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Jobs of the Future

 

We are about to encounter a crisis that will challenge our economic well-being and shake the foundations of our institutions and social structures. We cannot escape the changes that lie just in front of us, but we can prepare. The effectiveness of our response or plan depends upon the creativity and determination we are prepared to apply to meeting this challenge.

Two years ago our People without Jobs, Jobs without People report drew attention to the crisis arising from the intersection of two transformational changes: an aging population and an emerging knowledge economy. Our new report, Jobs of the Future, updates those findings and then suggests ways that we can better prepare for these jobs.

Let’s first look at the issues surrounding our aging population. As the baby boomer generation advances into the age of normal retirement, there will be a significant decline in the proportion of our population in the prime working years of 15 to 64.

Using Government of Canada data, the projected shortfall in the availability of workers is expected to rise to at least 1.4 million and possibly to as high as 3.9 million by 2031, depending on the assumptions of population growth used. So, even in the midst of an economic slowdown or recession, we clearly need to understand the serious nature of the looming labour shortage. But that is only half the story that propels this situation into a crisis.

Second, the emergence of the knowledge economy demands that the proportion of the labour force with education or training beyond high school must increase, and increase dramatically. Using a variety of Canadian and U.S. estimates and projections, the evidence indicates that by 2031, 77% of our workforce will need to have post-secondary credentials, whether apprenticeship, university, college, polytechnic, professional or industry sponsored. Canada currently has slightly above 60%, although those in the 25 to 34 age group are higher at just over 66%.

So where do we turn for solutions? Increasing the size of our total population through immigration would help, but it will not solve the problem. Increasing the participation rates of those currently under-represented in the labour force definitely needs to be a priority. As well, we need to explore ways of accelerating the graduation rates of our post-secondary students, increasing employer-provided training, improving literacy rates and creating a more integrated educational system. But what is perhaps the greatest need is a change in attitudes towards post-secondary education. We simply have to accept that the vast majority of our young people must aspire to and achieve post-secondary education or training.

How we can achieve this, and create a more competitive economic environment occupies a major part of our Jobs of the Futurereport. In this regard, it is important that we realize that we are not alone in confronting this challenge. Most of the developed world is in the same predicament and, as a consequence, we will face stiff competition. The jurisdiction, whether province, region, state or country, that successfully and proactively figures out how to meet these challenges will capture a significant strategic advantage. We need to find ways to create more jobs, and more of these will need to be new jobs. We will have to prepare more students to be ready to fill these new jobs. This will require major changes to our post-secondary systems and creating new partnerships among parties that have hitherto not worked together. These new jobs will come about in a variety of ways, some more predictable than others.

Finally, and to illustrate the approach being proposed, the Jobs of the Future report takes one major trend, aging, and examines it more closely in terms of its impact on the labour force and the types of new jobs that may emerge. Many of the trends discussed will have impacts that are more local than many people appear to realize. As a consequence, each community (at whatever level it is appropriate to locate that concept) must make its own decisions about what will have the greatest impact on them and what strategic response they will adopt.

 

Dr. Rick Miner is President of Miner and Miner Ltd., a management consulting firm that specializes in labour force demand, jobs of the future, human resource management and post-secondary education. He served as Seneca College’s President from August 2001 to July 2009 and previously held positions at the University of New Brunswick and Saint Mary’s University. To read the Jobs of the Future report, visit minerandminer.ca.

Norman Valdez

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