How to design a workshop for the future of employment

How to design a workshop for the future of employment

For this next phase of our work on employment in 2030, learn why we gathered a diverse group of 120+ people in workshops across Canada to share their expertise in labour market trends
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Yasmin Rajabi
Alumni, Project Manager
July 16, 2019
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Throughout the spring of 2019, we hosted six interactive workshops across Canada that involved 121 participants with expertise in labour market trends. We tapped into their knowledge and creativity, asking them to forecast potential changes related to demand for occupations and skills over the next 10–15 years.  More specifically, participants explored trends impacting the labour market, analyzed potential scenarios and produced forecasts for a selection of in-demand jobs and their underlying skills. 

These workshops were part of Employment in 2030, our national research project exploring the future of employment in Canada. Our goal is to not only develop a forecast of in-demand skills, but to understand how these skills will be distributed across geographies, industries, and demographic groups. To this end, we asked workshop participants to provide ratings for select benchmark and regional occupations that could be used as a measure for identifying the associated skills. 

At the Brookfield Institute, we value the power of collaboration. From the start, we knew that a cross-country series of workshops were needed to capture an accurate depiction of Canada’s regional and economic diversity. We partnered with local conveners to host each workshop and tapped into their networks to recruit participants. We’re deeply grateful to our partners for their continued support: 

  • Canada West Foundation, Calgary 
  • Cold Climate Innovation at Yukon College, Whitehorse 
  • SFU Public Square, Vancouver 
  • Percolab, Montreal 
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Workforce Innovation Centre (NLWIC) at CNA, St. John’s 


Fast forward 15 years: what are some of the possible new jobs you imagine? Better yet, does your dream job exist, and if so, what does it entail?

The Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship hosted the Toronto workshop. 

We looked for workshop participants who had exposure to broad labour market information and trends, came from diverse demographic and geographic backgrounds, and belonged to mid-to-senior level management. 

We used human-centred design to create a workshop that encouraged collaboration between all participants, no matter their level of experience with similar workshops, futures research or specific occupations. This was done through a series of interactive activities, including group discussion, gameplay, and critical thinking. 

The final workshop design was a result of careful iteration and prototyping, given the need for consistency and reliability of the research process across the six workshops. Early iteration allowed us to validate our assumptions and design interactive activities that met our research goals. We tested various components of our workshop, including the introduction of futures research, the survey questions, the survey method, and the occupational information. Four tests took place over the course of four months with the team at BII+E, our partners at Nesta, and a mix of external partners who closely matched the participant profile. From start to finish, the prototyping process led to substantive changes in workshop design as we uncovered what worked well and what needed further consideration. 

Each workshop was eight hours in length and included four distinct activities:

Gallery Walk 

Upon entering the workshop, participants were greeted by the trends gallery: illustrations of 31 trends with the potential to impact Canada’s labour market in the next 10 – 15 years. Brought to life by Toronto illustrator Jesseca Buizon, these trends were pulled from Turn and Face the Strange, the first report in our Employment in 2030 series.  We opened the day by briefing participants with an introduction to the report that prepared them for subsequent activities. Participants were assigned a trend to present to the rest of the group. By starting the workshop with an interactive activity, our hope was that everyone would become comfortable with the participatory nature of the work, emboldening them to contribute throughout the day. During their trend presentations, participants added their local insights, from connecting training programs for oil workers to lifelong learning and alternative energy trends in St. John’s to relating experiences of AI adoption to AI everything trend in Toronto. Following the gallery walk, we provided an overview of the project, and a presentation on broad labour market trends so that all participants were equipped with the information needed for the remaining workshop activities. 

Photo of Jobs of the Future game.
Download your very own copy of our game, Jobs of the Future

Jobs of the Future: Part 1

What better way to dream up jobs of the future than with the help of gameplay? To get participants to think beyond typical assumptions about the future of work and inspire them to consider how a variety of trends might interact to impact the labour market, we designed a foresight board game exclusively for the workshop. The game encouraged participants to think broadly and imaginatively about how a range of different trends might intersect to impact occupation and skills demand. In small groups, participants played trends cards against occupations to provoke thinking about how occupations might transform or transition into new jobs in the next 10–15 years.  To continue expanding our thinking about the future of work, we are happy to make Jobs of the Future available for download. 

Photo of Michelle Park presenting sitting down in front of board.

Occupation Stations

Next, we got more granular. In small groups, participants rated how demand for 20 specific occupations is expected to change in the next 10–15 years. While we asked for individual ratings, participants were encouraged to interact with one another to discuss and debate job demand. Each occupation station featured a facilitator that helped provide relevant information to participants, including core tasks, high employment sectors, and historical demand for the occupation. Curious how we selected the 15 benchmark occupations used nationally and the five regional jobs? Find out how we did it

Jobs of the Future: Part 2

Finally, as an entertaining wrap up activity participants brainstormed possible job titles of the future. The group then filtered these new jobs by “most likely to happen,” as well as their personal favourites. While participants proposed a number of similar jobs across the workshops, distinct new occupations illuminated regional perspectives on the future of work. 

Next steps

Our workshops provided the opportunity to bring together a diverse and engaged group of experts across the country. The occupational rating data that our participants provided will be used as inputs for our machine learning algorithm. This algorithm will help to project findings across the labour market and draw insights about potential future skills demand. This research aims to illuminate how skills demand might change based on the interaction of multiple trends and to stimulate new thinking. It does not aim to predict the future. Keep an eye out for our findings in early 2020. The qualitative data we gathered at the workshop regarding regional differences will also be shared in an upcoming report this fall.

Photo of people talking and laughing around white table with cards on it.


“The level of expertise and ideation in the room was impeccable. Very articulate, well measured facilitators made complex issue more accessible.” – Workshop participant 

Thinking about the future can be a daunting task. Experts came from multidisciplinary backgrounds and varying levels of familiarity with our trends, yet they were all able to contribute to and collaborate on our understanding of the future of employment in creative and meaningful ways. We challenged participants to consider the impact of diverse and intersecting trends on the horizon, leading to some interesting questions. For example, how will mainstream inclusive design drive demand for customized services and products? Will increasing instances of wildfires, flooding and mudslides change the security and authenticity of your documents? Will an increase in personal data ownership spark calls for individual compensation? These questions lead the way for new jobs to emerge. A Personal Data Usage Specialist was just one of the hundreds of new jobs proposed at our workshops, and one that for many, doesn’t even seem so far-fetched. 

Fast forward 15 years: what are some of the possible new jobs you imagine? Better yet, does your dream job exist, and if so, what does it entail? We challenge you to push your thinking about what’s possible and develop your own new jobs. Download our foresight board game Jobs of the Future and have your say about what’s next! If you’re looking for tips on how to play the game, please feel free to reach out to us at 

For media enquiries, please contact Nina Rafeek Dow, Marketing + Communications Specialist at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.