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Marie-Helene Labrie
Marie-Hélène Labrie
Senior VP, Public Affairs, Communications, and Strategy - Cogeco

Challenges and Opportunities in the Future of Work

Published on

Takeaways

  1. The digital divide between urban and rural areas needs to be addressed as the economy trends towards the need for more digital accessibility.
  2. Intrapreneurship is a way to drive innovation and employee engagement, but new ideas must be aligned with the given company’s growth strategy.
  3. Collaboration between universities and the private sector will be key to ensure the right kind of training and skills deployment occurs.

Action

The Prime Minister should work with Canadians to develop a roadmap of policies that will ensure our workers have the skills they need to drive innovation, to address the digital divide between urban and rural areas, and to right social inequities. The core to inclusive and sustainable growth is our human capital.


What are the main forces shaping the future of work in Canada?

The main forces that have been shaping the future of work in Canada are digital technologies, digital access, automation, and artificial intelligence. They are all key drivers shaping the future of work. Another factor is the need fore more equity, diversity and inclusion in our society which is a key pillar for sustainable growth, and while progress has been made on this front, there is so much more we need to do.

Another one is climate change: it drives new skills, it creates new opportunities and it is also about more local and more circular economies, which are impacting the future of work. These forces have been shaping the future of work, but the current pandemic has also had a huge impact given the unprecedented economic impact in job losses.


What are some of the risks and opportunities for the Canadian economy?

The risks of not adopting digital technologies are related to two things. The first is exclusion, because there is a need to transition to new skills and people with obsolete skills for the future will need training, and we have to prepare our future labour force. Canada needs to ensure that we are inclusive and that we prepare for this. There is also the risk of a digital divide between rural and urban areas, and that exists today. Only 41% of our rural communities have access to high-speed internet. We need to address this issue because of the risk of exclusion of our rural communities from the digital economy, and people working from home unable to access internet to do their work.

“We need to take action to support women and facilitate their full participation in the workforce.”

Another risk is related to the current pandemic, and there is a great impact on women, who are more likely to have part-time or precarious jobs, and are more likely to be in poverty. Statistics show that women carry more unpaid housework and caregiving responsibilities than men, so we need to take action to support women and facilitate their full participation in the workforce, especially in the context of the pandemic.

Some of the opportunities related to digital technologies and innovation are that we can transition toward more sustainable growth, which will allow better use of resources and increase efficiencies for companies. Companies will be better equipped to use data and data analytics to address the needs of their customers. For example, there are great opportunities associated with automation and artificial intelligence.

“The other opportunity is that related to equality, inclusion, and diversity, which has a positive impact on the economy.”

The other opportunity is that related to equality, inclusion, and diversity, which has a positive impact on the economy. Studies show a positive impact on economic growth with gender equality and diversity, and when we look at a more holistic approach to the economy it is a great opportunity for growth.


What kind of skills will be needed in Canada’s future workforce?

In terms of traditional skills, we need people skills: communication, collaboration and management. For an inclusive working environment, we need to be focusing on those traditional skills and if we are working remotely and adopt a more hybrid work environment, collaboration and people skills will be important. The non-traditional skills would be digital skills: use of digital tools to collaborate with colleagues while working at a distance, as well as applying digital tools to improve efficiencies and increase value within our sectors.

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How can we best train, attract, and retain professionals that have the skills needed to drive innovation?

There is a great opportunity for increased collaboration between universities and the private sector. I am a strong believer in this collaboration and all the synergies that can be created by working together to align training and education programs to the reality of market needs. With technology cycles that are shorter, Canada needs to think about workforce redevelopment, continuous learning, on-the-job training, partnerships and programs that are tailored with universities to drive both technical and soft skills, like communications, management, social skills and addressing unconscious bias in racial justice.


How do you define intrapreneurship and how can companies foster a culture of intrapreneurship?

Intrapreneurship is like having a startup culture within a corporate culture or within an established organization. It is a way to drive innovation and employee engagement. It is a way for new ideas to be converted into new businesses within the organization and create and generate revenue. There is a risk in that the ideas that are generated are not aligned with the values of the organization, its mission and strategic growth plan. It is really important to make sure it is very well aligned with the growth strategy.

“Intrapreneurship is like having a startup culture within a corporate culture or within an established organization.”

The advantages of intrapreneuership are that new businesses can successfully emerge, and this can accelerate growth while increasing employee engagement because employees can feel that their ideas are part of creating something new within the company, outside of the core business, as they develop and implement new ideas.


If you could pitch to a person in power to prepare Canada for the future of work, what would you pitch?

I would pitch to our Prime Minister. I would tell him that our country has the foundation and tools to ensure that we have sustainable and inclusive growth, and the core of this future growth is our human capital. Canada should ensure that together we develop a roadmap and the right policies so that the required people have the technical skills for the future of work, to drive innovation and to address the digital divide between urban and rural areas, as well as social inequities.

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Marie-Helene Labrie
Marie-Hélène Labrie
Senior VP, Public Affairs, Communications, and Strategy - Cogeco

Bio: Marie-Helene Labrie is the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Communications, and Strategy at Cogeco. She has had decades of experience in marketing, corporate communications, business strategy, government affairs, competitive intelligence, and renewable energy. She is also a board member of Mitacs. From 1993 to 1997, she worked in the Government of Canada, where she held a number of diverse portfolios. She has a Master’s in International Business from Université Laval.

 

Organization Profile: Cogeco is a service provider for superfast fibre-powered internet, flexible TV, and residential home phone services. It is the eighth largest hybrid fibre coaxial cable operator in North America, operating in both Canada and the United States, in the latter under the Atlantic Broadband name in 11 states. It is headquartered in Montreal. Founded in 1957, it is now a publicly traded company.