British Columbia

Youth at risk of unemployment with future entry-level jobs replaced by automation

A new report is shedding light on how technological trends will affect work in the future, especially for youth.
Automation in restaurants like this one in China is springing up around the world. Service industry entry level jobs are at risk of being replaced or reduced because of technological trends. (Reuters)

A new report is shedding light on how technological trends will affect work in the future, especially for youth. 

The report released by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is called Future-proof: Preparing Young Canadians for the Future of Work and focuses on how automation in entry level jobs could change the landscape of the labour force.

The Brookfield analysis hopes to help forecast of skills young people may need to land a job and executive director Sean Mullin says although he's optimistic about the long term future, the immediate implications could cause unemployment rates to rise dramatically.

"That's why we're trying to get ahead of this and saying what can we do, so that youth in particular going through our education system are going to have a basket of skills to inoculate themselves as much as possible against that kind of potential future," Mullin said.

Specific trends in technology that the report focuses on are the emergence of artificial intelligence, robotics and sophisticated software, as well as the move toward a gig economy, one characterized by short term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs, such as with companies like Uber and Airbnb, that could potentially disrupt the traditional workforce.

Youth aged 15 to 24 are at a high risk of unemployment as they enter the workforce because of technological trends making those positions obsolete. (Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship)

Looking at the model of 500 labour force occupations in the country which is broken down by Statistics Canada, the institute was able to find that 42 per cent of current jobs are at a high risk of being either replaced or significantly reduced in nature because of automation.

"The interesting thing and the potentially scary thing is that it turns out, based on our analysis, it's going to have a disproportionate impact on youth."

Those jobs include positions in retail like cashiers and salespersons, food preparation and truck drivers but also include white collar jobs like executive and administrative assistants.

But the qualities that can't quite be automated like judgment, creativity, interpersonal skills,  emotional intelligence and managing people will be preserved for now in jobs like teaching or nursing, Mullin said.

"We are ultimately optimists about this. History has shown that technology has destroyed jobs over the years but has also created them."

He says preparing youth for the future job market means stressing skills in coding or computer programming. He says those who utilize technology to solve problems will be at an advantage.

With files from the CBC's On The Coast

To hear the full interview listen to audio labelled Future-proof: preparing young Canadians for the future of work


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