Canadian Manufacturing

Industry trends and employee attitudes are driving automation in Canada

Skills training desperately needed as one in five Canadian workers vulnerable to automation.

January 28, 2021  by CM Staff

Skills development and retraining is needed to prevent job loss from automation.

OTTAWA — Research from The Conference Board of Canada, in partnership with the Future Skills Centre, has found that a combination of industry-specific trends and attitudes is shaping how Canadian organizations adopt automation and use new technology.

In the research, The Conference Board of Canada found several common influences impacting automation adoption across different sectors of the economy. These include digital applications becoming more commonplace, mobile devices changing how employees work and interact, and increasing experimentation with automation.

“Our research found that most workers feel they have at least some of the resources, skills, and support they need to adopt new high-tech tools and processes,” says Darren Gresch, a Senior Research Associate at The Conference Board of Canada. “However, nearly one-third reported feeling no pressure to upgrade their skills.”

The upgrading of Canadian workers’ skills is critically important as up to 47% of jobs are at risk of being lost to automation or being radically transformed by technology in the coming years. And many of these workers have few options to transition into lower-risk occupations without significant retraining. Employers need to help workers better prepare for future job transitions and digital transformations.

Advertisement

In its latest research, The Conference Board found that most managers feel confident about how open their organizations are to adopting new technologies. However, they feel less prepared to take full advantage of the potential benefits. These managers are also less confident about compatibility issues with existing technologies.

Barriers that deter organizations from investing in new technologies and retraining employees include reactive responses toward new technologies, rather than proactive; inadequate workforce know-how for operating new technologies due to labour shortages; insufficient testing opportunities; and inconsistent regulations within industries.

“In the coming years, Canadians are going to need the right technical skills and complementary social and emotional skills to meet emerging economic trends head-on,” says Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre. “Employers and business leaders need to be mindful of which technology they adopt and how it will impact their workforce.”

Canadian organizations have introduced elements of automation into their operations to varying degrees. Labour shortages have been a major impetus for adopting automation-enabling technologies. An aging workforce, combined with the younger generation’s lack of willingness to work the same jobs, will precipitate a shortfall of skilled labour in the next 10 to 15 years, forecasts The Conference Board of Canada.