Innovation for All

Innovation for All

How can we ensure that no one is left behind as emerging technologies are implemented into the workforce at an increasingly rapid pace?  

We have all heard of artificial intelligence, machine learning or neural networks at some point over the last couple of years, however, these are more than just futuristic buzz words. As these technologies become more advanced, an increasing number of workplaces are integrating them into daily operations to eliminate simple, repetitive tasks. The impact of this shift, coupled with a rapidly changing global workplace could potentially create an even greater skills gap, resulting in significant social inequalities if adjustments are not made now to protect the economic viability of our communities. 

Over 100 artificial intelligence experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have predicted that within the next 15 years, half of the trucks on the road will be able to drive themselves and within 25 years robots will be able to complete most of the management tasks at Fortune 500 companies.[1] Although it is difficult to accurately predict the impact of these new technologies, it is clear that the rate of change is increasing faster than ever and the repercussions will be felt across a wider range of industries and at a deeper level than initially expected. 

As occupations continue to be augmented by technology. or completely removed, the skills needed to remain employable will continually involve. Those facing the most pressing risk from the adoption of these technologies are workers that currently hold roles that can be easily automated.

For employees that don’t have the ability to benefit from additional formal schooling, skills retraining or switching industries, the impact of automation could be devastating and potentially widen both the gender and skill gap that is already a complex challenge consuming today’s leaders.[2] Due to the economic diversity of Canada, there will also likely be an uneven distribution of these risks across the diverse regions of the country. Currently, 46% of “work activities in Canada have the potential to be automated across all industries” which is the equivalent of 7.7 million jobs.[3]

Despite the (justified) anxiety surrounding automation of the workplace, there is still time to prepare. Many experts in the field, such as Krista Jones from MaRS Discovery District, are calling for changes in policies to prepare for this drastic shift. Beyond providing basic minimum income, a more reactive approach, Jones states that “we need policies that promote life-long learning and more incentives for businesses to retrain staff rather than hiring new employees”.[4]  Institutions need to start shaping the mindsetsof current and future leaders so as to promote and encourage lifelong learning and the ability to adapt, as opposed to encouraging the need for safety and stability. 

This continual, and inevitable, encroachment of new technology into the global workplace must not be looked at as a threat, but be welcomed and embraced as a tremendous opportunity. Government, business, institutional and community leaders must work together to develop a strategy that will insure that full advantage can be taken from these new technologies while protecting the workforce.

By: Nicole Plant 


[1]Dreyfuss, Emily. "Hate to Break It to Steve Mnuchin, But AI's Already Taking Jobs." Wired. June 03, 2017. Accessed September 20, 2018.

[2]Schwab, Klaus, and Richard Samans. "The Future of Jobs." World Economic Forum.

[3]Lamb, Craig, and Matthew Lo. "Automation Across the Nation: Understanding the Potential Impacts of Technological Trends across Canada." Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, June 8, 17.

[4]Jones, Krista. Preparing Adult Workers for the Artificial Intelligence Revolution. April 7, 17.