Automation a risk to entry-level jobs: report

Young Canadians face a changing job market where jobs are being altered or made obsolete by technological advancements.

This is why RBC is launching a 10-year $500 million campaign, called “Future Launch,” to offer youth opportunities to gain the necessary skills, job experience, and career networks to succeed in their future professional career.

“There is not a clear census on the impact of automation on the workplace, but we know that it’s something that’s not going away,” said Kim Howson, manager of strategic initiatives at RBC. “We want to make sure Canada is taking the lead in this rapidly developing field and ensure young people have the right skills to take advantage of those enhancements.”

The money has not yet been allocated, but RBC is in the process of conducting a cross-country series of youth forums to better understand the local and regional issues.

RBC said in a press release that multiple announcements will follow, identifying key partnerships and programs that will receive a portion of the campaign’s funds.

Future Launch focuses on three key issues: young peoples limited access to networks or mentorship, a lack of practical experience and an absence of relevant skills.

In a new report by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, called “Future-proof: Preparing young Canadians for the future of work,” it was revealed that 42 per cent of the Canadian labour force is at a high risk of being affected by automation in the next two decades.

“The good news is that Canada has a strong foundation with some of the highest rates of educational attainment in the world, and a tech sector that has never been stronger,” the report states.

“Canadian youth are highly-skilled, well-educated, entrepreneurial and arguably among the best suited to adopt to the complex skills required for the future of work,” the report added.

Some of the skills mentioned are associated with digital literacy, entrepreneurship, and social intelligence. Major technological enhancements include artificial intelligence and robotics among others.

Andrew Jackson, Broadbent Institute Senior Policy Advisor, said the main problem associated with automation is not unemployment, but underemployment. 

“The main impact is a polarization of the job market over time between highly-skilled jobs —where technology compliments skills—and relatively low-skilled jobs,” Jackson said.

Jackson said he urges young Canadians to pursue what they are interested in, regardless of the changing market.

“I think the job market is changing so fast that to fix on any one option as the wave of the future is wrong,” he said. “There are a lot of baby boomers retiring, or nearing retirement so there’s a lot of reasons to expect that job prospects might actually be improving for young people.”

Aaron Bens, a fourth-year Carleton University communications student, said he isn’t worried about the potential impact of technological advancement on jobs.

“I’m not worried at all about jobs post-graduation . . . I may not know exactly what I’d like to do, but that just means I’m leaving the door open to more options and opportunities,” he said. Given that communications is often tied with the evolution of new technologies, advancements in technology almost always lead to new opportunities for the communications field.”