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With a packed agenda and an intimate crowd of thinkers and entrepreneurs, "Volume 6: The Future of Talent" aimed a spotlight on the ways technology and automation are impacting work in Canada. If you missed it, here are the top themes influencing the future of talent.

For the uninitiated, Ensemble creates a series of quarterly interactive speaker events, hosting conversations on cutting-edge topics that future leaders need to know about. “Volume 6: The Future of Talent” focused on the various ways technology and automation are already impacting work in Canada — and how the next generation of talent will need to create a pathway for workers, leaders, employers and organizations to follow.

Unlike other speaker events, this one kicked off not with a keynote, but with music from buzz-worthy Toronto-based high-school singer-songwriter Sambea Cochrane.

Solving the Quiet Crisis Facing Canada’s Youth

Framing the evening’s discussion, Aiken Klar, Director of Youth Social Impact at RBC, addressed the “quiet crisis” facing the next generation of workers. “The reality of work itself is being disrupted, and the impacts will be felt primarily by young people entering the workforce,” he said.

With an estimated 50 per cent of jobs likely to be disrupted by technology and automation over the coming decade, Klar indicated that, “The cycle of transformation is getting faster and more frequent.” This in turn makes the search for solutions more urgent for Canada.

The second speaker was Krista Jones, Managing Partner of Work and Learning at MaRS, which provides venture services to qualifying startups in Toronto. Jones highlighted the scope of the work challenges facing young people. A young worker entering the workforce today will need to be lifelong learners, she said, who are tech savvy, computationally literate, globally-minded, agile, and inclusive.

In her fireside chat with author Hilton Barbour, Jones said the main ingredients for the future success of employers and employees are creativity, complex problem-solving, and cultural awareness. “Every person and organization must use these ingredients to change and develop themselves, and their organizations, not as wide-eyed futurists, but as optimistic realists who believe in the power of unique, diverse, passionate and inclusive communities.”

Helping Youth Develop for the Future

Next a four-member panel moderated by Marc Kielburger, co-founder of the WE movement, shared their insights about how the changing nature of work is impacting youth as they transition into the workforce.

The panelists included Alexa Crerar, Manager of RBC Amplify Program at RBC; Sharif Mahdy, Executive Director of the Students Commission of Canada, and Riya Karumanchi, the 15-year-old CEO and founder of SmartCane, a tool for the visually impaired.

According to the panel, organizations, businesses and enterprises need to actively work to ensure youth have access to resources while they are developing themselves for future careers. “Young people need a place and space to belong,” said Mahdy. That’s because the skills and aptitudes needed for the future aren’t necessarily taught through formal education.

“You don’t need a degree for creativity,” said Crerar.

While there will still be a need for intergenerational partnerships in the workplace, Mahdy said, the future of work will rely more on non-hierarchical, project-based “short stints.” These will require problem-solving skills, continuous learning and the ability to leverage emerging technologies. This approach requires a flexible, engaged, and resilient workforce — all characteristics typically of a youthful workforce, he says.

Karumanchi noted that her path to creating her device essentially happened “by accident,” as she hadn’t been exposed to the idea of entrepreneurship through her formal education. She shared the story of how she developed the SmartCane, which is designed to be used by the visually impaired and uses “smart” technologies to interact with users. She hopes that going forward, educational systems will start to incorporate a focus on creativity and innovation.

“We all need to be more curious,” she said.

The evening closed with an invitation for the crowd to stay and continue the conversation.

The speakers were dynamic, the ideas were intense, and the intimate audience was captivated.

(Plus, each participant received a complimentary copy of Kielburger’s new book, WEconomy, a guide to how individuals and businesses alike can find purpose and meaning in their careers that align with their personal values.)

If you missed Volume 6, be sure to make it to the next Ensemble event.

Volume 7: “Truth“, taking place December 5, 2018 starting at 6:30 pm at the WE Global Learning Centre.