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How Canadians Learn Is Key to Our Economic Recovery

Open book atop a laptop in a library
Open book atop a laptop in a library
Leah Nord

Leah Nord

Senior Director of Workforce Strategies & Inclusive Growth, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

A culture shift that had already been taking hold across Canada has taken on an even greater significance due to the COVID-19 pandemic: the importance of lifelong learning. Throughout the pandemic, we went from one of the tightest job markets in history to over three million job losses. Although there have been employment gains, Canada’s workforce won’t be the same anytime soon.

Durable skills are in demand

Available jobs and the skills required are shifting. Employers might increasingly consider automation to maintain operations during future crises and to reduce risk. Canadians will need reskilling, upskilling, and skills training programs to get them back to work and to keep them in meaningful employment throughout the span of their professional lives.

It isn’t only our hard or technical skills we need to keep up-to-date — employers are increasingly focusing on what are called “durable skills.” These include communication, problem-solving, leadership, and entrepreneurship, and are known to be rare assets that all Canadian job creators are looking for.

Changing our markers for success

How we’re learning is also changing. While traditional degrees and certificates still have value, there’s an increasing focus on online and blended learning, micro-credentialing, badges, and stackable credits. There’s also increasing recognition of the multitude of more organic ways in which humans learn and gain experience: on-the-job training, volunteer work, self-learning, raising kids, taking care of aging parents, travelling, overcoming personal adversities, and, frankly, living life in general.

Critical for Canadians in their lifelong learning journeys is recognizing both traditional and non-traditional education and training and being able to acknowledge — and measure — the skills individuals acquire over time. We need to move from reliance on academic credentialing into competency-based assessment.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has called on the federal government, alongside its provincial counterparts and stakeholders in education and business, to support initiatives that seek to define the key skills and competencies of both today and tomorrow, accompanied by the development of appropriate evaluation tools.

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