Conference Board of Canada releases study on digitization of the skilled trades
Ottawa, September 15, 2020 – The Conference Board of Canada, in partnership with the Future Skills Centre (FSC), has released a new impact paper on ways to advance digital skills among Canada’s apprentices and journeypersons.
“Bridging Generational Divides: Advancing Digital Skills in Canada’s Apprenticeships and Skilled Trades Ecosystem” explores the critical skill requirements of tradespeople as they adapt to the future of work.
Currently, generational differences between younger and older workers, such as communication preferences, are hampering the adoption of digital skills. Challenges related to time, cost, geography, outdated training curricula and technology, and limited Internet access are also proving to be barriers to digital skills development among Canada’s tradespeople.
“Tradespeople young and old need to learn seven core digital skills in order to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing work environment,” says Andrew Bieler, a Senior Research Associate at the Conference Board of Canada. “These seven digital skills are technical, information management, digital communication, virtual collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving in digital environments.”
Canada’s apprenticeship ecosystem is struggling to develop the digital skills and culture of lifelong learning needed for the skilled trades to keep pace with future advancements in the workplace.
Key segments of the Canadian economy, such as the automotive, construction and food service industries are rapidly changing due to technological innovation and automation. In the automotive sector, tradespeople are grappling with challenges related to the CASE, which refers to Connectivity, Autonomous, Sharing/Subscription, and Electrification of vehicles. Manufacturing tradespeople are dealing with robotic welders and other computerized machinery. In the construction trades, there is a growing reliance on building information modeling and the Internet of Things (IoT).
“Canadian tradespeople are facing unprecedented workplace changes,” says Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre. “This research is important and timely, because it gives us new insights into what we need to do to help them throughout their careers—specifically by innovating on-the-job training.”
The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to retool apprenticeship training to meet the demands of a digital work world. Going forward, the public and private sectors need to give priority to reducing barriers to digital learning for apprentices and integrating a stronger focus on social and emotional skills development throughout the apprenticeship pathway.
With the shift to online and hybrid technical training, we need a more comprehensive approach to digital skills in the trades. Existing approaches to essential skills in the trades tend to narrowly define digital skills as the ability to use computers and other forms of technology. Beyond computer skills, digital literacy involves a wide range of cognitive and social/emotional skills used to solve problems in digital environments.
As young people enter the trades, more effort needs to be placed on preparing them for classrooms and workplaces that are undergoing social and technological disruption due to the triple threat of COVID-19, digitization and an increasingly dynamic labour market.
To accomplish this, Canada must rebrand the skilled trades and align them with the digital skills and technologies of the future. Contrary to the widely held view of the trades as manual labour, skilled tradespeople today increasingly work with advanced technologies in digitally connected workplaces. Future training needs to reflect this 21st Century reality.
About The Conference Board of Canada
The Conference Board of Canada is the country’s leading independent research organization. Our mission is to empower and inspire leaders to build a stronger future for all Canadians through our trusted research and unparalleled connections. Follow The Conference Board of Canada on Twitter @ConfBoardofCda
About the Future Skills Centre (FSC)
Future Skills Centre is a forward-thinking research and collaboration hub dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success and meeting the emerging talent needs of employers. As a pan-Canadian community, FSC brings together experts and organizations across sectors to rigorously identify, assess, and share innovative approaches to develop the skills needed to drive prosperity and inclusion. FSC is directly involved in innovation through investments in pilot projects and academic research on the future of work and skills in Canada. The Future Skills Centre is funded by the Government of Canada's Future Skills Program.
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