We announced the Waterloo Region Future of Work and Learning Coalition in November, but work on the project was already well under way. Sharing our research and toolkits with communities across Canada has been one of our guiding principles. Our community breakfasts and workshops have been open to stakeholders from Waterloo Region and beyond. As our work progresses, we hope that communities across Canada can implement programs and services that suit their unique needs. 

While our focus has been Waterloo Region, we have also looked outside our community for input. We had a great opportunity to talk with representatives from other Canadian cities at the CDMN Hub Network Meeting this past October. CDMN is a network of 29 regional innovation hubs across Canada, all focused on supporting Canada’s digital entrepreneurs. Twice a year, representatives from the hubs get together to share insights on everything from funding to talent to immigration reform. In October, Hub representatives were hosted by LE CAMP in Quebec City. 

The hub members suggest topics during the year – and the future of work and learning comes up continually. “It was serendipitous that Communitech has been having conversations around employee experience and persona building, and using design thinking to look into the future of work and learning,” said Beth Bailey, Director of Network Operations for CDMN. “What does it look like to live and work in communities where things are changing at a very fast pace?”

Each community has its own reasons for wanting to be engaged in the conversation around the future of work and learning. “These are trends that are being noticed across the country,” added Bailey. 

Communitech’s Simon Chan, Vice President, Talent, Academy, & Future of Work, and Jill Reiner, Head of the Communitech Academy, headed to Quebec City to lead two days of learning sessions with the hub representatives. Chan started the conversation by framing what we mean by the future of work. “The term future of work can mean different things to every community. I start by defining what the future of work and learning means to us in Waterloo Region – what the trends are that are shaping career paths and workplaces and the implications for talent, workplaces and communities,” Chan said.

The coalition has used persona development as one of its core exercises. We’ve run similar workshops at Communitech, including the employee experience workshop we wrote about in October.

In the workshops at the hub meeting, Chan and Reiner led the group through an exercise to develop personas unique to their communities. For this exercise, we pre-selected interviewees based on career stages including student/early career, mid/late career and freelancer. “It wasn’t about perfecting the exercise. It’s about learning how to use the tools with various groups in your community,” Bailey said. “It’s peer learning at its best.”

We spoke with three hub representatives about their key takeaways from the sessions.

Basil Ennab, Manager Marketing Intelligence at MaRS Discovery District

“It was interesting to think about the future of work. The world is moving at a pace that is so fast that human adaptability isn’t necessarily keeping up with it, especially with technology. And there’s so much anxiety for people at different stages of their careers around being able to stay competitive in the job market.”

“There’s a shift in people understanding that learning should happen at all stages throughout your career, from early on through every stage.”

Malary Schurman, Manager Strategic Projects and Corporate Innovation at Volta

“The most shocking part was that my career is going to be 80 years now. It’s interesting to see the flow of that career path now versus what we thought our careers would be in that traditional path. We’re now realizing people are going to be working for a long time, so how do we make that work-life integration happen? How do we make work fun and not a place to burn out?”

“One of the biggest values in the persona development was interviewing a real person. In many of these workshops we are asked, ‘What do you think this person would be like?’ and then create a persona around that. But you found people for us to interview and talk to and have a conversation. It was really valuable.”

“Next steps for us are engaging with Simon and Jill and the team behind this workshop. We definitely want to bring it back to Halifax. I think a lot of our corporate members would really value this, but also our startups – get them all in the same room. I think the future of work is something that affects larger corporations, startups – everyone can relate to it. How do we engage our employees better and give them an opportunity to grow?”

Patrick Farrar, CEO at The Startup Zone 

“There are a lot of new trends. It was reassuring because we’re seeing the same things locally. There’s an increase on the contractors – gig economy.”

“We’re seeing experiential learning grow. The University of Prince Edward Island has capstone projects every single year in their Sustainable Design Engineering program. It’s great to see students graduate with real work experience.”

Our goal with the workshops at the hub meeting was to get the conversations moving in the hub members’ communities. Since the October meeting, we’ve begun working with teams in both Halifax and Windsor to start future of work and learning conversations in their communities. If you’re interested in starting the conversation in your community, visit our Future of Work and Learning page to learn more about our process and to connect with our team.

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Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto.  This article originally appeared on their site.