Transitioning to the future of work: supporting vulnerable youth and young adults in the changing labour market

Reasons for the study

The future of work is characterized by diverse social, technological, economic, environmental and political changes (e.g. artificial intelligence and the automation of jobs, an aging workforce, climate change) that are expected to disrupt every industry, transforming working conditions and affecting the types and availability of jobs. In Canada and other industrialized countries, the emerging challenges of transitioning to the future of work may be pronounced for vulnerable groups of young people, including those with disabilities, women, visible minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ2+ and those with low socioeconomic status.

The Institute for Work & Health is leading a program of research exploring the impact of the future of work on the transitional work experiences of vulnerable young people. Its aim is to uncover the overlapping structures that contribute to labour market inequities for different groups and to design future-oriented strategies that ensure all young people are able to meet the challenges and take advantage of the potential opportunities of a changing labour market.

These studies pay particular attention to the unique challenges of young people with disabilities as they enter the labour market, and their need for innovative job accommodations and workplace supports. These studies also take an intersectional approach by examining in-depth the work-related perspectives and experiences of a diverse group of young people.

The research takes an important direction in shaping social and public health policy to promote the inclusion of all young people within the future of work, and to inform innovation in job accommodation and workplace supports.

Objectives of the study

  • Uncover dimensions of the future of work that may positively and negatively affect the transition to work of young people, especially young people with disabilities
  • Identify the specific groups of young people who are most vulnerable to inequities within the changing labour market and would most benefit from additional support
  • Determine the specific workplace supports that can enhance the school-to-work transition
  • Examine emerging barriers that young people may face in accessing needed workplace supports

Anticipated results/impact

Policy-makers, educators, employers, employment service providers, vocational rehabilitation professionals, youth-based community organizations, young adults with disabilities and their families will find these study results useful in a number of areas. They can use them to inform policies, programs and practices (including accommodation practices) that support the transition to work of vulnerable young people (with a focus on young people with disabilities) in the future of work, and to address labour market inequities at the early career stage and across the life course to ensure their early and long-term work participation in the future of work.

Related scientific publications

Project status


Research team

  • Arif Jetha, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
  • Monique Gignac, Institute for Work & Health
  • Sara Macdonald, Institute for Work & Health
  • Kay Nasir, Institute for Work & Health
  • Ali Shamaee, Institute for Work & Health
  • Peter Smith, Institute for Work & Health
  • Emile Tompa, Institute for Work & Health
  • Dwayne Van Eerd, Institute for Work & Health
  • Yani Hamdani, University of Toronto
  • Vicki Kristman, Lakehead University
  • Kathleen Martin Ginis, University of British Columbia

Participating organizations

BC Children’s Hospital
Ontario College of Art and Design
Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa
University of British Columbia
University of California – Berkeley
University of Groningen

Abilities Centre
Canadian Council for Rehabilitation and Work
City of Toronto – Civic Innovation Office
Education at Work Ontario
Government of Canada – Employment and Social Development Canada
National Educational Association for Disabled Students

Funded by

Accessibility Standards Canada (Government of Canada); Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant; Tri-Agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC)