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Jun 30, 2022

AI is a real solution to the labor shortage

by Hugues Foltz Executive vice-president

Artificial intelligence

As of August 2021, Statistics Canada reported 871,600 unfilled jobs, including 219,400 in Quebec. This worrying fact, exacerbated by two years of pandemic, is nothing new whatsoever. In fact, the labour shortage has been the main scourge of Quebec businesses for years and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The statistics do not bode well. An increasing number of workers are on the verge of retirement, and the succession is simply not sufficient to fill all the positions that will be left vacant.

We have to admit that our economy has not been running at full speed for quite some time. Many companies have been forced to turn down contracts or completely rethink their business model due to lack of manpower, while others have sadly had to close their doors definitively.
To remedy the situation, companies are stepping up their game: better wages, increased benefits and flexible schedules are just a few examples of the measures that are being taken to turn things around. These solutions are certainly honourable, even essential, but they generally only overcome short-term obstacles without getting to the root of the problem.
The issue is in the very nature of certain professions which, despite the best imaginable conditions, are simply no longer interesting. Repetitive, archaic, boring, or dehumanizing, these professions are dragging their feet and taking companies that cannot adapt to the reality of today's business world along with them.
Those who are interested in technologies already know that part of the answer can be found in artificial intelligence. Let's remember that one of the main functions of AI is to imitate human behaviour.
As I have mentioned many times, humans are not good at calculating, analyzing or making complex decisions, nor with repetitive tasks. In most cases, the machine will be much more efficient and quicker than us, with undeniable precision. Then why are so many entrepreneurs and managers resistant to new technologies?
The answer is simple: AI is too often underestimated and, above all, misunderstood. There is still a "fear" of this technology, firmly rooted in society and therefore in our businesses.
For many, it represents an unattainable alternative, although solutions are easily accessible. Thus, Canadian industries are slow to modernize and the consequences are catching up to us.
Once again, I must stress the importance of undergoing a technological shift before it is too late. In Quebec, we are fortunate to have an impressive pool of organizations and talented resources specialized in artificial intelligence.
Whether you are a small furniture manufacturer, a dairy producer, an insurance company or a multinational biomedical giant, the diversity and versatility of AI can open the door to a world of possibilities and allow you to bid farewell to obsolete processes.
You now have access to a wide range of personalized algorithms, capable of reading documents for you, planning your operations, managing your schedules, optimizing your entire supply chain, inspecting the products circulating on your factory conveyors and even handling a 911 call. The sky is the limit!
By automating redundant tasks with an overwhelming mental load or eliminating unrewarding and difficult-to-fill positions, we can lighten the burden on our businesses. This will allow us to give humans value-added jobs that are inherent to their nature, imbued with empathy, creativity, humour, curiosity, and imagination.
Society is changing at an incredible rate, professions too. Once and for all, we must realize that many jobs are no longer necessary, and that is far from being a bad thing! Those who resist change will be penalized in the long run and missed opportunities will be picked up by others.
The machine is an ally to the prosperity of your company, not a threat. Don't wait to be caught off guard, as some have been during the pandemic. Stop hanging posters that claim, “Now Hiring,” instead say, “Now Innovating!”