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What Does the Changing Workforce Mean for Workforce Development?

What Does the Changing Workforce Mean for Workforce Development?

Artificial intelligence (AI), automation, digitization, robotics, and technology are changing the way we work. Over the next decade, 25% of jobs will be heavily disrupted by these technologies.

Table of Contents (9 minute read)

  1. What Does the Changing Workforce Mean for Workforce Development
  2. Focusing Your Workforce on Skills for the Future
  3. Technology in Workforce Requires Technology in Workforce Development
  4. Case Study: Lehigh Valley - Data-Based Workforce Solutions
  5. Case Study: Tioga County - More Than A Workforce Development Plan
  6. Case Study: Clinton, Ontario - Innovation Drives Business Retention
  7. Workforce Development Plans Focused on Skills
  8. Innovation Is Key for A Strong Skills Based Workforce Plan

Many jobs that are repetitive in nature or highly systematized will potentially be replaced or augmented by automation or AI. Although this may result in job losses, the technological systems put in place will increase worker safety, decrease production line downtime, and increase the quality of products and services.

For example, a programmable logic controller (PLC) used in a manufacturing plant is a digital device connected to many machines and robots. The PLC monitors performance and faults, using the information to determine when a machine should be shut down for safety reasons or for maintenance. The PLC reduces the oversight required by the human workforce, and increases the efficiency of planning for maintenance and ensuring worker safety. 

More jobs in total will be created than lost by 2020 as a consequence of AI. The workforce will see an increase in jobs that support, develop, and apply these new technologies. For example, coders, repair technicians, installation experts, and trainers in PLC technology are now in high demand. A large portion of the jobs created will also go to those who design and implement new tech in the workplace. New skills will be required for these newly-created high tech jobs.

Being able to track the trends in automation and jobs, and collecting labour market information (LMI) will be helpful for municipalities in the future. Predicting job market trends in your region will allow you to help your local workforce level-up their transferable skills ahead of changes in the market.

Manufacturing is an industry that many have suspected would be hit the hardest by AI. Manufacturing has definitely seen the impact of automation on the workforce, but it's also seeing impressive growth and continues to prove itself as a high tech industry. Manufacturing is about people these days, with many new opportunities for those with dynamic, flexible, and creative skills. Having a manufacturing workforce development plan can improve retention and highlight the wealth of opportunities available in the industry.

Focusing Your Workforce on Skills for the Future

Focusing Your Workforce on Skills for the Future

The RBC Report “Human’s Wanted” predicts an imminent shift to a skills-based economy. Your workforce requirements will see less emphasis placed on experience and more on core skills. It will be essential for evolving workforce development strategies to promote digital fluency.

Not everyone will need to have extensive tech skills available, such as coding, robotics, or engineering. However, a basic level of competence in computer skills, digital communication, and interfacing with digital equipment will be an asset in the future workforce. 

In addition, given the rapid pace of change, training and education in digital technologies, robotics, and AI will continue to evolve. Training beyond traditional degree or diploma programs would make it easier for people to continually upgrade their skills. Education and professional development opportunities that are technology-based, and that emphasize skills and adaptability within an AI and technology environment will be the most beneficial for workers. 

Workforce developers are poised to facilitate these programs, in conjunction with industry stakeholders and educators, to ensure that the workforce feels supported and ready for the future.

There is also an increasing demand for the following soft skills in the workforce:

  • Critical thinking
  • Social perceptiveness
  • Active listening
  • Coordination
  • Complex problem solving

The list of soft skills represents core competencies that machines and robots do not yet possess. A labour force that is able to adapt quickly, effectively use technology, and perform tasks that computers can’t, will be in high demand.

Mobility will be important to workforce development, as technology continues to facilitate new and improved positions and companies. A combination of digital fluency and soft skills will make it easier for the workforce to be mobile and flexible. By focusing on skills development over job-specific experience, workers can easily transition between jobs and upgrade skills as required.

Technology in Workforce Requires Technology in Workforce Development

Technology can also be used to keep up with the changing landscape of workforce development. The Regional Labour Demand Report™ uses technology to efficiently collect data, and then analyzes the types of jobs, required education, salary ranges, and employment types (i.e. full-time, part-time, or contract) available in your region. Specific skills required for the jobs in your local community can even be extracted and presented in real time to inform your workforce development plan. 

Let a technology-driven platform do the research for you, so that you can focus on strategically supporting the workforce, industry partners, and education providers in a skills-based economy.

Seasonal workforce development can be tricky to manage, and sometimes get overlooked, simply because the season goes by so fast, and it can seem like it's too difficult to find a solution in such a short time. But, there are ways that workforce developers can expand the talent pool available for seasonal employers. A great option for seasonal work is developing connections with schools, youth organizations, and younger demographics in your region. Students and young adults are used to learning new things quickly. They’re already learning the types of skills that will be relevant to the future workforce, and they’re familiar with technology.  

Workforce Central Canada is a collaboration between the Hub for Industry Education Collaboration, MDB Insight, and The National Association of Workforce Boards. It’s designed to be a resource for all Canadians, from workers to workforce developers, to employers. By connecting with individuals, organizations, and workforce experts, Workforce Central Canada hopes to help prepare Canadian businesses, workers, and governments for the future of the workforce. 

Case Study: Lehigh Valley - Data-Based Workforce Solutions

Lehigh Valley, in Pennsylvania, is an excellent example of a community that is finding ways to connect the dots between its workforce and its industries. They had already identified a skills gap, but with high-quality data from MDB Insight’s analysis, they were able to develop a strategic plan that helps local industry connect with local educational organizations to start developing the workforce in Lehigh Valley

Case Study: Tioga County - More Than A Workforce Development Plan

Tioga County, New York, wanted to be proactive about the changing face of workforce development. They wanted to be able to identify gaps in the Tioga County workforce, and pivot to fill them, before the gaps caused big problems. A detailed how-to style strategic plan helped support cohesive workforce development, with collaboration between workforce development, economic development, and the education and training sectors.  

Case Study: Clinton, Ontario - Innovation Drives Business Retention

Clinton, Ontario, was facing a familiar challenge for many small communities: a declining downtown core with a growing number of empty business spaces, largely due to an extreme workforce shortage. Local businesses were struggling to get enough staff and compete with big box stores nearby. Clinton developed an innovative workforce strategy that helped to make operations more affordable for 6 small businesses, allowing business owners to fill empty downtown spaces, and focus on attracting and retaining talent. 

Workforce Development Plans Focused on Skills

By Incorporating LMI data collected about the skills needed in your local community, you can develop an effective workforce development plan. A plan that is focused on skills can adapt and evolve with local industry, workforce, and economic development. Skills based plans also help your local workforce find jobs that are personally fulfilling. 

Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, are increasingly looking for employment with meaning. They want to do something good for their community or the world while they work. As automation handles more of the repetitive menial tasks, it allows more room for creative thought and problem solving for humans, two key key factors in making work feel meaningful.

A workforce development plan also allows room for a more diverse workforce, including mature workers. Often the mature workforce is an untapped well of highly skilled workers. While some of them may not have qualifications, they have most certainly developed important skills over the course of their career, like critical thinking, complex problem solving, judgement, social perceptiveness, active listening, adaptability, and teamwork. A workforce plan can help these mature workers update their resumes to highlight and focus on skills. 

Jobs in the trades industries also benefit from a dynamic workforce development plan. The demand for workers in the trades is growing across Canada, and apprenticeships are an excellent match for many individuals. Sometimes university is promoted more than trades apprenticeships, but they are an equally valuable format of education. Promoting trade apprenticeships is important for a strong and dynamic economy.

Over the course of the past year, there was a key theme in all of the 2019 workforce development information. The main theme in every piece of advice was that a strong workforce development plan needs to be dynamic, flexible, and innovative. A dynamic and flexible plan gives communities the opportunity to anticipate and adjust for future changes in their local industries, leading to a strong and resilient local economy.

Innovation Is Key for A Strong Skills Based Workforce Plan

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References:

https://www.rbc.com/dms/enterprise/futurelaunch/_assets-custom/pdf/RBC-Future-Skills-Report-FINAL-Singles.pdf

https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2017-12-13-gartner-says-by-2020-artificial-intelligence-will-create-more-jobs-than-it-eliminates 

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