4 bold ideas for worker-centric LMI

From the rise of remote and gig work, to the eruption of the digital economy as expedited by COVID-19, many Canadians and newcomers are unsure about how to prepare for the future of work.
Governments and employment agencies rely on labour market information (LMI) to inform the programming and supports needed for workers and jobseekers. However, the LMI collection structure does not currently reflect the information needed to prepare Canadians for the realities of today’s job market. Further, organizations across the country are struggling to find skilled workers who meet the demands of the new economy, especially in digital skillsets.
Based on a recent Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) report, Ground Control to LMI: Making Labour Market Information Work for Workers, by Heather Russek, Jessica Thornton and Michelle Park, here are four bold ideas on how to make LMI work for workers.
Idea #1: Worker-defined occupation taxonomy
The National Occupational Classification (NOC) code is a classification structure used by the Government of Canada to categorize occupational activity. Among other uses, these codes inform the programming and support needed for skills development, labour supply and demand, and employment equity.
All illustrations by Jesseca Buizon (www.jayymadethis.com)
But classifications are structured in a way that does not reflect the worker who teaches yoga and runs their Etsy store online, or the student who is earning income as a part-time Uber driver. Employment supports are needed for these workers, but in the current LMI context, these jobs don’t actually exist.
While there is a mandate currently in place to begin updating NOC codes, a pilot initiative designed to work closely with actual workers can be used to clarify how they currently self-identify, and to draft a worker-defined occupation taxonomy to ensure their representation in the Canadian labour force.
Idea #2: LMI storytelling
With many industries – such as manufacturing and utilities – projected to decline and emerging fields in AI, VR and blockchain, many workers across Canada are facing displacement in their current jobs and will have to find careers in new fields. In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, 45% of workers in occupations projected to decline are between 45 and 65 years old.
Transitioning into a brand-new career, however, can be daunting. Especially when one has been in the same field for years, or even decades. Finding out the training and credentials needed and what kind of work is available in a new industry is often difficult, and can be quite discouraging in the early stages of job exploration.
Career practitioners have voiced that jobseekers need stories to understand the broader experience associated with new careers and practical pathways on how to get there. A storytelling initiative such as the creation of personas for various jobs would help workers understand “a day in the life” of someone doing that job and what the work entails. Other ideas associated with storytelling as a communication tool could be having a translator alongside a NOC database, a handbook that accompanies the NOC codes and a centralized website that is affiliated with reputable sources of LMI data.
Jesseca Buizon
Idea #3: Futures literacy pilot program
Jobs we will do in 10 years are yet to exist. This has been a common adage describing the future of work for some time now. This rings especially true considering the massive disruption of work across industries due to COVID-19. But what are these jobs? And how can we imagine ourselves working in them if they don’t yet exist?
To better prepare workers and students for the jobs of tomorrow, LMI must account for the future. The viable solution can be found in “futures literacy” for workers. UNESCO describes futures literacy as “a skill that allows people to better understand the role of the future in what they see and do. Being futures literate empowers the imagination, enhances our ability to prepare, recover and invent as changes occur.”
While no one can accurately predict the future, a program that designs LMI to develop futures literacy could improve one’s ability to use existing LMI, understand possible disruptive forces in their employment future and plan their next steps. With many emerging trends set to disrupt the market, a labour force that is aware of the changes to come and equipped with opportunities to prepare can avoid the costly problem of labour shortages and unemployment, especially in tech-related jobs.
Idea #4: Creativity training for mid- and late-career workers
A 2021 BII+E report, Yesterday’s Gone, revealed trends associated with the future of work, including the emergence of tech jobs, micro-credentialling, gig-work and non-linear career paths. Further, with tuition rates consistently on the rise and an ever-changing technology landscape, the three to four-year college diploma or university degree is becoming impractical for many future jobseekers. Workers of the future will have to carve their path – and, in some cases, their job roles – from a burgeoning market of in-demand skills and complementary micro credential training opportunities.
Jesseca Buizon
It might be of no surprise then that brainstorming is one of the foundational skills associated with jobs projected to grow in the next 10 years (according to the Forecast of Canadian Occupational Growth, or FCOG). LMI data currently does not support training to build brainstorming skills or skills associated with it, such as creativity and problem solving. At the same time, research from Ground Control to LMI reveals that jobseekers have difficulty imagining themselves in new jobs. This can be quite understandable in the context of the mid- to late-career worker.
A training program designed for those who identify as non-creative types can start with dispelling the myth that creativity is an innate skill – i.e. “either you’re creative or you’re not.” New programming can focus on creative thinking, designed to build creative confidence and the skills needed to imagine themselves succeeding in a new role, along with the problem solving and brainstorming skills on how to get there.
For more insights and recommendations on how to put workers at the centre of LMI data and program support, consult Ground Control to LMI: Making Labour Market Information Work for Workers  and the regional summaries from the Employment in 2030: Action Labs project.
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