A look at the future of the Okanagan job market

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As more and more careers are replaced by technology and robots, what does it mean for the future of the job market in the valley? Jules Knox reports from UBC Okanagan where experts at a symposium tackled some tough questions – Nov 2, 2018

UBC Okanagan hosted a symposium on Friday to take a closer look at the future job market as more and more careers are replaced by machines and robots.

“Jobs that we’ve been used to having around for many decades are starting to be replaced by technology, whether it’s retail cashiers, whether it’s financial advisers or accountants,” policy expert Sunil Johal said.

“For example, Uber is taking over taxi drivers’ jobs and replacing what was a reasonably full-time decent paying job with a smaller part-time gig,” he said.

The problem, he added, is that these new jobs often come without a pension or benefits.

“So what happens if I need drug care or if I need mental-health services? Where do I get that from? Because it’s not coming as part of my job anymore,” he said.

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Johal believes the technology revolution will mean the government will need to offer stronger social supports, including skills training as people lose their jobs to automation.

More affordable housing should also be available so they don’t fall through the cracks, he added.

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UBC professor Taylor Owen said the job market has shifted as much of the wealth is moving into the hands of the richest few.

“We’ve gone from a market where labour is the core, and labourers are the core, to a place where shareholders are the core,” he said.

“I think we need far greater worker protection and worker rights. We probably need a new generation of union movements,” he added.

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In the future, Johal predicts there will be strong growth in human caring professions such as nursing or teaching.

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He also expects certain trades, such as plumbing or electrical, to continue to do well.

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“It’s really hard to build a robot that can go into 50 different types of buildings and rewire the electrical,” he said.

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