We Have A Forecast! Now what?

We Have A Forecast! Now what?

We created a growth and skills forecast that outlines some of the potential areas of growth and risk for workers and employers in 2030. What comes next?
Diana Rivera
Senior Economist
May 29, 2020
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What, exactly, did we do?

In 2018, we set out to add a new and forward-looking perspective to the Canadian labour market information landscape. Since we were unable to procure any crystal balls, we asked what work might look like in the next decade based on the information available. Our goal was to develop a forecast of employment growth and skills for the year 2030 to better understand the changes underway. One that could consider how employment might evolve based on both historic and emerging disruptive trends, as well as expert insights into how these trends might shift and interact in the future.

We began our Employment in 2030 project by identifying some of the major trends shaping the future of work, from increasing inequality to resource scarcity and technological change. We then convened experts across the country to consider how these trends might interact and impact employment for specific occupations. We imagined new and dream jobs (our favourites include dark web detective and consumption reduction consultants!), while also leveraging the data we gathered to create an employment forecast driven by this expert data and occupational skill composition. 

With our forecast in hand, we sought to understand how and where policy might be best applied to expand opportunities and mitigate the risks along the way. For our accompanying report, Ahead by a Decade, we used our forecast to start answering a few important questions: What occupations are projected to grow or decline relative to national employment a decade from now? Who is in these occupations now? Who isn’t? What can we start to do about it? What skills will be necessary to navigate these changes? 

As we contend with the current COVID-19 crisis, thinking about recovery with these questions in mind will be incredibly important. Although the research driving this forecast was completed before the crisis, it remains a valuable planning tool for the long term as decision makers come together to chart a future after the pandemic. Our Executive Director, Sean Mullin, also reflects on the importance of forecasts in times of extreme uncertainty. 

What did we find?

Our Forecast of Occupational Growth (FCOG) is a clear signal of change to come. In Canada, 19% of workers hold jobs in occupations that are projected to grow, while 15% are employed in occupations projected to decline relative to national employment in the next decade. As expected, occupations in health and science are projected to grow, with jobs like nursing, and industrial engineering leading the way. Professions with a high degree of service orientation and technical expertise, such as chefs or graphic designers, are also projected to increase by 2030. Not only were we concerned with the growing and declining occupations, we wanted to identify the skills and abilities driving these changes and which ones would be foundational for the labour market in 2030. They include social skills like instruction, persuasion, and service orientation, as well as cognitive abilities like fluency of ideas (i.e. brainstorming, or the ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic where the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity) and memorization (i.e., the ability to readily recall information, such as how to perform a medical procedure). 

Our analysis reveals that the risks, resilience, and opportunities that these changes may bring with them will affect workers and regions in disparate ways. Education, income, and sex have a part in determining how these risks and opportunities play out, as do factors such as Indigenous identity, immigration, and race. We point to some of the areas where policy and program design can proactively support worker and employer resilience by highlighting the occupations, industries, regions and people who may face more disruption, as well as the skills and abilities that could help them adjust. For example, we find that while men are likely to face more risk in the future, women -particularly those in occupations projected to decline- are paid less and may therefore be more vulnerable to change. 

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Why did we do this?

Until now, Canada has lacked an actionable and future-oriented picture of employment that took into account the skills necessary for each job, and acknowledged the complex and disruptive trends that are impacting the labour market now and in the future. In order to consider the possible futures that we might face, we need multiple facets of information including current data, qualitative insights, and alternative projections. This forecast aims to fill this gap by offering a future-focused lens that is complementary to other forecasts.

This forecast is a tool. It is meant to provide those who have the resources to impact workers, training, and policy with an additional and unique data set to guide the design of policies and programs that are more likely to be resilient into the future. The accompanying report provides policymakers, researchers, service providers, and educators with an indication of where attention may be needed to prepare for the challenges and opportunities ahead. 

Now what?

Tools are only useful when wielded. We encourage readers to use this forecast and web app to inform policy and program design, to improve upon it and add to our analysis of its implications, and to share it with those who might benefit from our research. Readers could, for instance, consider opportunities to:

  • Use the results of Employment in 2030 to inform the development and delivery of programs and policies at different levels of government, or to augment tools (such as career or job pathway explorers) aimed to help workers and employers navigate the potential future changes.
  • Investigate existing and new curricula that teach the foundational skills and abilities identified through our analysis in K-12, post-secondary or informal education environments, as well as tools for measuring and evaluating levels of skill and ability attainment, and take steps to ensure that more Canadians have them.
  • Delve into more granular and intersecting demographic layers to evaluate the resilience of different groups of workers, for example across rural and urban divides, or particular intersectionalities.
  • Consider the long-term effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the make-up of Canada’s labour market and how these trends could be integrated into future versions of this forecast.
  • Apply the trends described in Turn and Face the Strange to guide policy and planning in order to identify preferred futures and take steps to achieve them. This may involve examining trends and their potential effects in more detail for specific contexts such as industries, regions, or demographic groups. 
  • Work with us to replicate and iterate on this study in future years to continue to offer a forecast that complements traditional projections such as the Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS).

If you would like to explore a partnership or collaboration with BII+E on our Employment in 2030 initiative, or would like more information about this research, please reach out to us!

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

Diana Rivera
Senior Economist
May 29, 2020
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