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Jobs are an essential part of everyday life in Canada. This lesson will have students look at their family history to discover occupations held in the past and present by their family members. Students will record trends and speculate about possible jobs in the future. They will use selected editions of the Canada Year Book to examine statistical information about the size and composition of the Canadian workforce. They will then conduct research into labour issues to discover the challenges Canadian workers faced, examine the growth of labour unions and learn about the role of unions in improving working conditions. Finally, they will look into the future and create their own visions of the ideal workplace.


  • To locate relevant information using personal interviews with family members and using historical documents, including the Canada Year Book.
  • To analyse, classify and interpret information from historical documents.
  • To read a variety of graphs, charts and tables for specific purposes.
  • To scan written text for specific information.
  • To make inferences and draw conclusions.
  • To communicate information and understanding using a variety of media, including charts and written responses.
  • To use vocabulary specific to the topic and theme.
  • To demonstrate an understanding of
  • the size and composition of selected primary, secondary and tertiary industries in the 20th century
  • selected labour issues
  • improvements in working conditions brought about by workers, governments and industrial owners.

Suggested grade levels and subject areas

Social studies, History, Language, Career Education


20 to 30 minutes to introduce the topic, review the vocabulary and assign student worksheets 1 and 2 for homework (steps 1 to 3)
50 to 60 minutes each for research, communication and reflection on the lesson (steps 4 to 12)

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Composition – the number or share of factors (things or people) that make up a total.
Primary industry – industry that harvests raw materials or natural resources; it is also known as a resource industry. It includes fishing, forestry and mining.
Secondary industry – industry that converts raw materials into finished industrial products; it is also known as a manufacturing or construction industry. It includes food processing and steel manufacturing companies.
Tertiary industry – industry that provides services rather than products; it is also known as a service industry. It includes restaurants, schools and financial institutions.
Trend – a general tendency or pattern.


Canada Year Book resources

1927/1928 (PDF)

1937 (PDF)

1947 (PDF)

1967 (PDF)

Classroom instructions

  1. Present the following outline to the class:
    1. As a homework assignment, explore the history of your immediate and extended family to discover occupations of people in the past and present and to make some predictions about the future.
    2. Record trends that seem to be developing.
    3. In class, you will examine selected editions of the Canada Year Book to determine the size and composition of the Canadian workforce during selected years and suggest some trends.
    4. You will then conduct research into labour issues to discover the challenges Canadian workers encountered, such as the growth of organized labour unions and the part that unions played in improving working conditions.
    5. Finally, you will look into the future and create your own visions of the ideal work place.
  2. Review with the class the lesson vocabulary, especially the meaning of primary, secondary and tertiary industries. Ask the class to give examples of other industries or occupations that fit into each category.
  3. Have students complete Student worksheet 1 and Student worksheet 2 for homework.
  4. Discuss the homework assignment with the class to determine whether class members found any common trends.
  5. Have students complete Student worksheet 3 (in pairs or individually) using the online Canada Year Book sources.
  6. Have the class discuss the findings and the trends discovered.
  7. Have the students complete Student worksheet 4 (in pairs or individually) using the Statistics Canada website, the Library and Archives website,, and other websites. You may wish to first review effective research questions, depending on the class.

    Students may choose to research a particular occupation that a family member currently holds or that was uncovered during the interview. You may wish to group several students who share the same interests.
    • e.g., My grandfather was a typesetter at a newspaper, so I want to know more about the working conditions and labour activities of typesetters in the past and present.
  8. Discuss the research findings in class. Then, assign Student worksheet 5.
  9. Have students research on computers the growth of trade unions in Canada to make inferences about the effect they had on the Canadian workplace in the 20th century.
  10. Discuss in class the impact of trade unions suggested by the students' research findings.
  11. Reflect on the lesson and the learning that took place.
  12. Evaluate the students using the evaluation rubric.


Collect the completed assignments and use the Evaluation rubric (printer-friendly format) for assessment.


As an extension, use Student worksheet 6 to discuss the qualities of a workplace that students would find ideal and that they would like to encounter when they enter the permanent workforce in Canada. This assignment may be completed individually or in groups.