The Future of Work
The nature of work and the dynamics of the labour market are changing at such a dramatic rate that many experts believe we may experiencing a new industrial revolution. Often called “Industry 4.0” this world of work is being dramatically changed by digitization, artificial intelligence, big data, automation, and the rise of disruptive communication technologies.
In the face of these fluctuating conditions, there is a growing consensus that the skills we teach to the workforce of the future will need to change.
While significant resources have gone into the creation of programs to help people gain get into and stay in the workforce, there is little published scholarship on their effectiveness.
Additionally, while there is no end of grey literature describing the “21st century skills” or “global competencies” that workers will need to thrive, these claims are rarely backed with strong data. Even serious academic treatments of the issue tend to be highly theoretical in nature.
As a result, we are currently lacking even a shared vocabulary, not to mention reliable metrics, to make definitive claims about what policies can best prepare the Canadian population for the future of work.
These factors call for action in the form of evidenced-based interventions that can support workers and their families in the future. The FutureSkills research initiative aims to give governments, industry and other worker-focused organizations the tools they need to anticipate and prepare for the disruptions that will occur as technology changes labour demands.
Our team of academics use quantitative research methods such as randomized control trials and quasi-experimental methods such as regression discontinuity, propensity matching, and instrumental variables. Qualitative methods such as ethnography, focus groups, interviews, case studies, and participant observation are also used to analyze the research questions of interest.
Much of the data we’re using is produced by our partner organizations, many of whom work directly with populations of interest (such as recent graduates, the underemployed, and new immigrants). In exchange, we help our partners to refine their data collection methods to be responsive to the types of rapid labour market changes we have witnessed over the past decade.
We are particularly interested in how global forces are transforming education and skills development over the life course, and what policy responses are appropriate. Our project explores these global changes with a focus on how they affect Canadian economy and society.
Our research also plans to augment our focus on future skills by not only identifying what those skills are, but also who has access to them. As a result, our interrogations often place emphasis on groups traditionally marginalized within the labour market (e.g., women, differently abled, racialized, youth, and older adults).
The key to our project is collaboration: our goal is to bring together high-quality researchers from a number of disciplines and industries to assemble the data needed to make informed policy recommendations.
* Source: Brookfield Institute