What the COVID-19 job crisis has taught us about the future of work

According to futurists and economists, the employment losses linked with the COVID-19 issue emphasise the need for Canada to prepare for unanticipated labour market shocks and cultivate a workforce with skills that will be valued across various industries.

According to Statistics Canada, more than three million Canadians lost their jobs in March and April when public health restrictions shut down the economy, resulting in the country’s fastest-ever job loss. Given that Canada added 245,000 jobs in the 12 months ended in February, a solid time of job opportunities with record low unemployment, the losses were astounding.

According to the authors of a new report released on Friday, this unexpected turn of events demonstrates the importance of educating Canadians about an uncertain future work environment.

The Brookfield Center for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, a non-partisan policy institute based at Ryerson University in Toronto, released its final projection for Employment in 2030, which was the outcome of 18-month research and analytical study.

Before the pandemic, the study was undertaken to utilise a combination of strategic forecasting, artificial intelligence, and expert panels held around the country. But, according to Sarah Doyle, the institute’s head of policy and research, the lessons about developing a resilient workforce are even more pertinent now.

“It’s more critical now than ever to look ahead to what occupations might exist on the other side of this crisis and how skill demand might be altering to better prepare employees — who are dealing with job loss in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic — for future employment,” Doyle said.

According to the survey, one-third of Canadian workers are employed in jobs with a “high possibility of change.” It claims that governmental measures, like retraining programmes and modified education curricula, are urgently needed to boost worker resilience across Canada.

Preparing for the unexpected

According to economist Steven Tobin, executive director of the Ottawa-based Labour Market Information Council, the problem illustrates that Canada needs more objective data and planning than it had in the past to tackle the future of employment.

“I believe this will assist us in preparing for some level of unpredictability and future employment that will depart from familiar ground,” said Tobin. He worked on the Employment in 2030 advisory committee and is familiar with the research.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect us to get the shock’s direction or magnitude exactly right, but we can position ourselves to think, understand, and respond better if we conduct more assumptions and scenarios.”

He believes it is difficult to draw lessons from history because of the unusual nature of the COVID situation. However, the financial crisis of 2008-2009 maybe informs policy now in that the government acted quickly in both cases, this time assisting citizens rather than financial firms.

“When I reflect on 2008-2009, infrastructure investment was a significant tool for aiding recovery,” Tobin remarked. “However, we must remember in mind that many of the people who have lost work in Canada in recent months may not be able to benefit from infrastructure-related jobs.”

People who lost work in hospitality and tourism as a result of the crisis, for example, may find it difficult to move to build bridges or subway tunnels, he said.

5 fundamental abilities

The probable difficulty of such a transition emphasises the need for the report’s five foundational skills, which are projected to help workers remain resilient as the labour market changes.

According to lead author Diana Rivera, the research looks into the skill makeup of occupations that are expected to rise in their share of employment by 2030.

Three of these are social abilities, while the other two are cognitive abilities.

Service orientation refers to the type of employee who actively seeks out methods to assist others, whether a client or a coworker. “Of course, we see that a lot in the service sector,” Rivera said, “but we also see it with managers and invocations where you have to support your coworkers — that collaboration ability.”

The ability to guide, mentor and train others is called instructing. “Can you educate people how to do things, especially in this era of just-in-time learning and continuously changing technology?”

Persuasion is the ability to persuade people to change their ideas and actions. “In other words, can you sway other people’s thoughts and actions? In management and supervisory positions, we see this a lot, “Rivera stated.

The capacity to brainstorm is known as fluency of ideas, and it is required in 70% of vocations, notably in the artistic and scientific fields.

Memorization, or the ability to recall terms, numbers, or details, may appear less significant now that information is readily available digitally. However, suppose you’re a nurse or other first responder. In that case, you’ll need to be able to recall protocols, prescription names, and patient information in a manner that a computer can’t, according to Rivera.

Health-care workers are in high demand.

According to Rivera, experts have long predicted that Canada will face a shortfall of healthcare employees, which will only worsen as the population ages. The COVID-19 crisis has compounded that dilemma.

According to Brendon Bernard, an economist at the Toronto-based job website Indeed Canada, health-care jobs have fared better than other industries during the closure.