This articel was co-writen by Soula Courlas, Partner and National Lead, People & Change, and Tracy Orr, Director, People & Change, Management Consulting, KPMG in Canada
Canada's workforce has much to gain from new technologies, but its ability to co-exist with robotic labour cannot be taken for granted.
Without question, artificial intelligence and automation are re-shaping what it means to work. And while this shift is freeing up new opportunities for human talent, it is also threatening to isolate Canadians who have neither skills nor maneuverability to adapt. Programs like Ontario's (now-defunct) basic income project have surfaced to bridge that gap, but it is (or was) a small part of the solution.
As the Federal Government pushes ahead with its digital strategy, it must be cognizant of the jobs and skills that face obsolescence. A labour market that requires new or advanced skillsets is always stronger when it includes instruments or strategies that can ensure every citizen has an opportunity to participate. That includes both longtime Canadian residents and newcomers alike who may require help acclimatizing to the increasingly digital workplace.
Stronger support for education and training is also key. That is not necessarily to say the government should provide or deliver the training themselves, but instead collaborate with universities and colleges and pursue public-private partnerships with the intent to bridge the skill gaps, encourage the transfer of knowledge, endorse on-the-job skills development, and forge clearer paths to the jobs of tomorrow.
Whatever tools or resources are created to re-skill Canada's workforce, they must be available to all. And yet, not all Canadians are connected equally. Investments in digital infrastructure are needed if we hope to create equal access to emerging resources and job opportunities.
The so-called 'rise of the machines' could take years to manifest, but it is coming all the same. This seismic shift can either create new opportunities for today's workers, or a mass displacement of human talent. The outcome will hinge on Canada's willingness to couple its digital strategy with strategies that will help all citizens survive – and more importantly, thrive – in the growing digital economy.