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 .

Paramedic shortages

Amid an already critical shortage of paramedics, provinces and territories look to utilize the profession to address health care staffing shortages.

Paramedics spend hours in emergency departments waiting to deliver patients because of emergency room staffing shortages. The Saskatchewan government revived a program in Saskatoon where paramedics consult with physicians to determine whether it is safe for a patient to recover at home.

Manitoba looks to contract private transport services to drive non-urgent hospital in-patients and care home residents to medical appointments to reduce demands for rural ambulances. A plan to deal with emergency department delays is also in development which would see paramedics or physician assistants assist with patient triage.

The Northwest Territories plans to contract paramedics from other provinces to help ease nursing shortages. The territory is offering financial incentives to paramedics from other provinces, who may also face their own shortages.

B.C. Emergency Health Services asked Gabriola island firefighters to fill in as ambulance drivers over 15 times this year. Troy Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. Union, said the move risks “depleting the resources in two separate jobs” and added 20 B.C. rural communities face the same challenge.

Calgary Police have also been compelled to help with emergency transports when no ambulances are available.

Calls to improve Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program

As Canadian employers look to international workers to provide much needed labour, a letter from a number of Ontario-based Jamaican temporary foreign workers (TFWs) recently put conditions at Canada’s farms under scrutiny. Western Canada faces similar challenges. Jamaican workers were injured recently on a B.C. cherry farm according to Jamaica’s IrieFM. TFWs at Manitoba’s Elkhorn Resort recently submitted four different complaints of unfair treatment to Migrant Manitoba. Just over one hundred workers in Lake Louise, Alberta, were recently told they would be deported after Canadian border services found they did not have the proper documents. All the workers were reportedly recruited through the same third-party staffing agency.

Canada’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser acknowledged in a CBC News interview that changes are needed as TFWs were intended to “fill temporary gaps in the labour force [but now] fill permanent gaps in the labour force with temporary workers.”

The Migrant Rights Network plans to hold a day of action on September 18, to push for “equal rights and permanent resident status for all undocumented people, migrant workers, students, families and refugees.” Some Canadian economists propose a cap-and-trade system for temporary work permits which would allow government to set the number of permits, which can be decreased over time as permanent residency pathways open up. The system would also allow the market to set the price for businesses to buy permits from each other.

The federal government plans to develop permanent residency pathways for undocumented workers.  Watch this space for updates.

International migrant labour attraction strategies

Australia plans to increase the number of permanent migrants it will admit this year by 35,000 to 195,000 to address labour challenges. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports the decision with CEO Andrew McKellar saying “[a]s the global race to attract skilled migrants heats up, we cannot risk getting left behind. We must have efficient and cost-effective visa settings to attract and retain talent which will be crucial to strengthening our economic recovery in the years ahead.”

The Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) released its first ever ASEAN Migration Outlook containing best practices on how to reintegrate returning migrants. The Outlook highlights issues such as claiming wages, accessing benefits and costs of returning. The region is one of the largest exporters of labour but the pandemic and other pressures forced workers to return to their home countries.

Indonesian businesses who hire temporary foreign workers will have to provide short-term health benefits.

Global freight and warehousing executives see the need to increase wages and provide bonuses to attract workers given current global labour force pressures. Seventy-one per cent of executives surveyed also identified automation as a way to “counter reduced applications from younger generations” but only 13 per cent said they had put automated processes in place.

Back to school

The University of Calgary (UofC) will launch western Canada’s first Doctor of Nursing (DN) degree next year. The doctorate is a three-year thesis-based online program that will include education in healthcare innovation and technology, and equity and diversity management.  A DN program is also offered at the University of Toronto.

As a new school year begins, the University of British Columbia has an on-campus housing waitlist of five thousand students – their largest student housing waitlist to date.

For the first time in a decade, on-campus housing at the UofC has reached capacity. Over 1200 first-year students are expected to move in this fall.

Thompson Rivers University has opened temporary dorms to address their demand for student housing. With temporary dorms filled up, some students have decided to commute to Kamloops from nearby communities.

Some international students may have no choice but to defer the start of their post-secondary programs due to a backlog of visa applications and processing delays. Canadian Immigration officials are working to add more staff and shorten processing times to address the bottleneck.

In a recent op-ed, Canada West Foundation has outlined the many advantages of pursuing a skilled trade. Even though Canadians who pursue an apprenticeship earn well over the average income and can even graduate debt free, a recent 3M report shows that the majority of millennials and Gen Zs surveyed say they would never consider a skilled trade as a career. With an estimated 375,000 new apprentices needed in the next three years, hopefully young people see the benefits of employment in skilled trades as they consider career paths. 

Other news

  • A Calgary McDonald’s will cater to pedestrians in the University District with a walk-up restaurant. The move reflects increased demand for community-centric services.
  • The Canada-British Columbia Agri-Innovation Program will provide $1 million to 10 farm operators or companies to develop new agri-tech. One operator, Chiliwack-based Dicklands Farm, will use a portion of the funds to design “a dairy barn that improves air quality and temperature control and reduces methane emissions.”
  • Saskatchewan will offer free training for early-childhood educators at Collège Mathieu, Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT) and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
  • Nunavut is resurrecting a computer systems technician program at Nunavut Arctic College to fill IT jobs in the territory.

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 .