IT World Canada is pleased to once again partner with the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) to host the Third National Business Technology Management (BTM) Student Competition. Teams are composed of the top 3rd and 4th-year BTM students from participating schools.

The blog topic this year is “There’s a lot of hype around the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) will have on Canada’s workforce. Some studies suggest it will wipe out thousands of jobs. Others suggest it will kindle innovation and generate more jobs than it eliminates. Develop a blog that takes a point of view on this subject.” 

Cult classic movies like Star Wars, Back to the Future, and Terminator always displayed a future that pushed society’s imagination to think differently about how technology can be integrated into people’s lives. Deloitte might not be too far off when discussing the effects of Artificial Intelligence (AI); “If we’re to blend AI and human to achieve higher performance, then we need to find a way for human and digital behaviors to work together, rather than in sequence.” (Ambrose et al., 2018).

AI is an overwhelming predicament that society is beginning to face and its effect on the workforce of Canadian citizens. When looking at the crossroads that Canada faces with AI, the question should be asked if society should view it as a threat to existing jobs or view it as a means to kindle innovation and generate more jobs than it eliminates?

We think both paths will occur.

As Artificial Intelligence works its way into mundane processes and simple daily tasks, it frees up spare time within people’s work style and habits. This might mean that their job may not hold the same value as it once did. According to RBC, “As digital and machine technology advances, the next generation of Canadians will need to be more adaptive, creative and collaborative, adding and refining skills to keep pace with a world of work undergoing profound change.” (Wareham, 2018).

This change within the way people work will result is not the loss of jobs, but the displacement of careers.

The tradeoff between advancing the benefit for users, businesses, and economic growth and displacing workers will depend on the pace of adoption and integration of automation. The point that we want to stress is that displacement does not mean unemployment. Automation will result in many new jobs with the elimination of some as well, the pendulum swing that society is facing now is; how can people prepare and develop skills for this career transition?

The World Economic Forum predicts by 2022, at least 54% of all employees will need significant upskilling and reskilling as an impact of automation. Although significant resources are required, there is much contention on who will bear the responsibility of organizing this change. Possible sources can be the companies themselves. According to the Future of Jobs 2018, “The likelihood [of a company] hiring new permanent staff with relevant skills is nearly twice the likelihood of strategic redundancies of staff lagging behind in new skills adoption.” At the current state, companies are unlikely to invest in training programs for old employees, as that may be more costly.

However, if companies don’t step in, governments will play a significant role in the shaping of policies which will impact, and will most likely have to bear a large portion of the responsibility. The US government is currently in the process of creating the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. This board will bring together 25 notable Americans “to create more than 6.5 million education, training and skill-building opportunities over the next five years.” (Talev, 2019). Although there has been some thought and action from the American government, no clear initiatives have flourished from the Canadian government. Since the timeline is as short as 2022, in order to stay proactive about job displacement, the Canadian government will have to create programs to upskill workers.

So yes, Artificial Intelligence is moving forward very fast, but that doesn’t mean the robots will take all the jobs. However, we think there won’t be a net loss of jobs, rather a major shift in skills required in the workforce (i.e job displacement). The Canadian population will require major upskilling in order to satisfy those needs, but the parties who will invest the resources for those programs are still unclear.

Authors: Varshu Karumuri & Joshua Puszka, University of Alberta

Works Cited

Ambrose, M., Evans-Greenwood P. & Marshall A. (July, 2018). Reconstructing jobs, Creating good jobs in the age of artificial intelligence. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/technology-and-the-future-of-work/creati ng-good-jobs-age-of-artificial-intelligence.html

Leopold T., Ratcheva V., & Zahidi S. (2018). World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs Report 2018. Retrieved from http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf

Talev, M. (February 2019). Wilbur Ross, Ivanka Trump Introduce Workforce Advisory Board. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-13/wilbur-ross-ivanka-trump-introduc e-workforce-advisory-board

Wareham, E. (March, 2018). Automation to impact at least 50% of Canadian jobs in the next decade: RBC research. Retrieved from http://www.rbc.com/newsroom/news/2018/20180326-future-skills-rpt.html

 

 

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