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 .

Canada’s workforce and inflation

The Canadian labour market is extremely tight with 1 million vacant jobs and just over a million unemployed Canadians to fill them. In contrast, in 2017 there were 1.32 million people looking for work but just 400,000 vacant jobs, a ratio greater than 3:1. Today that ratio is close to 1:1. One factor that contributes to the current state of the labour market is inflation.

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem sees job vacancies as a sign of excess consumer and labour demand in Canada. Macklem hopes to reign in demand through interest rate increases which would decrease inflation and with it job vacancies in Canada.

Wage increases have yet to catch up even as Canadian companies are desperate to attract workers and cost of living rises, leading RBC economist Claire Fan to say “wages might still accelerate.”  BMO Chief Executive Douglas Porter points to the 6.2 per cent year over year increase in wages, one of the largest increases over the past 30 years.

The price of gas is also affecting the search for work. With the increase in energy prices, Canadians want to work closer to home to save on commute costs. This parameter has narrowed the job search radius for unemployed Canadians which decreases potential work opportunities.

Inflation fears lead to tech layoffs 

Western Canadian tech and crypto companies Wealthsimple, Thinkific and Shopify among others have recently announced layoffs despite a global talent shortage. Tech companies grew rapidly during the pandemic thanks to government stimulus, cheap capital and increased digitalization. Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Gray & Christmas, told CBS that higher interest rates and inflation concerns have compelled companies “to cut costs and shore up capital” in the U.S., and the Canadian tech sector is showing signs of the same 

Some speculate that recent layoffs are reflective of company-specific overstaffing rather than an industry-wide phenomenon. Organizations like Vancouver-based crypto company WonderFi, have capitalized on current market conditions and developed a long-term strategy to out-compete weaker companies. Founder and CEO of the tech Collision Conference in Toronto, Paddy Cosgrave, told CBCwhile layoffs may be on the short-term outlook, the future for technology in Canada still looks bright.” 

Virtual health care is here to stay

Data collected from B.C.’s Ministry of Health reveals that virtual care by physicians increased nearly 2,000 per cent at the height of the pandemic when restrictions were in place. The number of virtual care services jumped to 13,946,806 in 2020-21 from 684,059 in 2019-20. 

In Alberta, the Edmonton Zone Virtual Hospital has 60 virtual beds. The joint University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services project serves patients with multiple medical issues who have been discharged from acute care. Connecting patients with primary care physicians,  project care includes medication management, complex care management and self-care education. The project has led to a 51 per cent reduction in emergency room visits. Alberta Health is looking to expand the model across the province. 

The Alberta government has expanded its smartphone app designed to prevent fatal overdoses in people using drugs when alone. The app, called the Digital Overdose Response System, alerts emergency responders if a participant becomes unresponsive to a pre-set timer. 

The federal and Manitoba governments have detailed how $7 million in federal funding from the Canada-Manitoba Virtual Care Agreement will be used to improve virtual health care initiatives. The Virtual Care Action Plan outlines investments in areas such as increased use of virtual care in mental health, primary care services, adequate network and bandwidth resources for virtual health-care initiatives, and remote home monitoring – regular virtual connections with health care providers.  

The government of Saskatchewan is reviewing feedback they received from patients and health care providers to help develop a long-term provincial strategy for virtual health care 

Global competition for talent

The cybersecurity workforce 

Multiple cybersecurity attacks have recently occurred in Western Canada while the country is short 25,000 cybersecurity professionals. One attack was on several different Credit Unions with Manitoba’s Sunrise Credit Union reporting that the incident was contained and “there was no evidence of compromised member data.” The provincial auditor reports that just under half of Saskatchewan’s school divisions are vulnerable to a cybersecurity threat following an attack on the Regina school division. Saskatchewan’s eHealth system as well as the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority have also been attacked. 

Canada is not alone in this demand for cybersecurity talent. Cybersecurity company Trellix recently surveyed cybersecurity professionals in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, the U.K and the U.S. The survey found that 85 per cent of professionals believe labour shortages inhibit performance and a firm’s ability to obtain complex information systems. The survey found that one third of professionals plan to change careers due in part to a lack of recognition of the importance of cybersecurity in society, which suggests the global competition for cyber talent will increase. 

Agriculture and food production skills

With the world’s population expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050, there is immense pressure on the limited food supply. CEO of Alberta Innovates, Laura Kilcrease, told Lethbridge News Now that “feeding a hungry planet is a challenge for the whole world.” The Government of Alberta announced a $3.2 million investment in 10 agri-tech projects that is expected to increase productivity, reduce waste, reduce the environmental footprint of production for farmers and bolster youth agricultural skills. 

These projects, which are part of Alberta Innovates’ Smart Agriculture and Food Digitalization and Automation Challenge, will develop and advance smart technologies to enhance food production. Nationally, 4-H in Canada has renewed a partnership agreement with Cargill, who will invest more than $450,000 by 2024. The investment will help “4-H address the skills and labour gap that exists in vital industries like agriculture in Canada.”  

Queensland, Australia’s AGISP partnership between schools and industry provides students with real-world agricultural experience while the industry gains skilled local workers.  

Other news

  • The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) finds 5.8 million additional homes are needed in the country by 2030 to fill demand and “restore housing affordability.” Currently, CMHC estimates only 2.3 million units will be built by that time. Labour shortages are part of the problem. A CBC report says there were 81,500 construction sector job vacancies nationwide in Q1 2022. 
  • Olds College and Saskatchewan Polytechnic have signed a Memorandum of Understanding which would allow “Saskatchewan learners, producers and agriculture industry” to make use of the Olds College Smart Farm expansion near Craik, SK. Read the full news release here. 
  • Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s Chu Níikwän Development Corporation has partnered with Northwestel to develop the telecommunications company’s headquarters in Whitehorse. The news comes after last month’s announcement that Northwestel was working with a First Nations consortium on fibre optic infrastructure in the Yukon. See this previous brief for more. 
  • As iron mines in Baffin Island and diamond mines in the North West Territories close, critical mineral, gold and diamond mines could provide alternatives for workers. A PwC report highlights the way the top 40 companies must scale up for critical mineral production by “making major investments in exploration, production, processing and refining in a responsible and sustainable fashion.”

The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane, Justin Rodych, Connor Watrych and Jasleen Bahia. 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 .