Imagining the Future of Work: Ten Youths’ Perspectives

Oct 22, 2022 | #YouthEngagement, #YouthVoice

by the 2021-22 CEI Youth Advisory Group |

Imagining an ideal future of work is a difficult task. It’s hard to think about something that, for many young people, feels out of reach—something that we tend to believe sits with those at the top of the ladder. That said, imagining that future is vital to being able to achieve it. In April 2022, the CEI’s Youth Advisory Group came together in conversation to discuss what they think the future of work should look like, and how we might be able to get there. These are their thoughts.  


In our ideal Future of Work…  


Flexibility is key.   

If a global pandemic taught us anything in regard to the world of work, it’s that flexible hours and remote work aren’t the detriment they’ve been made out to be. Covid-19 has shown us that it is possible to work remotely, and that workers don’t need to sit at a desk between the hours of nine to five in order to get projects done. If the workforce can accommodate remote work, or partial remote work, young people focus on both the importance of their work and their life outside of work, and the workplace as a whole becomes more accessible for everyone. In addition to remote work, not having to commute to and from the office every day, promoting a culture of minimizing meetings, flexible vacation time and sick days, and offering flexibility when employees are required to be at work—all things that help give people back control of their time. 

In our ideal future of work, the number of hours people work would also be reduced. Some places in the world—like Scandinavia— have already begun to implement shorter work weeks, and are reporting significant benefits in regard to productivity and employee well-being. Spending time with family and friends, taking care of ourselves, and doing what we truly enjoy should be our priorities—and work shouldn’t get in the way of that.  


Education and ongoing learning opportunities are remodeled to better suit youths’ ambitions.  

Education is something else that plays a big role in our vision for the Future of Work, both in the classroom and outside of it. 

In the classroom, we envision a future where young people aren’t pressured to nail down a career in high school or postsecondary—rather, they’re encouraged to explore various opportunities and try things out until they find what clicks. Focusing on applicable skills and knowledge in place of rote memorization, and offering in-school opportunities to learn about a wide range of career possibilities are both things that could help make this happen—and things that might help youth feel as if their education is actually preparing them for the workforce.  

In the workforce, we envision a system that is open to adapting and training people to gain new skills, and that encourages continuous and lifelong learning. Most of the jobs we’ll see within the next few decades haven’t been created yet, and it shouldn’t be left to the individual to learn the required skills necessary to remain employable. The workforce needs to take both traditional and ongoing education heavily into consideration, and genuinely offer employees a chance to upgrade their skills or learn new ones so that they’re prepared for inevitable shifts in what the workforce looks like. Supporting the development of soft skills that are relevant outside of the workplace (such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork) is also important. Youth are eager to learn and further their experience, and giving them the opportunity to do so will benefit employees and employers alike! 


All workers are guaranteed a living wage and benefits.  

Research from the Fraser Institute shows that “53 percent of all minimum wage workers [in canada] are between the ages of 15 and 24.” In our ideal future of work, all workers—including youth—are guaranteed a living wage and benefits, no exceptions. We envision a true living wage that supports every worker to meet their basic needs; full benefits for health care, dental care, mental health, and parental leave (for both parents); and an automatic pension. There’s a growing movement of employers across the country—many of them smaller, family run businesses—that are committing to paying a living wage, and the consensus so far is that it’s very much worth it. More employers (and the government) should follow their lead.  


Meaning and impact take precedence over productivity. 

We want to see a shift in mindset surrounding work, and its purpose. Instead of productivity, we want to see meaning take top priority—work that has a clear impact on communities or social issues, done by those with strong connections to the subject matter or people involved.  Meaning also goes hand in hand with enjoyment, and we’re hopeful for a future where (with the help of a living wage) everyone will be able to choose work they enjoy, rather than working for the money. We also want to see a shift in what is considered “valuable” work — reframing the definition of valuable to consider all jobs and professions equally. 


Diversity and Inclusion are key priorities. 

Workplaces with gender neutral washrooms, improvements in intercultural communication, awareness of microaggressions, workplace anti-oppression and anti-racism training, truly diverse leadership and staff, freedom of expression, flexible (or non-existent) dress codes…  

Our ideal future of work is one where every workplace is actively working towards combatting discrimination of any kind—where everyone is welcome, feels included, and can be their authentic self, free of judgement.  


Companies care about their employees’ mental health. 

Over the past decade, conversations about mental health have been pushed to the forefront—and looking to the future, we don’t see that changing! We want to see employers taking a keen interest in understanding and supporting the mental health of their employees. Young employees often hear (or are given the impression) that our mental health is less important than our work, and that we should be able to “just get over” mental health struggles that we face. We know that’s not true, and it should be reflected in workplace culture. In an ideal future of work, employers will inform their employees of the resources and benefits available to them, will do the work to be informed about mental health struggles and how to support others, and will encourage all employees to take the time they need to take care of themselves. Having a sense of community, feeling safe, and transparency at work are all also contributors to positive mental health—many of these things are principles of trauma informed workplaces. 


Youth Voices are at the Forefront  

Of course, we can’t imagine a future of work where youth voices aren’t at the forefront! Today, a lot of young people feel alienated from the workforce, which hasn’t modernized to keep up with a rapidly changing world. In our ideal future of work, youth are always encouraged to contribute their ideas, and the workforce is open to acting on what they say. Not only that, but youth are given the opportunity to take on leadership positions. To help create a more equitable and fair workforce that works for youth, youth need to be in leadership positions—on unions, committees, and in management—and they need to have a voice in creating the future they want to be part of. 


Technology is used to create new job opportunities, and make workers’ lives easier.   

And finally, what might be the most common answer to questions about the future of work: technology. But, not technology in the sense that automation will drive unemployment—rather, technology as a tool to create new job opportunities, and to make the life of the worker easier. A significant portion of many workers’ responsibilities are the transfer of information, repeated movements, and basic decision making. These are all elements of a job that can be automated, and doing so can dramatically reduce the burden of time and effort necessary for many positions. Reducing workload doesn’t need to mean replacing workers, but can instead look like an improved work-life balance and worker satisfaction. Ensuring that plans for training workers in new technology are in place is vital to ensuring that technology will help, rather than hinder, the future of work for all. 


This is our vision for the future of work—where every worker is able to prioritize their own health and wellbeing, where they can do something they enjoy, and where support is provided wherever it’s needed. The most important thing to take from this piece, however, is that it’s not something out of a time-travel movie—it’s not impossible, and it doesn’t have to be a far off dream of what could be true; it can happen as soon as we decide to let it. So, how do we get there? Hiring youth, and truly listening to what youth have to say, is an important first step.  

The 2021-22 CEI Youth Advisory Group

The 2021-22 CEI Youth Advisory Group

Brennah Agnew, Isabella Chacon Chavez, Jane Goguen, Jessie Taylor, Laura Cormier, Matthew Breau, Patrick Bowen, Stacie Smith, Sydney Van de Wiel, Westin McMullin


The 2021-22 CEI Youth Advisory Group was made up of ten youth members aged 18-29, representing a number of regions across our province. From October 2021 to July 2022, the group met bi-monthly to support the creation of the Youth Engagement Framework – sharing and writing about their own experiences, offering feedback on draft framework sections, and supporting outreach efforts among their peers.