Looking forward to the future can be anxiety-provoking. Where will we be in 20 years? Will everyone be driving flying cars? Will we all own a robot?
But more importantly, what will work look like? With technology completely revolutionizing our lives in the last decade, it can be hard to imagine a career without screens, screens, and more screens. But will technology continue to advance to the point where our current skillsets become obsolete? And what uncertainties do young people of today have about the future of their work — five, ten, twenty years down the road?
These are some of the questions the first-ever YouthfulCities Future of Urban Work Summit wanted to answer this October in Edmonton. The Summit was created in partnership with RBC Future Launch in an effort to empower the young people of today for the jobs of the future. The summit brought together 60 young leaders from Canadian cities, including 20 from the host-city, Edmonton.
Though young people have always had an important, relevant perspective on change, they are not always engaged in the conversations and debates that will determine the future. This summit wanted to change that, and to challenge young people to re-think the current state of work, and the very definition of work itself.
Unsurprisingly, the Summit found that young people have a lot of uncertainties about the future of employment: namely, to do with purpose, quality of life, and thriving in an age of disruption.
How can we thrive when our jobs are being constantly disrupted?
In 2018, RBC put together a report about how Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption.
According to Dave McKay, President and CEO of RBC, they identified, “a quiet crisis — of recent graduates who are overqualified for the jobs they’re in, of unemployed youth who weren’t trained for the jobs that are out there, and young Canadians everywhere who feel they aren’t ready for the future of work.”
The report found that “more than 25% of Canadian jobs will be heavily disrupted by technology in the coming decade.” This means a significant overhaul of the skills required.
As workplaces evolve in the future, RBC discovered it’s likely that youth will have to have more mobility between different industries. Instead of getting stuck in one single profession, the report envisages that people will be able to transition from jobs like a greenhouse worker to crane operator, from a farmer to a plumber, and from a car mechanic to an electrician, for example.
What is the purpose of work?
The kinds of jobs that have been created in decades past often respond to the trends of the day. Think programming jobs during the rise of the internet, or automotive jobs during the early 1900s. Today, social purpose seems more important than ever.
In the future, will we see a shift to more meaningful work, like making things or serving others — either individually, or by advocating for a larger community?
What quality of life can we expect?
In 2019, we witnessed the narrative around climate change shifting to that of a climate crisis. As we consider the future of work, one of the first things that comes to mind is what the future of the environment will be like and how that will impact our life both at work and at home.
Will we have zero-waste offices where single-use plastics are completely banned? Will travelling to work mean more carpooling and transit? Will we be discouraged from commuting altogether? How will this impact our quality of life or the productivity and collaboration of co-workers?
Will work hours continue to get longer and longer? Will people start to retire later and later in life? Perhaps we’ll have more flexible hours to spend time with loved ones, and live out the ‘balanced’ life that is so sought after. If wellness takes priority, will we incorporate more wellness into work, like healthy food and snack options in the office and free gym memberships?
The future is uncertain, and it’s important that we continue to have discussions about it now so young people can prepare for what may lie ahead. This is exactly what the YouthfulCities Future of Urban Work Summit wanted to achieve — to start important conversations about these uncertainties, that will translate into positive change
As McKay says, “If we find new ways to support and unleash the skills of Canada’s youth, they’ll launch an amazing future — for themselves, and for all of Canada.”
What do you see as the future of work in Canada? Share your thoughts and hear from likeminded individuals by visiting www.youthfulcities.com/future-of-work-summit.
This article is a part of a series of articles reflecting on the first-ever YouthfulCities Future of Urban Work Summit, which debuted this October in Edmonton. The YouthfulCities Urban Work Index was created in partnership with RBC Future Launch, a 10-year commitment dedicated to empowering the youth of today for the jobs of tomorrow.