study across 21 skilled trades to acquire current data on the value of apprenticeship training to B.C. employers.

The 20,000 students who attend studio and tour programs at the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajug (WAG-Qaumajuq) each year now have four times the space at its newly relocated facility. The WAG-Qaumajuq renewed its three-year partnership with the Manitoba government that includes a commitment to First Nations educator and leader developed programs that focus on indigenous cultures.

A program offered in partnership with the N.W.T.’s Indigenous governments and the department of education, culture and employment pairs up adults wanting to learn an Indigenous language with a fluent speaker, both of which are paid for their practice of the language. The program is offered in Inuvialuktun and five other languages, most of which have seen a decrease in fluent speakers since 2004 according to N.W.T. data.

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 .