NORTH PERTH – The North Perth Economic Development Advisory Committee brainstormed ideas to encourage the retention and attraction of young people to the area at its November 17th meeting. Community Development Coordinator Kim Kowch invited members of the committee’s business sector to give their thoughts on how to connect with young people in college and university.
“I think it’s going to be difficult to do,” said Becca Newbigging, a representative for Ward and Uptigrove.
She suggested that efforts could be made to reach out to students returning for re-entry in their first year after graduating from high school.
“I also love the Mentor Meetup that we hosted,” Newbigging said. “It was another way of engaging with local students and having young people who they can connect with and who know the opportunities in the area. ”
Perth County Economic Development Officer Justin Dias agreed the Mentor Meetup, an event that allowed people to connect with young professionals in rural Ontario, was a successful initiative.
“I think finding a way to convey this to more high school students before they leave might be another target market to pursue,” he said.
Kowch suggested that the Mentor Meetup become an ongoing initiative.
“I think post-secondary education is probably too late,” said Andrew Coghlin, president of Molesworth Farm Supply. “I think we need to approach, or at least educate students during their high school years, to local opportunities. I think by the end of grade 12 most people have already decided if they are leaving town or planning to stay in town (and this is) a common differentiation between groups of children.
He said he had a daughter in grade 10 and assumed she didn’t know what the possibilities were in the North Perth area.
“By grade 10, she should know what types of opportunities exist in her immediate area,” Coghlin said. “Otherwise, the city is an attractive opportunity – large city centers.
“So I think it’s important that we find a way to be in front of the kids in their high school years for sure… just a discussion of the types of careers available in our fabulous little town because there are so many unknown to a high schoolboy.
Newbigging agreed. Even though she grew up in Listowel, she said she had no idea that a business like Ward and Uptigrove existed in the city. She only discovered it because her mother suggested it when she had to do her college internship.
“I think we need to educate and spend time on… even starting in grade 9 when people get into… tech and let them know that, I know there is a stigma around the trades,” a- she declared. “Let them know that there are job opportunities in the area. ”
Coghlin told the other committee members about a co-op student who worked for him about six or seven years ago.
“He was spending his high school years, his guidance counselor was telling him, go to town, that’s where the opportunities are, and this kid was supposed to be in the country,” he said. “You knew it the moment you met him.”
At the end of the co-op with him, Coghlin had a closing meeting with the student who told him that he was encouraged to move.
“This gentleman who was supposed to come home is being told by his guidance counselor to go to town, that’s where the opportunities are,” he said. “We failed there. ”
Kowch said a study by a group of high school students in 2017-18 showed parents and educators told them to go away.
“In this research study, they presented the results to the LDSS staff and I know that at least initially we heard from the staff that they were overwhelmed by this,” she said. “They didn’t realize that was what they were doing and the students said there had definitely been a change. The challenge with a high school is… the teachers change, the students change every year, so those who may have heard this study may not be here anymore.
Kowch also said she believes co-ops with local businesses, at the high school or post-secondary level, are important because that’s when connections are made and students discover opportunities they don’t. may not have known in their hometown.
“I like what we just heard from our two esteemed committee members,” said Mayor Todd Kasenberg. “It’s funny because the first time I spoke at the graduation ceremony at LDSS I was impressed with the idea that we didn’t capture their contact information, well sure that would be opt-in, but we don’t know who they are and whether they want to stay connected with the community or not.
He suggested that there should be some kind of connection made when students leave grade 12, which reminds them of the community they were raised in.
“We would love to keep in touch with you, whatever your path in life, for years to come,” Kasenberg said. “So maybe we need to think about talking to the local principal and the school board to see if we could initiate some kind of contact and move forward with some kind of communication platform with those who graduate. Some will be here and some will be in Kingston, Toronto, London and other great places for, we hope, a short term, but still feeling connected. I thought that was a powerful idea to try to consider, how do we move that forward. ”
Kasenberg shared an anecdote from his professional career when he had to consult a large Canadian law firm that branded as an employer.
“They were trying to figure out how they could get the best and brightest law graduates in their firm,” he said. “They made a website that was loosely based on … a web project called People of New York … It’s a slice of life.”
Kasenberg suggested that the model could be adapted to tell stories about certain people in the area and how happy they are.
“For me that kind of build builds on what Becca and Andrew were saying, which is how do we expose the opportunities here,” he said. “I don’t think it would be that hard, really. I can honestly say if we go out as a community committee and say we just want to hear all the cool things you can do, all the jobs you have. You know, a few testimonials – why you chose to stay in North Perth. I think we could do something pretty quickly and with some impact… Maybe we need to go to all the businesses that we know of in North Perth and say… people’s interest and we’ll set up some kind of website or app or something that kids can connect to.
Newbigging suggested that they contact the high school to present local opportunities in the career class offered by the school.
Coghlin said he wasn’t sure if that would be appropriate for the municipality, but his company is already working very closely with the University of Guelph.
“We don’t necessarily keep in touch with all the colleges and universities, but with the University of Guelph we have employees who work closely with faculty and researchers… for a number of reasons, but one one reason is to keep in touch with students who come through their programs, ”he said. “Then we have the opportunity to directly contact these children, get to know these children and discuss future opportunities throughout their tenure at university. So it’s a great way for us to get to know them and get involved in research at the university, but it’s a close relationship that we have with the people there.
Com. Lee Anne Andriessen said her thoughts were on retaining young people through a job in high school.
“What I see and understand in our local community is that we are struggling to fill jobs and a lot of high school kids are not willing to work in commercial spaces and your local restaurants, your local stores as much like this. happened maybe 20 years ago, ”she said. “There aren’t that many working children, so my thinking goes a bit in that direction. How do we help our local businesses by attracting young people to some of these jobs and what is preventing them from working at 16 and not contributing to the workforce at that age? ”
Andriessen said it would be a benefit for local businesses and students as they would know what it is like to work in the community and what the benefits are of working in the community.
“I know companies struggle to find workers for sure, so I’m just wondering what we can do from an economic development standpoint to encourage our young people to work,” she said. “In the meantime, work here in these kinds of student jobs. I know it’s difficult to do career fairs right now. COVID is getting in the way, but I think it’s one way to help attract young people, retain them, and support our businesses. ”
“As Andrew said earlier, I believe post-secondary education is too late,” said committee chair Doug Kellum. “There is no perfect answer. We, as a municipality, have to guide them, listen to them, orient them towards their desires of daily life, be a mentor, a leader and a consultant – need to ask ourselves where they see themselves in one to five years. I believe it allows them to think about the future. Another key role is for parents to encourage and guide them to think about all there is to offer here in North Perth. ”
Kowch said any comments from the discussion would be used to bring some aspects of the planning forward.
“Some of these tie into existing plans by going to class for career courses and looking for ways to ensure that young people are aware of the opportunities,” she said. “With the first studies that were done – the young people at the time, it was in 2017 and 2018 – they said that most of the young people were working but it has been a few years now and maybe things have changed because of COVID… I don’t know if that has changed. I don’t think so, but it doesn’t hurt to check in and know… are the majority of students still working… and if there are obstacles, what could they be.
The committee voted to postpone discussion of the second question prepared on the theme of youth retention and attraction – “What social spaces are missing and valued and how can we have an impact?” – at its January meeting.