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Dark web detectives and cannabis sommeliers: Here are some jobs that could exist in the future

What do a dark web detective, cannabis sommelier and therapist hairdresser have in common?

They’re all on a list of professions that workplace experts say could exist by the year 2030.

In a report called Signs of the Times: Expert insights about employment in 2030, the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship — a policy institute set up to help Canadians navigate the innovation economy — brings together insights into the future of work gleaned from workshops held across the country.

The report coming out Monday is part of a bigger project called Employment in 2030. This deep dive into the future of work will culminate next year with a strategic forecast into which skills will be most important in the Canadian labour market in the coming decade.

Held in six locations and attended by more than 120 experts, the workshop asked attendees to address the serious business of assessing future demand for various regionally appropriate occupations, providing data that will be used to inform research for that final report, due out in winter 2020.

But as part of an imaginative exercise geared at exploring the complex ways technological, social and environmental trends will intersect to create new kinds of jobs, the experts also came up with a list of would-be professions — some more fanciful than others — that today’s kids just might aspire to be when they grow up.

‘New opportunities’

Sarah Doyle, director of policy and research at the Brookfield Institute, is careful to note that these aren’t data-backed findings or predictions, but rather a compelling and playful way to look at how work may evolve.

“It was interesting getting a sense of how experts thought different trends might interact to produce new opportunities, and where they thought there might be different demand and interest from consumers in particular kinds of products and services,” Doyle said.

Brookfield Institute’s previous Employment in 2030 publication, reported on by CBC News in April, documented 31 trends that have implications for the world of work.

These range from disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, to issues like resource scarcity and the loneliness that stems from connecting digitally instead of face to face.

Our connected-but-disconnected lives could, theoretically, bring about the advent of “wisdom services” for school kids adept at communicating on smartphones and game servers but short on real-world coping skills, said Brookfield economist Diana Rivera, project lead for Employment in 2030.

“Participants felt that kids, in particular, were getting worse at interactions and at knowing how to deal with certain situations.” As a result, schools could morph the usual guidance counselling, which typically centres around helping teens pick classes and career paths, into a more holistic form of mentorship, she said.

And from the time-honoured tradition of sharing one’s troubles with your bartender or hair stylist, sprung the idea of the therapist hairdresser, one who could marry a haircut or blowout with a form of counselling.

Rivera said she found the therapist hairdresser discussions “really fascinating, especially in the age of Queer Eye,” referring to the popular makeover TV show that’s as much about examining your wounded psyche as it is your dated wardrobe.

Given hairdressing conferences already offer sessions in conflict resolution and counselling, “explicitly signalling that ability to offer a more holistic service could become much more prevalent or important,” she said.

“There’s a high level of trust when you sit in that chair, so that’s already a barrier that they’ve already overcome. Given the right training, [stylists are] in a really great position to really offer some powerful advice.”

Dark web detectives and personal data bodyguards

Also related to our connected world, new professions could emerge based on demand for services that range from protecting our data to unearthing questionable activity online. One such example noted in the report: dark web detective.

These investigators could assist police by digging around in the dark web’s criminal underworlds, or be hired as private investigators to plumb a political opponent’s secrets.

“There are people who are very skilled at finding information, so monetizing that, I don’t think, is beyond the realm of possibility,” said Rivera.

Likewise, the report notes there could emerge a need for personal data bodyguards who protect clients’ personal data against hacking and interference from corporations or governments.

That’s not so far-fetched, said Lisa Kearney, founder and CEO of Women CyberSecurity Society, a non-profit that supports women and girls interested in cybersecurity careers. Demand for people to work in Canada’s cybersecurity industry is expected to reach 28,000 workers by 2021.

Consult your cannabis sommelier?

Just as we tap into the expertise of wine, beer and even water sommeliers to find out what’s good to drink, experts on the Brookfield panels felt it won’t be long before there’s money to be made as an expert on the best varieties of cannabis to consume.

Having help to find flavour profiles that suit your personal tastes could make sense as cannabis continues to become more widely available following legalization last year, said Rivera.

In fact, as pot shops open in the provinces and territories where bricks-and-mortar sales are permitted, cannabis connoisseurs have already been finding work.

“I think there’s a whole country waiting to see what’s good in that space that doesn’t necessarily have that exposure. That whole sector just opened up and it can create a lot of possibility.”

Some other imagined jobs of the future noted in the report include:

  • Virtual stylists who use virtual-reality technology to show clients how various hair and wardrobe styles would suit them, or even how a new sectional would look in their living room.
  • Mobility facilitators who help address the aging population’s mobility and accessibility needs.
  • Resource/energy diplomats who help broker resource deals during times of international conflict, whether those stem from resource scarcity, or other geopolitical issues.
  • Consumption reduction consultants who help governments, businesses and even individuals to reduce their resource consumption.

Thinking beyond tech changes

Steven Tobin, executive director of the Ottawa-based Labour Market Information Council, a non-profit that helps Canadians access information about the changing job market, said the exercise is useful as a way to consider how forces beyond technology will continue to impact the world of work.

“These changes, be they population aging, climate change or technological developments, are happening simultaneously and interacting with one another.”

Brookfield’s Sarah Doyle echoes that sentiment. “I think a lot of the conversation about the future of work has been captured by a focus on how automation might lead to job change or job loss … but it’s not the only thing that’s happening.”

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