Nfld. & Labrador

What is the future of jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador?

The future will bring more technology, tourism and oil jobs to N.L.

Panel at Memorial University looks at the provincial economy 20 years from now

The Hibernia oil platform, one of several that drill for Brent crude in the Newfoundland offshore. (CBC)

How will people be earning a living in Newfoundland and Labrador 20 years in the future?

A panel of experts organized by Memorial University's Harris Centre tackled the future of the provincial economy Monday at a public meeting.

Kendra MacDonald, chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, said the province's tech sector comprises 160 companies and is worth $1.6 billion — numbers the association wants to double by 2025.

Key ingredients: youth and work

One the key ingredients for success in the new economy, she said, is youth.

"I think one is to be able to keep our young people in the province, not only Newfoundland and Labradorians, but also our international students."

But, she says, work has to be created to have them stay.

One of the many vessels that rely on revenue from the crab fishery. The provincial fishery will look very different in 20 years, as the workforce is aging. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Making businesses want to come here is also key, said MacDonald — and that takes more than eye-catching tourism ads.

"How do we become the place that people want to come for business? So not just to visit but to actually come and stay?" she said. "It's one thing bringing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians back to Newfoundland ,but how do we bring others here that want to build their families here?"​

Mariek Gow, operator of Trinity's Artisan Inn in Trinity and chair of the tourism board the Legendary Coasts of Eastern Newfoundland, noted that tourism spending rings in at just over $1 billion a year, with more than 2,600 tourism and travel businesses in the province, accounting for nine per cent of the workforce.

Outport Newfoundland makes province stand out

"There's a potential here for people to actually have full lives in the outport, have real careers that are making real money," said Gow, pointing to the Bonavista Peninsula as an example.

"The government is actually seeing now that outport Newfoundland is, I think, what's going to differentiate us from other tourism destinations around the world. We're competing with the whole world market right now and unless we develop the experiences the authentic experiences we have available there, I don't think we'll be able to keep competing."

Jim Keating, an executive vice-president with Nalcor, spoke about the province's future in oil and gas.

The province unveiled a tourism ad campaign, called "Crayons," in 2016. Newfoundland and Labrador needs to attract people to stay, not just to visit, says a tourism operator. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Keating said the offshore industry has produced, since 1997, over $120 billion dollars in value, $20 billion of which went to the province in royalties.

And despite worldwide movement towards reducing fossil fuel consumption, Keatingsays the oil and gas sector will still be in a good position in this province by 2030.

"In the last three years we've seen $2.5 billion worth of exploration bid commitments. That's about half, 50 per cent, of the entire bid commitments in the last 30 years."​

For the fishery, there are challenges ahead.

Bob Verge, managing director of the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation, said the next 20 years are a crossroads for the industry.

Aging fishery

"Over the next five to 10 [years], many of the people currently in the industry will be gone because we have an aging workforce," he said.

"If you look out over the next 20 practically everybody in the industry will be gone so we're going to have to reinvent this industry."

That said, Verge says a very diverse ecosystem exists in waters around the province, only small parts of which have been tapped.