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Skills for the Post-Pandemic World

This paper contributes to the development of a post-pandemic skills agenda by clarifying broad changes and continuities in the economy and society that could have implications for skills and identifying a set of key themes on which further research is needed to better understand the challenges and opportunities which we face.

In this way, it constitutes a scoping stage in a multi-stage research program that will help Canada shape a new skills agenda.

Executive Summary

Even in the best of times, uncertainty about skills needs and training opportunities is substantial and pervasive. It has long been a challenge to predict the skills Canadians will need to participate effectively in a changing economy and society. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis have upended how we live, socialize, work and do business, our predictions and planning around skills are even more uncertain. The foggy future of work has arrived, and it is as unclear as ever. Indeed, our recent experiences have also highlighted gaps in our ability to predict labour market trends and the importance of developing new approaches to foresight—gaps that stand in the way of achieving a skills and employment ecosystem that is responsive, adaptable and resilient.

Canada’s innovation, productivity and growth challenges are even more pressing now than they were before the pandemic and economic crisis. Also pressing is the need to ensure a more equitable distribution of opportunities for people to participate in and benefit from the economy. Canada has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset the skills and employment agenda and build a foundation for a more innovative and inclusive post-pandemic economy and society.

To identify key priorities for future research, we developed a multi-pronged research approach:

  • We examined academic and grey literature to do two things: understand key skills and employment-related trends and issues in both the pre- and post-COVID-19 environment, and identify areas where we need to know more.
  • We collected and analyzed relevant data on the key drivers of change in the economy and society that could have implications for skills, and for the state of, and trends in, skills requirements, training and development activities, and their distribution among different populations.

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