British Columbia

Canadians need to 'future-proof' their careers as more jobs become automated: report

As cars begin to drive themselves and machines become more adept at learning, Canadians are going to have to get creative to future-proof their careers, says the author of a new report.

The changing workforce could open more opportunities for meaningful, high-value human work

A car on a production line in Germany. Many jobs are expected to be replaced by some form of automation in the next decade, from general labour to professional services. Finding the human element in any field is essential to future-proofing careers according to a new report by Deloitte. (Tobias Schwarz/Reuters)

The affordability crisis in Vancouver is well documented, with the cost of living outstripping incomes, threatening quality of life for many.

And now there are warnings that people's incomes may be under threat as the workforce becomes ever more automated.

As cars begin to drive themselves and machines become more adept at learning, Canadians are going to have to get creative to future-proof their careers, according to Stephen Harrington, senior manager with the financial consulting agency Deloitte.

"I think what individuals need to concentrate on is within their job today or their field, what are the capabilities that they have that are future proof, that are more about an understanding of human interaction," Harrington told On The Coast guest host Angela Sterritt.

New workforce 'archetypes'

Harrington co-authored the report The Intelligence Revolution, which explored what the future of work in Canada might look like for the employment market, businesses, governments and individuals.

The report focuses on what the workforce can do to prepare for the changes ahead, outlining new "workforce archetypes."

These include, for example, the "innovator," someone "who can think creatively, thrive in ambiguity, and operate in rapidly evolving environments by anticipating problems." 

Such qualities in an employee will become more valuable than basic labour skills as automation takes over, according to Harrington.

He thinks this shift in the job market is something all sectors of the workforce, from employees to private companies and government, need to discuss to keep humans employed.  

"What we believe is, it's time to have a conversation including the Canadian public about what the social contract should be... going forward," he said.

Technical skills

Harrington says the big trend of learning to code and the booming number of tech jobs may stall because those skills may not necessarily be relevant a few decades in the future. 

"The evidence we're seeing so far is that technical skills shouldn't really be relied upon much beyond 2½ to five years," he said.

Considering how quickly the tech sector evolves, he added, it will become increasingly important for Canadians to continuously update their skills to survive in the jobs market. 

Embrace the robots

But the shift holds great opportunity for people to move into more meaningful roles beyond menial assembly-line tasks that many humans have relied on for income in the past century.

"If we seize this industrial revolution as an opportunity, it's about giving the transactional work to the robots and letting people spend more time on higher-value, human work."

Harrington sees the change affecting his own job as a consultant, a field that has long relied on transactional work.

"We're starting to see that disrupted by analytic platforms, learning machines, crowdsourcing. So, yes, people in the business of professional services, too, are going to have to continually reinvent themselves."

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

With files from On The Coast

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