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Young Adult Retention and Attraction on the Pender Islands

By Shannon Bence

During the week of October 22nd-26th, I was fortunate enough to be with my Masters of Sustainable Leisure Management classmates on a learning tour, touring Salt Spring and the Pender Islands located in the Southern Gulf Islands Region. The purpose of our tour was to learn and listen about the sustainability initiatives taking place on these three Islands.

In return for our valuable learning tour, as a class we provided the communities with individual reports addressing sustainability challenges that exist within the region. My topic for my report was “Youth & Young Adult Attraction and Retention on the Pender Islands.” The purpose of my report was to discuss youth and young adult attraction and retention and the impacts that youth out migration has on a community, in this case the Pender Islands.

While writing my report I wanted to emphasize the importance for the Pender Islands to develop strategies to engage youth while growing up in the Pender community and also strategies to invite youth back as young adults once they have attained their educational goals or built their awareness around other employment opportunities. These strategies will help the Pender Islands initiatives such as Pender Community Transition and Poets Cove Resort and Spa to address youth and young adult retention further. Poets Cove Resort and Spa is example of a business that is helping to address youth and young adult retention on the Pender Islands. The resort is doing this by providing viable employment opportunities by making it a priority to hire locals.

In different ways, these two initiatives are working towards addressing the sustainability issues within youth and young adult attraction and retention: lack of employment opportunities, loss of human capital, and combating an aging population. However, although the Pender community is recognizing there are challenges associate with the loss of young people, it is time for the community to move forward by embracing other initiatives that would better address youth and young adult retention by meaningfully engaging both groups in the Pender community. The Pender Islands should review the next three examples of innovative approaches that are taking place elsewhere in North American; these initiatives can be used by the Pender community to ensure that the community is providing strategies that address youth and young adult retention while youth are growing up in the community and after they leave. This allows for the Pender community to increase their civic engagement among their youth population and understand how to help young adults integrate back into the community.

In order to help the Pender community to continue to work towards addressing youth and young adult retention and attraction, my report offers various innovative approaches that are being utilized in other communities in order to combat the effects of the out-migration of young people. These strategies include approaches taken by the Center of Rural Entrepreneurship, which suggests the integration of entrepreneurship into a rural community’s school system or providing it as an extracurricular activity to allow youth to become exposed to a viable employment option that can exist within their local rural community.

Another innovative approach that is being used to address the challenge of youth and young adult retention is taking place in Ontario. The Ontario Rural Council has established a platform to ensure the voices of youth living in rural communities are heard. The Council suggests for rural communities to establish a formal youth council to encourage youth to become active in addressing prevalent community issues and to ensure their voices are heard. The Council has worked with their youth members to establish a ten-step guide for rural communities to utilize when setting up a youth council. A youth council is a recommended action for rural communities such as the Pender Islands to carryout as youth who are involved in their community while growing up are more likely to relocate back after attaining the experience of employment and education opportunities located outside their community.

Brookfield, Missouri is another initiative that is taking place to address youth and young adult retention as youth are migrating out and after they lefts. During the community’s high school graduation the graduates are presented with personalized mailboxes, a letter signed by the community leaders wishing the graduate good luck in their future endeavors and inviting them to come back to the community by mentioning they are always welcome. This type of initiative is working to address youth and young adult attraction and retention by increasing the graduates social capital and attachment to place. Brookfield is looking forward to seeing the mailboxes popping up around town when some of these high school graduates migrate back into the community.

These three examples are ways for the Pender community to work towards addressing youth and young adult retention in a new and innovative way. Hopefully these suggestions can help the Pender Islands move forward in addressing the out-migration of youth and young adults.

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