Technological Disruption and Demographics: A Double-Edge Sword

In by contextere

We live in an economy of ongoing technological change and in many cases, we are unprepared for the disruption these digital innovations will have on the labour market. According to a recent publication by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), “Humans Wanted: How Canadian Youth Can Thrive in the Age of Disruption”, we can expect over 25% percent of all jobs in Canada to be heavily impacted by technological developments over the next decade , or approximately 5 million Canadian jobs disrupted. Additionally, according to RBC, we can expect 2.4 million new jobs created before 2022.

These economic changes driven by technological disruption will pose significant opportunities and challenges moving forward as we transition and\or prepare more than 7 million workers across the country for the skills they need.

While we are beginning to focus on the needed skills to embrace this digital revolution, we must not forget to address the loss of crucial institutional intelligence and tribal knowledge due to demographics. Almost all industrial enterprises are threatened by a “grey out” of blue collar workers and large-scale impact of this generation of skilled workers retiring. Baby boomers, who represent a sizable portion of the industrial workforce, are poised to retire over the next five to seven years taking with them extensive organizational, process, and procedural knowledge. There is simply not enough time to rely on traditional ‘on the job’ training (OJT) techniques to transfer this crucial knowledge to the next generation of workers.

As it stands today, our education systems, skills training programs, and labour market initiatives are reacting too slowly to these rapid shifts in the economy and as a result, we are collectively unprepared to meet the demands of the 21st-century industrial workforce. New methodologies are needed to deliver real-time intelligence to blue-collar workers in their context based on their digital identity.

However, instead of perceiving these facts as a threat to society, requiring a major cultural shift, we should view it as an opportunity to do things differently. We need to approach these challenges with a greater emphasis on impact to the worker on the last tactical mile, as well as innovative solutions focused on outcomes, not technology. With the proper application of innovative software solutions, workers can be rapidly upskilled or reskilled to fill the growing gaps in our industrial workforce. While, simultaneously, industrial organizations can capture the critical operational knowledge of a workforce nearing retirement.