Can upskilling help the “Women, Youth, Indigenous peoples, and new Canadians” facing disproportionate impacts from COVID-19?

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‘Women, Youth, Indigenous Peoples, and new Canadians were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” according to the federal Industry Strategy Council (ISC) in “Restart, Recover, and Reimagine” COVID-19 report. World Economic Forum (WEF) echoed similar sentiments in the “Future of Jobs Report 2020”. Illustrated in a report titled “The Long Shadow of an Unlucky Start,” the IMF fears challenges associating with seeking jobs in a pandemic-induced recession can lead to excessive income loss, diminished quality of life, increased health concerns, and premature deaths. Particularly among youth, higher criminal activity is also a concern.


On March 17th, 2020, Ontario Primer Doug Ford declared a state of emergency due to the rapid spread of covid-19. Effective immediately, all recreational facilities, libraries, schools, theatres, concert venues and, dine-in restaurants were ordered to shut down. This lead to devastating 1.1 million jobs lost between March 2020 & April 2020 in Ontario. Canada experienced similar unemployment rates, with 7.3 million jobs lost due to the pandemic nationwide.

Devastation from the Pandemic-Induced Recession

Retail and Tourism faced the most considerable impact of COVID-19, with fewer opportunities to recover in the subsequent months due to nationwide lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. According to the ICS report, this explains why Women, Youth, Indigenous populations, and new Canadians face harsher impacts of the pandemic, as they are “overrepresented” in these sectors.

WEF reported that women, younger workers, and lower-wage workers are significantly more impacted by the pandemic-induced economic contraction when compared to the 2008 financial crisis and warns that this will likely deepen existing inequalities. interviewed Scott Terrio, an Ontario-based consumer insolvency manager, predict that younger Canadians will take “at least five years” to financially recover from the pandemic, adding that he can “easily see it being ten.” He acknowledges the burden of student loan debt as a critical factor for prolonging financial recovery time.

Fortunately, not all hope is lost, as the “Future of Jobs Report 2020” by the World Economic Forum illustrates several industries expected to experience growth.

Emerging Roles of 2025, according to WEF.

World Economic Forum’s Jobs of Tomorrow Report, authored in partnership with LinkedIn and Coursera, reported that across 20 economies, 99 jobs consistently experienced growing demand. At the forefront was a need for AI and Data Analytics and Engineering, Cloud Computing, Product Development, reflecting the adoption of technologies and demand for products & services. On the forefront were roles in the care economy such as marketing, sales, and content production.

The following image, adapted from the Future of Jobs Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum, showcases jobs in increasing and decreasing demands for Data Analysts & Scientists topping the chart in increasing demand while Data Entry Clerks experience the least demand.

While focusing on trends in career pivots and transitions, the study found that while individuals of high-skill similarities have transitioned into People & Culture and Engineering fields, transitions into Marketing and Content Development have seen lower similarities in skills. IT professionals and engineers have mainly made transitions into Cloud Computing. Meanwhile, Data and AI have experienced the most extensive variations in skill profiles from transitioning individuals. Data and AI, Product Development, and Cloud Computing have presented more opportunities to break into the frontier field, with fewer requirements for full-skill matches.

Reskilling and Upskilling for Emerging Roles

As nationwide lockdowns and stay-at-home orders bring challenges for traditional forms of education, online training from private organizations has become an increasingly popular form of upskilling and reskilling for employed and unemployed individuals. Upskilling and reskilling will prove to be essential to both attaining and maintaining employment as an estimated 85 million redundant jobs will be displaced from humans to machines, with another estimated 97 million roles emerging better adapted for a new division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms, according to the WEF.

According to the WEF, 2020 experienced a four-fold increase in individuals seeking learning opportunities online on their own, a fivefold increase in learners through employer provisions, and a nine-fold growth through government programs. In addition to this, both employers and individuals favor short-cycle upskilling, making online learning an appealing choice, as many online and private institutions offer part-time, short-term curriculums that emphasize essential skills and techniques over theory-based education.

Case Study: SysIntelligence Institute of Technology

Ontario-based IT Consulting & Training company, SysIntelligence Institute of Technology (SysIIT), experienced an influx of learners enrolling in Data Analytics and Cloud Computing programs after pivoting to an online learning model. This was made possible thanks to their early adoption of cloud-based technologies before the pandemic, allowing students to access lab-environments from home. Students from the institute have also experienced great success. Ninety percent of SysIIT’s Cloud Computing students could secure employment in cloud-based roles within three months of completing the training program. Currently, SysIIT is offering detailed courses in Data Analytics, AI & Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, and many more.


While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our economy, not to mention already disadvantaged demographics, individuals still possess the ability to improve their situation through reskilling and upskilling to meet market demand. Reskilling and upskilling appear to be the future trend, as it is necessary to both attain and maintain an employment status, especially as we transition into a workforce with machines and algorithms working side-by-side with humans.



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Maria Azam

Maria Azam

Passionate Overthinker | I get riled up about social issues and turn them into media |