Within the next 10 to 15 years, the Canadian workforce could face complex forces ranging from automation to digitalization, as technology begins to progressively assimilate into daily life. As part of its Employment in 2030 project, a new report by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship explored the various trends compelling these big changes in Canada’s workforce.
“Imagining possible futures can allow us to anticipate and plan more effectively for what’s to come.”
The Turn and Face the Strange report used strategic foresight research methods to answer the broader “what if” questions that surround the future of employment in Canada. The report explored 31 areas like AI, blockchain, and digital identities to identify trends and predict how these technologies will one day influence the way Canadians live and work.
“This project is about exploring possibilities. It looks at how the many forces at play in our economy might intersect to shape future skill demand,” said Sarah Doyle, director of policy and research at the Brookfield Institute. “By employing both traditional and innovative research techniques (in this case, strategic foresight or futures methodology), we aim to give new dimensions to the country’s ongoing efforts to prepare Canadians for the future of employment.”
As part of its tech trends, the report projected that AI could potentially disrupt every industry. All companies could require AI-related occupations by 2030, and it may become highly competitive to retain talent, Brookfield’s report indicated.
It also predicted routine, predictive, and dangerous tasks could be among the first to be replaced by AI, but as technology develops and advances, a wider range of tasks could be impacted. The report stated that creative AI has the potential to automate tasks typically considered automation-resilient.
Last week, Vincenzo Pasquantonio, program director of data and AI at IBM, delivered an address about AI and enterprise at Evoke. He said adopting AI into enterprise, first requires a shift in the pervasive perceptions surrounding what AI is, what it entails, and what it can accomplish. But after AI is fully integrated into the industry, our perceptions could shift from understanding AI as software, to understanding AI as actual beings.
A World Economic Forum study found that 45 percent of experts surveyed believe there will be some form of AI on executive boards by 2025. Brookfield’s report suggested AI regulated rights could necessitate organizational investment and restructuring, which might balance the financial benefit of employing humans.
The Brookfield Institute also found that virtual and augmented reality may transform the way Canadians engage with a range of experiences, from work training to leisure. On the employment side of VR and AR, there could be an increased need for skilled developers to maintain VR and AR evolving technology. On the leisure side, there could be a weakening of in-person experiences in restaurants, retail, and tourism as Canadians choose to partake in VR and AR experiences at home instead.
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Blockchain adoption could transform the security and authenticity of important trades, like banking, land rights, insurance, and even voting, the report suggested. It could directly disrupt the financial services sector, shifting the labour demand for accounting, reporting, and other financial roles. This change could lead to a sharp drop in financial-related labour needs.
Data is also becoming an increasing prized commodity. A Forbes report that found over the last two years alone, 90 percent of all the digital data in the world was generated. Brookfield’s report suggested there could potentially be an increase in demand for new products and services that offer individual data protection, such as data lockers or services to block a digital footprint.
The omnipresence of digital connections is creating a deep fear and anxiety about technology.
This could drive demand for privacy-minded talent, in addition to digital identities for employees, that could be used to determine job opportunities and reduce costs associated with recruitment. The report also suggested employers may employ personal and professional data to enhance productivity and matching an employee with a job.
Finally, the report found the omnipresence of digital connections is creating a deep fear and anxiety about technology. According to Pew Research, more than 70 percent of US citizens fear robots are taking over their lives. The report predicted the on-demand economy and other businesses that now gather personal data through online platforms, could experience a decline.
Brookfield Institute’s report is the first of several that will be created as part of Employment in 2030. The report will be used to develop a series of workshops taking place in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and Northern Canada. At these workshops, participating experts will predict what changes might occur for specific occupations. This data will then be applied to a machine learning model to develop forecasts with information that can be used by Canadian educators, policymakers, workers, and firms.
“Imagining possible futures can give us better perspective on the present and allow us to anticipate and plan more effectively for what’s to come,” said Doyle.
Read the full report here.
Image courtesy Jessica Buizon via Brookfield Institute