New Kitchener-Waterloo coalition wants to tackle the future of work

Nineteen organizations in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, including innovation hub Communitech, are teaming up in an effort to help workers and organizations get ready for an era of technology transformation.

“We’ve recognized that the challenges presented by the future of work cannot be tackled by any one organizational entity.”

The new group is called the Waterloo Region Future of Work and Learning Coalition. The coalition is intended to bring together industry stakeholders in the public, private, and academic sectors to establish new strategies to prepare the region for a workforce that will be shaped by emerging trends such as demographic shifts, automation, and new technologies. The coalition’s shared goal is to expedite the process needed to plan for what the future of work will look like.

“We’ve recognized that the challenges presented by the future of work cannot be tackled by any one organizational entity,” said Simon Chan, vice president of talent, academy, and future of work at Communitech. “We are stronger together than apart, so have formed an adaptive coalition to research and test solutions that will help us to meet these challenges in our community.”

The group’s members include Communitech, as well as local businesses and startups like D2L, Axonify, Vidyard, and Plum.io. Large organizations and institutions such as Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo also make up the group’s membership, as well as Manulife, Deloitte, and TD. Public sector members include the City of Kitchener, the Region of Waterloo, the City of Waterloo, and economic development agency Waterloo EDC. The coalition has 18 members in total.

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The group began informal discussions in January on what employers, workers, educators, and government can do to help “future-proof” the workplace. The coalition plans to address skills adoption, employee training, and building healthy workplaces. It will also run pilot programs around issues such as continuous learning, freelancing, and establishing workplace expectations.

“Together, we’ll develop a future of work playbook for community collaboration, to become a hub for workplace best practices, championing a national conversation on future-proofing Canadian talent and organizations,” said Mike Doughty, president and CEO of Manulife Canada.

Over the next year, the coalition will create research papers urging leaders to better prepare employees and companies amid sweeping societal changes. The group will also put on events to foster discussions around the future of work. One pilot, a partnership between the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and local academic institutions, has already begun. Communitech said in a statement this partnership is aimed to encourage “work-integrated learning” at smaller organizations.

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“Ambitious entrepreneurship and fierce collaboration are in this community’s DNA,” said Ian McLean, CEO of the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce. “Forming a community coalition to tackle this issue is the natural next step for us. Together, we can ensure we take the right measures to make Waterloo Region the most progressive, future-of-work-ready community in Canada.”

As the coalition begins to conduct research, it plans to open-source insights and best practices within the community and hopes to syndicate its models for other regions throughout the country.

Image courtesy Communitech

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast