Getting Ready for the Future of Work

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Technology, changing skills requirements, and new forms of economic organization could make for a radically different future
of work. How could the government help Canadians survive the transition and thrive in a new environment?

Participants in this group used strategic foresight to examine the future of work. They observed that work is central to how Canadians meet their economic needs, accomplish collective projects, and cultivate a sense of purpose. But they also recognized that much is changing.

Given the prominence of work in our lives, changes to it can be unsettling. In the future, having fewer Canadians working in formal long-term employment relationships could call into question the social contract between employers and employees. It could undermine the effectiveness of Canada’s social safety nets, undercut inclusive growth, and strain Canada’s social fabric.

A Human Capital Strategy—In Two Parts

The Canada Beyond 150 program’s Future of Work team considered ways to transform work and promote diversity and socio-economic inclusion. Their proposal: a two-part approach to policy that prepares employees to better adapt to new working conditions, and encourages firms to invest in human capital.

Part One: An Interactive Career Platform

The participants explored the idea of a government-run interactive career platform. The platform would help Canadians obtain the skills and competencies they need to work, and to more seamlessly transfer their skill set to other roles when needed.

The platform would be centralized and data-driven, and perform three functions. First, it would identify, measure, and validate worker competency profiles. The platform could also unbundle and translate jobs into skill sets, so that workers could see how adding new skills could make various jobs available to them.

Second, the platform would encourage new approaches to career exploration. Workers could use virtual reality headsets to experience the daily rigors of managing a construction site, teaching a university lecture, or operating a workstation in a power plant. This exposure, combined with guidance from artificial intelligence-based career advisors, could help workers understand where their skills could best be used, and where they might find opportunities for meaningful work.

These first two functions would allow the platform to perform its third function: to better match work with training. For example, it could look at a user’s badged competencies to identify “high-fit” career transitions, while “near-matches” could help companies fill short-term roles. Using the platform, Canadians could be better prepared for more frequent job transitions, and employers could focus more on skills development and adaptation.

Part Two: A New Social Contract

Workers are not the only ones who will need to adapt to changes in the future of work. Government and firms could also play a role in renewing a social contract for work.

Participants imagined five policy ideas for a Workforce Stewardship Policy Suite. Each idea introduces and supports programs that encourage the care and wellbeing of workers: job security, training and development, fair pay for hard work. They include:

  • Using government tools, such as Innovation Canada’s Advisory Services Concierge, to promote businesses with high standards of workplace stewardship;
  • Offering funding to businesses that adopt and maintain positive human resources practices, such as Gender-based Analysis Plus training;
  • Adopting a scoring system for workforce stewardship, and using it as a public procurement criterion;
  • Creating a formal accreditation program that rewards high-performing companies that maintain positive human resources practices; and
  • Enacting legal changes that might, for example, position the government to cover bankruptcies for businesses that have proven histories of workforce stewardship.

Read the team’s full report