The pace of automation in the labour market around the world is increasing at a faster rate than first realized. According to the Brookfield Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Toronto, “nearly 42 percent of the Canadian labour force is at a high risk of being affected by automation in the next decade or two.” (Lamb, 2017)  In other words, “42 percent of the tasks that Canadians are currently paid to do can be automated using existing technology.” (Lamb, 2017)   Furthermore, their research identified Canadian occupations with a proportion of tasks that can be automated, or had a low to high risk of being fully automated.

In order to see a British Columbia perspective, we first examined the high demand occupations as measured by growth, specifically in the Thompson Okanagan. The top industries that produced labour growth for the Thompson Okanagan are construction (2.2% growth), healthcare/social assistance (2.0% growth), accommodation and food services (1.5% growth), educational services (1.5% growth), and wholesale and retail (1.3% growth). Then we consulted the Brookfield Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s full list of occupations that were at risk of being automated. It is now clear that the occupations with the most job openings don’t always correspond with a low risk of automation.

As seen in the table below, high demand occupations in these industries for 2017-2017 were compared with the same occupations that had high risk of automation listed with the Brookfield Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. The results are astonishing.

Occupation Number of Job Openings Probability of Automation
Cashiers 1,350 97%
Janitor 1,520 61%
Food counter attendants and kitchen helpers 1,950 91%
Retail sales person 3,650 92%
Truck drivers 1,760 79%
General office support workers 1,170 96%

These occupations require either on the job training or a secondary school completion, and they are all at high risk for automation. However, even the top 5 occupations with the highest number of job openings in the Thompson Okanagan region (2017-2027) requiring a certificate, diploma, or apprentice level, has a high risk of automation. The only exception is cooks. (See table below)

Occupation Number of Job Openings Probability of Automation
Administrative officers 2,380 96%
Administrative assistants 1,700 96%
Accounting technicians/ bookkeepers 1,540 98%
Cooks 1,480 1.2%
Social & Community service workers 1,160 83%

Even certain ‘white collar’ occupations in the Thompson Okanagan that require higher education and experience such as financial auditors and accountants, insurance adjusters, purchasing officers, and real estate and financial brokerage managers, are likely to see very high automation levels.

When looking at all these results, the two common denominators are that, 1) people must either pursue careers in technology fields and increase technical skills in their existing career, or 2) pursue careers that directly help or supervise people. In every case, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and people management skills are required in today’s modern workforce. This also correlates to higher education and higher salaries. It is certainly a wakeup call for people to begin thinking about the future of work and the automation process in the workplace today.

So, what are the occupations that have both a high growth potential and a low risk of automation in the Thompson Okanagan? Surprisingly, even nurse aides have a moderate risk of becoming automated. The table below displays the information.

Occupation Number of Job Openings 2017-2027 Probability of Automation
Registered Nurses & Registered psychiatric nurses 2,070 0.9%
Elementary school/kindergarten  teachers 1,240 0.4%
Secondary school teachers 840 0.8%
Nurse aides & patient service associates 2,360 38.5%


The occupations in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) that have a lower risk of being automated in the next 10 to 20 years, are in management, health, education, law and social services.   However, a significant majority of occupations in business; finance; administration; natural sciences; sales and service; the trades; transport; natural resources; agriculture; manufacturing; and utilities, are all at a moderate to high risk of being fully automated.

Quite simply, higher skill levels are increasingly valued in a knowledge based economy. Certainly, increasing automation of tasks will challenge employers for labour supply. Therefore, to be successful in the new economy of the future people will need to find high wage, high skill occupations with lower levels of automation.


Lamb, C (2017). Talented Mr. Robot. The Impact of Automation on Canada’s Workforce. Brookfield Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

BC Labour Market Outlook 2017. Province of British Columbia

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