The upskilling imperative  

Building a future-ready workforce for the AI age

COVID-19 and efforts to contain it have had a profound impact on businesses and workers worldwide. As Canada and other countries take their first steps towards recovery, it’s clear that the way we live and work will change significantly—and even permanently—in the new normal.

The COVID-19 experience has dramatically accelerated companies’ digital transformation. Organizations increasingly see data-driven decision making as crucial to their survival today and their success tomorrow, and they are driving forward with investments in AI, analytics, automation, and digitization to secure their future in a changing world. AI, digitization, and automation will open the door to tremendous opportunities for innovation and growth—and create new challenges and complexities for employers. Even before the pandemic, organizations in every sector were struggling to attract, recruit and retain people with the skills needed to help them succeed in a digitized, automated, AI-driven world.

COVID-19 has also shown us how quickly work itself can change. More than three million jobs have been lost in Canada in the first two months of the pandemic-driven economic shutdown, a decline far greater than seen in any of the three major recessions since 1980.1 Many of us are now working and collaborating remotely, some for the very first time. All of us will be building our careers in this post-COVID-19 world. Adaptability, flexibility, and a commitment to lifelong learning will be vital, especially as companies and entire industries reposition themselves in a highly digital, data-driven new world and search for the talent that will help them succeed.2

It’s time for companies and individuals to embrace the upskilling imperative. For companies, upskilling enables them to build a future-ready workforce; for individuals, it’s a way to keep their skills relevant and stay future-ready themselves. Making deliberate, significant investments in learning will ensure organizations and employees alike have the knowledge, skills, and capabilities needed to work effectively in a digitized, automated world—and to build and consume AI-powered insights. In the following pages, we will explore how digitization, automation, and AI are rapidly disrupting industries worldwide and what that means to work and leadership; why organizations need to invest in upskilling now; and how organizations should approach upskilling for the age of AI.


1. Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, April 2020. https://www150.statcan.
. Retrieved May 20, 2020.

2. Bernard Marr, “8 Job Skills To Succeed In A Post-Coronavirus World.” https://
. Retrieved May 20, 2020.

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