Meeting Canada’s Future Workforce Needs Through Emerging Fields

Emerging Fields

As modern education grapples with rapid technological advancements, educators and administrators face the crucial challenge of integrating emerging fields of study while ensuring effective learning and engagement. With student engagement and retention rates in flux and an ever-widening gap between academic learning and practical skills, the key question arises: How can we bridge this gap and adapt to the changing educational environment? Embracing cutting-edge technological trends is essential as they reshape the landscape of higher education, propelling institutions into the forefront of educational innovation.

The Race Between Technology and Education

Echoing the sentiments of Mauricio Macri, who served as President of Argentina from 2015 to 2019, at the 2018 G20 summit, stated, “The future of work is a race between technology and education” (Accenture, 2020). This perspective underscores the critical need for educational systems to transform and adapt in anticipation of digital impacts on the workforce.

Higher education institutions play a crucial role in developing future employees by imparting necessary knowledge, skills and competencies that are increasingly demanded in the labour market. This evolving need has led to significant transformations in degree programs, courses and overall curricula to align with future trends and workforce development.

Emerging Fields and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, marked by rapid advances in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies, has created significant skill gaps across industries. It was predicted that the interaction between machines, algorithms and humans would generate 133 million new roles globally by 2022 (World Economic Forum, 2018). The shifts in technology-driven automation, the complexity of job processes and the fragmentation of decision-making highlight the growing demand for skilled professionals across various sectors.

In-Depth Look at Emerging Fields

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML)

  • Global Demand: There is a projected 40% increase in demand for AI and ML specialists worldwide, with Canada experiencing a similar surge.
  • Applications: In healthcare, AI is revolutionizing diagnostic processes, predicting patient outcomes and managing healthcare data more efficiently.


  • Workforce Shortage: It is estimated that by 2025, there will be a global shortage of 3.5 million cybersecurity professionals.

Health Informatics and Telemedicine

  • Sector Growth: With a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.6%, the digital health sector in Canada is rapidly expanding.
  • Workforce Needs: As telemedicine platforms increase, the demand for IT professionals with health informatics skills has quadrupled over the past five years in Canada.

Renewable Energy and Sustainability

Data Science

  • Market Value: The global data science platform market is expected to grow by $322.9 billion by 2026, reflecting a CAGR of 27.7%.
  • Canadian Impact: In Canada, the demand for data scientists has increased by over 40% in the last two years, with significant shortages in sectors like finance, healthcare and public administration.
  • Canadian Context: In Canada, cybersecurity jobs are expected to grow each year, with sectors such as finance and healthcare showing the highest demand.

    Addressing Demographic Changes and Workforce Implications

    The demographic changes in Canada, characterized by an aging population and a declining birth rate, have profound implications for the labour market. The retirement of baby boomers is creating vast gaps in several sectors, particularly in healthcare and technology. Statistics Canada projects that by 2030, one in five Canadians will be over the age of 65, exacerbating the need for healthcare services and professionals.

    This demographic shift is also influencing immigration policies, with Canada aiming to welcome 500,000 immigrants annually from 2024 to 2026 to mitigate labour shortages. In 2022, approximately 60% of immigrants were categorized under economic programs, aimed at filling these critical gaps in the workforce, particularly in technology and healthcare sectors.

    Higher Education Institutions’ Response

    Canadian universities and colleges are actively revamping their programs to align with these emerging fields. For instance, programs in AI and cybersecurity are being expanded in universities across Canada, with new courses that include practical, hands-on training to meet industry demands.

    Industry and Government Collaboration

    The collaboration between industry leaders and governmental bodies is important in shaping educational reforms. Initiatives like Canada’s Digital Charter and the Innovation Superclusters Initiative are examples of efforts to foster environments conducive to the growth of AI, cybersecurity and data science sectors. These programs are not only enhancing Canada’s technological infrastructure but also ensuring that educational institutions are equipped to train the next generation of skilled professionals.

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