Up to the Task: Toward a pathways model for enabling Canada’s workforce transition

Throughout history, new technologies have disrupted the workforce by automating tasks traditionally performed by humans. Now, at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the convergence of many technologies with digitization and artificial intelligence is expected to accelerate automation. As such, jobs that consist largely of automatable tasks are at risk of augmentation, and workers who are trained primarily in skills that complement these tasks are at risk of being displaced.

The mass automation of certain tasks creates the need for a coordinated effort to promote the development of skills that complement emerging technologies. Workers, employers, employment agencies, governments and educational institutions must all be involved. The World Economic Forum has called for a pathways approach to define how workers can make informed decisions about education and training in the context of automation and successfully transition between jobs. With the support of Google.org, MaRS is answering this call to action by creating the Employment Pathway Platform, a skills-based career guidance tool for the Canadian workforce. In this report, we present our methodology and example pathways to illustrate how they enable a user-friendly platform that is relevant for all stakeholders.

Our employment pathways map at-risk jobs to more sustainable career options based on inputs from key partners and data sources. For our example pathways, we use jobs from the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, job characteristics from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) taxonomy and data from the 2016 Canadian Census to identify three priority at-risk occupations for the working age population in Ontario. We partner with Faethm.ai, whose analytics platform determines the risk of automation for each job in our data set and matches at-risk jobs to more sustainable jobs based on shared attributes. We then map feasible job transitions, which we present as interactive visualizations of our pathways.

In the coming year, we will conduct additional research to uncover the needs of different regions and demographics as we build out a robust model for skills-based employment pathways. We will scale the Employment Pathway Platform and combine our pathways with actionable insights in order to enable the type of skills development that will help bolster the resilience of the Canadian workforce.

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