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Thursday, August 6, 2020
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Research & Trends

Preparing for the world of work in 2030

While the future of work is an evergreen topic, it has taken on greater urgency as COVID-19 continues to radically reshape our employment landscape. From growing unemployment rates, to a rise in remote work, to a reduction of hours for some workers, the impacts of the pandemic are widespread. Since comparable data became available in 1976, April’s 13% unemployment rate has only been exceeded once, in December 1982, when it was 13.1%, according to Statistics Canada.

As Canada and countries around the world implement measures to address the short-term economic and social shocks, thinking long term also begins to take on new importance. The need to design policy and program supports that will be effective into the future is more pressing as we seek to support workers and businesses not only in weathering this crisis, but in emerging as strong or stronger than before. The ability to point Canadians to growing industries and opportunities is a critical component of this work.

If you could see into the future, what would Canada’s employment landscape look like 10 years from now? Which jobs would be growing and which declining? Better yet, would there be a way to understand the trajectory of the occupations that make up Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC) system? Through 18 months of multi-stage research involving strategic foresight, insight from over 120 market labour experts across Canada and a machine learning algorithm, the Brookfield Institute created an employment forecast for the year 2030 to paint a possible picture of just that.

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Illustration by Jesseca Buizon (jayymadethis.com)
Navigating disruptors

According to this forecast, nearly one-third of Canadian workers are in occupations projected to change, with 19% in occupations expected to increase and 15% to decline in employment share. Jobs in health and sciences are likely to grow, while jobs in resource extraction and manufacturing may experience a decline in employment share as trends such as resource scarcity and automation continue to accelerate. 

Potentially disruptive drivers ranging from technological change to resource scarcity and an aging population may intersect and converge, changing the very nature of these jobs – and at times creating new ones. Increasingly, workers will have to adopt a practice of lifelong learning to remain competitive in the face of these rapid changes. It’s also important to consider the jobs of the next decade that are yet to exist. As part of our work with labour market experts, we had them dream up possible jobs of the future through gameplay. Through this imaginative exercise, which you can try yourself, experts came up with dozens of futuristic jobs, including cannabis sommeliers, AI ethicists, VR educators, dark web detectives and digital identity protectors. 

Building foundational skills

While you can consult the Brookfield Institute’s new Forecast of Canadian Occupational Growth (FCOG) to check whether each of 485 Canadian occupations is expected to grow, decline or remain the same, we also encourage career advisors and educators to help workers develop the skills that are foundational across all growing jobs. We identified five skills and abilities that could help workers navigate a dynamic labour market. We call them foundational because each of these traits is so essential that if an occupation is missing them it would be very unlikely that experts (or our machine learning algorithm) would classify it as growing. 

Potentially disruptive drivers ranging from technological change to resource scarcity and an aging population may intersect and converge …”

The first two traits are cognitive abilities: brainstorming and memorization, while the next three are social skills: teaching, persuasion and helping others. Brainstorming or the ability to generate ideas, is valuable across 70% of all occupations, with particular importance in the creative industries as well as the sciences (another point in favour of team STEAM). While memorization at first may seem antiquated and even in rivalry with brainstorming, many occupations still require recall abilities, such as a doctor performing a medical procedure without constantly having to consult a medical textbook or app. Helping others is important for almost all occupations, but stands out in sales, services and healthcare, while both persuasion (or the ability to change people’s minds) and teaching (or coaching) are requisite across all management positions. These five skills and abilities are highly relevant, useful and transferable across a wide range of jobs and industries. Which skills underlie the occupation you hold or the one you’re striving toward? And what will employment look like for different workers, sexes or demographic groups 10 years from now? You can explore these questions and more through our forecast’s accompanying web app.  

As we slowly adjust to this new normal, workers disrupted by COVID-19 are attempting to re-enter the labour market. Undoubtedly the world looks different than it did six months ago or last year. While we don’t know what the future holds, we can encourage community leaders, employers and employment service providers to explore potential avenues of equipping their workers with skills that have the potential to lead to a growing job not only now – but into the future as well.


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Yasmin Rajabi is a Project Manager at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, where she experiments with novel research methods to advance actionable innovation policy in Canada. Rajabi has an Honours BA in Public Policy and City Studies from the University of Toronto. | Erin Warner is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship who is dedicated to making ideas and information easily accessible to a wide audience. She holds an MBA in technology and innovation from Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management and an Honours BA in anthropology from Western University.
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Yasmin Rajabi is a Project Manager at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, where she experiments with novel research methods to advance actionable innovation policy in Canada. Rajabi has an Honours BA in Public Policy and City Studies from the University of Toronto. | Erin Warner is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship who is dedicated to making ideas and information easily accessible to a wide audience. She holds an MBA in technology and innovation from Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management and an Honours BA in anthropology from Western University.
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