WORK: Skills for NL’s Future

Dr. Lynn Gambin,
Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, 
(Economics), Memorial University

Like many other economies, there are a number of drivers of change in the labour market that will present challenges for NL over the next 10-20 years: an aging population, the global move towards green and sustainable energy, and fast-paced
technological change. While such challenges may be viewed pessimistically, they can also present opportunities for the NL economy and labour market. Capitalizing on such opportunities requires appropriate planning to ensure that there is suitable infrastructure in place, including education and training programs in relevant areas, to capitalize on emerging and changing economic activity.
The NL economy has long depended on natural resources, largely oil and gas, to create jobs, especially in the construction sector. While natural resources are a vital asset, the uncertainty around when (or even if) the next project will materialize —and the inevitable big drop-off in employment that is seen when a project winds up—has been a challenge for maintaining longterm employment opportunities. Over time, there is likely to be a shift away from high demand for skilled trades and labourers, but where will demand shift? And what skills will be required to meet labour market demand in the future?

“The labour market of the future will require individuals to have transferrable skills that can be applied in new work settings.”

There are a few possibilities. Goods and services that serve an older population (e.g. retrofitting buildings, incorporating ergonomic design, developing ways of dealing with higher incidence of chronic conditions) will likely become more important in the future. Across Canada, there is increasing pressure for businesses to adhere to more stringent environmental regulation and many are building green and sustainable methods into all processes. This necessitates skills in design, green technologies, Artificial Intelligence, etc. but there is also a need for wider management skills. Managers need to increasingly
have a firm understanding of technology (at least how tech affects their business and workforce), of regulation (especially green regulations and anticipating future requirements), and of diverse workforces and customer bases (especially with globalization and greater immigration).

The labour market of the future will also require individuals to have transferrable skills that can be applied in new work settings. Construction skills, for instance, are unlikely
to become wholly obsolete. However, the tools and materials used in certain skilled trades will likely evolve. Alongside industry- or occupation-specific skills, workers also put themselves in a strong position if they develop the softer and transferrable skills that they can put to use in any job or industry. These include communication skills; an ability to work remotely/in diverse teams/with little supervision; entrepreneurialism (even when working for another person or in non-leadership roles); cultural empathy; and business acumen. In order to make informed decisions about training and education, individuals require knowledge about developments in the labour market and the financial (and other) returns that they may expect in different industries and occupations.

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