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 .
Western Canadian tuition increases
Western Canadian post-secondary institutions (PSIs) look to increase tuition in response to operational grant cuts, as highlighted in a previous issue.
The University of British Columbia’s Board of Governors voted to raise tuition for domestic students by two per cent and returning international students by four per cent, the maximum amounts. For the first time, Alberta approved exceptional increase requests over the seven per cent limit from the University of Calgary (U of C) and University of Alberta (U of A) for new, incoming domestic students. Twelve programs will be affected at the U of A including undergrad and graduate business degrees, law, and medicine. Similar programs will be affected at the U of C.
The University of Saskatchewan will increase tuition by the provincial maximum of just under four per cent for domestic students and a $5,000 increase for international students – a 24 per cent increase. Manitoba has launched a survey for input on a tuition policy that is affordable and maintains institutional financial sustainability and quality.
Indigenous workforce development
Sage Techwork, a collaboration between Community Futures Treaty 7, Eagle Spirit Business Development, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Levvel Inc. and other corporate partners, will offer a specialized technology work readiness and employment program for Indigenous adults. The inaugural summer 2022 program is a 12-week job placement through which students will receive certification in software testing from the International Software Qualifications Board in addition to learning core competencies necessary for success in business. Many of those enrolled in the program are reskilling for careers in tech.
Two projects aim to better understand and expand Indigenous participation in Saskatchewan’s natural resource sector. The projects will assess the current state of Indigenous participation in the province’s resource sector and identify opportunities for First Nation and Métis communities and companies to own or participate in critical mineral projects.
The Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation will offer loan guarantees to eligible First Nation and Métis communities and organizations to support investment in, and equity ownership of, natural resource and value-added agriculture.
After 18 months, the Yukon Indigenous preferential hiring pilot has been extended to 2029 because Indigenous representation in the Yukon government remained unchanged at 15 per cent. According to the latest census data, 23 per cent of Yukon’s population identifies as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit. The pandemic and remote working options are thought to have contributed to the program’s lack of success.
Canada’s aging workforce
An aging workforce and career re-evaluations triggered by the pandemic will continue to worsen skill shortages throughout the country. More than one in five working-age Canadians are between 55 and 64 and Canada will see record retirements according to a recent Statistics Canada census report. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are the only three provinces where children under 15 still outnumber people 65 years and older. Population projections expect this to change by 2031 for Manitoba and Alberta and 2036 for Saskatchewan. Retention of experienced employees, knowledge transfer to new employees and workforce renewal are some of the challenges expected with an older workforce.
A new study from the Fraser Institute highlights barriers to labour force participation experienced by older workers. Policies that discourage older Canadians from remaining in the workforce include the mandatory withdrawal of RRSPs, clawbacks to income supports when individuals reach certain thresholds through wages or other income, employer-sponsored pension plans that contain early retirement incentives, and higher effective tax rates.
The seven Canadian municipalities with the oldest populations are all located in British Columbia. Six of the municipalities are on Vancouver Island and include Parksville and Qualicum Beach while the sole mainland municipality is Osoyoos. Seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie highlights that the aging population will require more services and supports, with a smaller workforce available to provide them. Speeding up a path to residency and work for foreign-trained people with health-care skills will be a critical part of the solution, says Mackenzie.
Global Competition for Talent
As countries face aging workforces and shortages in skilled labour domestically, the global competition for talent continues to rise. This section will monitor both what Western Canadian leaders are doing to attract and retain local, national and international talent as well as what our international competition is up to.
Tourism labour crunch and potential solutions
As pandemic restrictions ease, the demand for tourism has increased around the world but companies are struggling to find workers. Tourism currently makes up nine per cent of the global labour force which is 10 per cent behind pre-pandemic levels.
In Western Canada, Jasper currently has 600 unfilled jobs, largely due to a lack of seasonal workers and accommodations. Internationally, Greece is also struggling to fill employee positions. Its tourism industry, which relies on foreign workers, reduced staff when lockdowns began and has yet to see sufficient numbers of foreign workers return.
One solution is to relax temporary foreign worker policies. Canada relaxed its policies and will allow accommodation and food service businesses to hire up to 30 per cent of their employees through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. Over the pandemic Australia has relaxed its temporary Visa requirements to encourage backpackers to work in tourism and not just horticulture. The Australian government created a new agriculture visa to attract foreign workers from the Pacific Islands to fill the 10,000 vacant jobs.
To address broader labour shortage and retention issues, Alberta plans to rapidly reskill young talent. Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education has announced a new $600 million, three-year Alberta at Work employment program to help bolster the labour market. The program plans to increase enrolment in post-secondary programs related to finance, health care, civil and computer engineering, apprenticeship and education. People unemployed for longer than six months might also benefit from upskill and reskill initiatives. As Trevor Tombe, University of Calgary economics professor, points out on Twitter a third of Alberta’s unemployed fall into this longer-term category, the highest percentage in the country.
Clean energy workforce development
The federal government announced $13.4 million to help build B.C.’s cleantech sector and workforce. Recent international cleantech workforce development initiatives may be of interest to B.C. companies and others looking to build the Western Canadian workforce. The Global Wind Energy Council and the Global Wind Organization have entered “a two-year partnership agreement to map out the training needs for the global wind energy workforce.”
In the United States, Maine’s state legislature just approved a bill which provides for renewable energy workforce development. The bill includes a process for renewable energy pre-apprenticeship programs. These programs must include “an outreach plan for underrepresented, disadvantaged, or low-skilled individuals and members of historically marginalized communities.”
At the local level, Minneapolis is working with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association to provide free, credentialed training in solar and efficient energy. Fifty students completed the program in 2020 and 2021 with 63 per cent of those who wrote the final exam (21 students) receiving the solar associate certificate.
Build an empowering and inclusive work culture
Sophia Xepoleas, writing for Forbes, makes clear that the key to winning the talent war is to create an empowering employee experience. Xepoleas says that employers should find better ways to integrate AI and machine learning technology so that employees have timelier support in their own languages, personalized work experiences, the same work experience if they are in person or remote, and improved corporate communication.
Steve Rop with goTRG the world’s first turnkey reverse logistics company offers his insights into attracting and retaining warehouse staff. Rop emphasizes the importance of compensation (above minimum wage, paid lunches, signing bonuses), benefits (insurance, discounts, shift flexibility), increase in permanent staff, improved staff supports and onboarding.
A group of U.S.-based CEOs have created the CEO Activist & Moving the Dial on Diversity Pledge “to push the boundaries of who they traditionally hire and appreciate the strength of diversity, including disability,” CNBC reports. The pledge includes commitments to diverse leadership now and in future, annual progress measurement in 10 areas, diversity plans that are strategic and accountable, and commits CEOs to share knowledge and plans.
The UK will soon have lessons to share for those looking to build a more diverse construction workforce. Professional institutes representing construction managers, architects, civil engineers, planners, and surveyor and landscape designer professionals signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance inclusion in the construction sector. The agreement includes data collection to understand the current state of diversity in the sector, a study to understand why students are not entering the sector, and the development of construction-specific equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) competencies.
The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane, Justin Rodych and Connor Watrych. 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 .