Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be working its way toward displacing the Canadian workforce sooner than we expect.
A recent CBC story from late September alludes to the idea that employment in many sectors across Canada may be impacted by the growth of AI faster than initially expected. Accordingly, say experts cited by CBC, “there is an urgent need … to start taking artificial intelligence seriously. Learn how to use it so it isn’t used against you.”
As just one example, Unity Health Toronto’s vice-president of data science and advanced analytics Dr. Muhammad Mamdani points to the healthcare industry to make this point. The AI team at Unity Health has “algorithms”, says Mamdani, that “[monitor] patients [in a manner that has] reduced human effort on simple tasks by over 80%.” This has enabled such tasks, which would normally take the effort of several people between two to four hours every day, to be completed in 15 minutes.
Concurrently, the CBC article points out that Canada is clearly cognisant of the benefits of AI at many levels. Therefore, the handling of AI across this country requires a careful, simultaneous, understanding of its benefits and drawbacks.
AI in the workplace: pros and cons
Although the list of pros and cons as they relate to AI in the workplace is expansive the following will list four common advantages and disadvantages of AI today.
Efficiency/Productivity: AI automation allows for the streamlining of simpler and “less-involved” tasks, giving workplaces the opportunity to focus human attention on more important/complex areas of need.
Decision-Making: AI can analyze data in a more efficient manner than what humans are capable of, enabling workplaces to analyze data patterns and make informed decisions more effectively.
Customer Experience: AI is at the core of many prominent customer-facing tools such as chatbots and other support tools, all of which enhance the customer experience with fast and direct answers to urgent questions and round-the-clock assistance.
Human Error: While not yet perfect, AI tools are able to avoid (with enough training) errors that humans may otherwise make. For example, because AI systems operate using pre-set rules, they are less likely to make an error that a human may be prone to making with a large set of data.
Job Displacement: Possibly the most potent con regarding AI use, is the potential replacement of human-need for certain occupations/jobs/roles/tasks with AI automation.
Ethics: The use of AI raises many concerns about data privacy, bias, and transparency, particularly surrounding the concern that AI, due to its reliance on historical data, can perpetuate racial and social biases from the past into the present.
Accuracy: Because AI still requires periodic updates to protect against the use of outdated data and information, there is concern that these systems are sometimes lacking the most accurate facts and updates.
Human Touch/Emotional Intelligence: Certain (especially customer-facing) tasks and industries, such as healthcare, can require a human-driven emotional intelligence that is inherently lacking with the use of AI.
AI in immigration
In the immigration space, to date, AI continues to be a driving force in many ways toward the betterment of systems designed to bring more skilled workers to this country.
As alluded to above, AI assists with the speed of application processing, which allows foreign nationals to come to Canada quicker than they might otherwise. Canada is also embracing AI (and technology more widely) by establishing several pathways through which those employed and with work experience in the technology sector (and AI) can immigrate to Canada.
Examples of immigration pathways for AI and tech workers include:
Express Entry (standard and category-based draws)
Standard Express Entry draws (also known as a round of invitations) provide candidates, including AI and tech industry workers, who are eligible for one of three programs — the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) — to apply for permanent residence in Canada if they receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Note: Standard Express Entry draws give eligible candidates a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. This score ranks them against other candidates and eligible candidates (with CRS scores above the cut-off for a particular round of invitations) are issued an ITA during each draw.
Additionally, IRCC has begun conducting category-based Express Entry draws designed specifically for immigration candidates who are able to help address some of Canada’s most potent labour market gaps.
This year, IRCC is issuing ITAs to eligible immigration candidates with recent work experience in one of five different occupational groups or proficiency in French. In 2023, one of the five occupational categories of focus is for immigration candidates with recent work experience in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professions.
Provincial Nominee Programs
11 of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories – excluding Quebec and Nunavut – operate a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), which allows local governments to select immigration candidates that they feel will best help them address local labour market gaps. Accordingly, as it relates to AI and tech workers, immigration candidates who apply to a PNP operated in a province that selects for this professional experience, may possibly aid their chances to be selected for immigration to Canada.
Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy
This initiative has been designed to help Canada continue recruiting foreign tech industry talent in the following ways:
More information on Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy is available here.
Global Talent Stream
The Global Talent Stream (GTS) allows certain employers – either those referred to the GTS or those hiring for specific roles (more on the GTS here) – to fast-track the hiring of foreign skilled workers that can aid their company’s growth.
Note: The GTS expedites the processing of work permit applications and temporary resident visas (if applicable) in a manner that allows successful applicants to begin work around two weeks from the date they submit their application.
Due to the growing need for tech industry talent around Canada, this program could be particularly beneficial for foreign nationals looking to enter the general Canadian tech landscape or work in the AI sector specifically.