Better, Faster, Stronger: Maximizing the benefits of automation for Ontario’s firms and people

Better, Faster, Stronger: Maximizing the benefits of automation for Ontario’s firms and people explores the risks and rewards automation poses for industries and workers in Ontario by examining trends in the economy as a whole, gathering local insights from across the province, and conducting an in-depth analysis of two key sectors in Ontario that are broadly representative of these trends — manufacturing and finance and insurance.

This report outlines the dual challenge technology advances present to Ontario’s economy — to simultaneously improve lagging technological adoption, while mitigating its negative impacts for some workers — and proposes a bold strategy to meet this challenge head on.

These findings are rooted in a mixed methods approach involving a number of interrelated research streams: Drawing on a review of existing literature, an examination of relevant data, and semi-structured interviews with over 50 individuals (representing labour, businesses, and developers of technology in both sectors). We also conducted a two-phase citizen engagement process to deepen our understanding of how automation is playing out in different parts of the province, how it is perceived, and what forms of support may be needed to help workers adjust.

The report integrates novel analysis and key stakeholder insights with feedback from consultations and surveys of more than 300 individuals representing labour, businesses, and developers of technology in both the public and private sectors. It is also guided by the perspectives of an Expert Advisory Panel of 14 people with technology, academic, and industry expertise.

Read this report to help you:

  • Understand how automation and labour interact
  • Understand the challenges businesses in Ontario face in adopting technology
  • Understand how technology has and may impact Ontario’s workers in the future
  • Learn what occupations are most vulnerable to automation
  • Understand how technology shifts ahead may reshape skills demand, education and the economy
  • Learn about some key actions that could be taken – by governments, employers, unions, workers, post-secondary institutions and training organizations – to help Ontario rise to the dual challenge automation presents

Key facts from the report:

  • With respect to technological adoption, the success of businesses and workers is intertwined. If Ontario businesses lag behind their competition in adopting and utilizing technology, this may pose just as large a risk for workers as for businesses.
  • However, as the pace of technological adoption increases, the impacts of automation on Ontario’s labour market could become more significant. Automation has the potential to substantially disrupt the labour market in the next 20-30 years, especially in southwestern Ontario towns and cities that specialize in manufacturing.
  • Impacts on workers ultimately depend on businesses’ decisions to automate, and their subsequent decisions to retrain, redeploy or lay off workers. The vulnerability, resilience and needs of workers affected by disruption will be shaped by a number of factors, including demographic characteristics, the concentration of job disruption in a particular region or sector, and the opportunities available to transition to other jobs.
  • In designing supports for workers or new labour market entrants who may be affected by automation, it will be important to consider the retraining pathways open to them. These may include upskilling within existing jobs, longer retraining pathways to completely different jobs in high growth areas of the economy, or shorter pathways to jobs with similar skills, experience and credential requirements (“similar occupations”) that require minimal additional training.

Expert Advisory Panel

For media enquiries, please contact Coralie D’Souza, Director of Communications, Events + Community Relations at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

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