Task Force on Future Training & Skills

Skilled by Design: A Blueprint for Alberta’s Future Workforce

Work is about people. We aspire to a future where Albertans, our businesses, and the economy thrive.

Alberta’s future workforce begins here.

Alberta is built on the principles of hard work, diversity and innovation. By committing to these principles, Alberta can become the place where the brightest minds come together and solve the world’s biggest challenges.

This reportSkilled By Design: A Blueprint for Alberta’s Future Workforce—outlines a vision for Alberta’s future workforce and the path to get there.

The report covers 11 key objectives and over 50 recommendations for governments, businesses, and post-secondary institutions arranged within three broad focus areas:

Building a Better Alberta: Alberta is a highly desirable place to do meaningful work that impacts communities, the province, and the world.

A Culture of Lifelong Learning: We build a highly employable and adaptable workforce, enabled by an attitude of lifelong learning and supported by a strong framework of micro-credentialing programs.

Experience-Based Training: Formal education is just one part of the process; we believe that real-work experience sets up our future workforce for success.

We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and do the necessary work to build an adaptive, innovative and progressive workforce—and to become the place where people come with drive and ambition to solve the world’s greatest challenges.

Why is this research needed?

Alberta needs to restore its reputation as a place of economic opportunity, openness and dynamism. We need to be seen as a place that welcomes bright people with bold new ideas—people willing to put their talents to use solving the world’s problems.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 economic shutdown, Alberta’s workforce will be a critical element for economic recovery and sustainability.

Even before COVID-19 and low oil prices devastated the economy, Alberta’s economy was in transition and Alberta’s businesses and workers were facing a rapidly changing workplace, an accelerated disruption of technology, and new skill requirements.

Alberta has also been struggling to attract workers from outside the province as it is often viewed as closed, exclusive, and increasingly less innovative and entrepreneurial to others.

As well, we have failed to fully capitalize on the talent and skill of Alberta’s diverse population, including those in Indigenous, minority, and under-represented communities.

There is much work to do.

There is no better time to focus on the future of Alberta’s workforce. As we experience an economic reset, this is the opportunity to look at what the province needs to become a world-class destination for global talent to bring their skill, solutions, and spirit to tackle the biggest challenges facing the world today.

If we do this right, we will contribute to greater prosperity for all, socially and economically.

The vision for Alberta’s future workforce

Click each heading to learn more about each focus area and our recommendations to businesses and government.

Building a Better Alberta

Alberta exemplifies innovation, inclusivity, and entrepreneurship. It is recognized as the place where Canada’s most talented workers solve the world’s biggest challenges. To flourish in the 21st century, Alberta needs to be an attractive place for everyone to live and work. This means building a reputation for openness and inclusion, and  welcoming boldness in collaboration and innovation.

Key Objectives

  • Create retraining opportunities for Alberta’s youth
  • Address chronic and future skills gaps in Alberta
  • Restore Alberta’s reputation for innovation and dynamism
  • Strengthen Alberta’s reputation for diversity and inclusion

3 Bold Recommendations

  • The federal government should double existing support payments to the Alberta government under the Canada-Alberta Workforce Development Agreement for 2020 and 2021. Half those additional funds should be directed towards supporting training and work experience programs for Alberta youth. The other half should be earmarked for employer-led training of unemployed Albertans.
  • The Alberta business community should work to develop cross-business and cross-industry innovation and collaboration opportunities for seconded employees to work together to solve innovation and technology challenges, using the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance as a model.
  • To foster a more inclusive work environment, Alberta businesses should work with community leaders to address and remove the systemic barriers that underrepresented groups (including culturally diverse individuals, Indigenous persons, and those of all sexual orientations) face in the workplace.


A Culture of Lifelong Learning

Alberta has a strong culture of lifelong learning leading to a resilient and highly employable workforce and enabled by a recognized, integrated system of micro-credentialing. Technology is disrupting the nature of work at an accelerating rate. To help Albertans keep pace and maintain a competitive labour force, businesses must provide an enabling environment for continuous improvement, re-skilling, and upskilling.

Key Objectives

  • Catalogue and consolidate existing micro-credentialing programs
  • Expand micro-credential programs for both technical and soft skills
  • Increase access to assessment opportunities

4 Bold Recommendations

  • Over the long term, the Government of Alberta should work to assess and harmonize the competencies and outcomes that are required for completing any given education/training program across the province. It should also work with post-secondary institutions to map the competencies that can be micro-credentialed within existing courses or programs.
  • The provincial government should use Bow Valley College’s Pivot-Ed program as a model for the development and execution of all micro-credential testing and training procedures across post-secondary institutions in Alberta.
  • Alberta businesses should provide the provincial government with input into: which degree/diploma programs or courses are best suited to be broken down into stages that can be micro-credentialed; and the competencies that should be included within each of those stages.
  • Alberta businesses should pay for any employee to challenge any micro-credentialing test they wish prior to taking the course, provided the individual can make a reasonable case for why they should be able to pass that test.
Experience-Based Training

100% of Alberta post-secondary students have access to some form of work-integrated learning before they graduate. Education is just one part of the learning process. Real-world work experience is also critical. Evidence shows work-integrated learning opportunities bridge the gap between employer and employee expectations, creating better-prepared, more confident, and more widely skilled workers, while businesses gain exposure to new ideas, approaches, and skills.

Key Objectives

  • Collect better data on existing WIL programs in Alberta
  • Increase information-sharing on WIL opportunities
  • Expand the range of WIL programs available in Alberta
  • Incorporate a reverse-mentoring component to WIL placements

3 Bold Recommendations

  • To close the information gap on WIL programs in Alberta, the provincial government should work with post-secondary institutions to collect and publish high-quality, timely statistics on work-integrated learning in the province, including: which programs are being offered by which institutions; enrolment, graduation, and placement rates by program and institution; the number of placements available by each program; and an assessment of which programs are oversubscribed and which are undersubscribed.
  • To encourage participation in WIL programs, the Alberta government should publish a guide that lays out the processes businesses must follow, suggest best practices, and provide a one-stop access point for existing and future government supports.
  • The Alberta business community should work together to identify and develop a list of 10 proposed new WIL occupations/programs to the Alberta government by the end of 2021. This list will include new non-technical occupations and programs that could benefit from incorporating a WIL component.


Resources & Additional Information

Resources mentioned in the report:

About the Task Force

Getting a good job and being able to live a good life is important to Albertans. However, new technologies and digital platforms are changing how we work, the kinds of jobs that are available, and even how long the skills we learn in school remain useful. And the downturn in the economy is only adding to this challenge.

We know that top economies attract and retain people who can adapt, change, and grow through uncertain times, circumstances, and technologies. In fact, shared prosperity can only be realized when peoples’ skills match those needed in the workplace, and they can access opportunities to continuously learn and advance.

We have formed the Task Force on Future Training & Skills to research and recommend actions that businesses, governments, and post-secondary institutions can take to ensure that Albertans are able to access high-quality education and training programs to advance their skills, be employed to their fullest potential, make companies more effective and competitive, and contribute to long-term shared prosperity.

Task Force Members 

  • Dawn Farrell, President & CEO, TransAlta (Chair)
  • Brad Zumwalt, President, Zinc Ventures
  • Drew Zieglgansberger, Executive Vice President, Strategy & Corporate Development, Cenovus Energy Inc.
  • Dave Filipchuck, President & Chief Executive Officer, PCL Constructors Inc.
  • Mike Olsson, Vice President, HRPD, PCL Constructors Inc.
  • Scott Bolton, President & CEO, UFA Co-operative Limited
  • Paul Gardner, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Suncor Energy
  • Jeff McCaig, Chairman, Trimac Transportation
  • Judy Fairburn, Co-Founder, The51

Supporting Contributors

  • Chelsea Donelon, Policy Analyst to the President and CEO, TransAlta

Task Force Timeline

  • Task Force Announced: June 2019
  • Task Force Launched: September 2019
  • Final Report Released: June 2020
  • Appointment to Alberta 2030 Initiative Guiding Coalition: August 2020

For more information, contact:

Mike Holden, Vice President, Policy & Chief Economist
Twitter: @MHoldenAB

Media Inquiries: media@businesscouncilab.com