Supporting, engaging, attracting and retaining youth in rural communities is increasingly the “talk of the town” amongst governments, communities, and concerned citizens across Ontario.
Rural communities across Ontario have been seeing a net outmigration of youth (between the ages of 15-29) for years. Much of the outmigration of youth from these communities can be attributed to a number of factors, from opportunities for post-secondary education, to finding employment, to the variety of amenities offered in larger urban centres. Many of these same rural communities face challenges in providing comparable opportunities for their youth to grow and develop relative to more prosperous urban communities.
Declining populations of youth is a lost opportunity and a loss of important human capital. The human capital in a community is the collective experience of all people in the community. Human capital contributes to a strong workforce, helps to grow local economies, supports a variety of community organizations, and can help maintain various cultural amenities – all things that foster a sense of rural community vitality and well-being. Declining populations of youth is an issue for rural communities, as these young people have important contributions to make.
Youth can do great things – we see it every day! The Rural Ontario Institute recently released a series of 4 videos profiling some of the great things youth are doing in their communities. The series is called the Youth Engagement Showcase, and there are some inspiring stories to share.
Given the reality of declining youth populations in some rural Ontario communities, we are faced with some important questions:
- What skills and experiences do youth in rural Ontario need?
- How can we make rural communities exciting and attractive places for youth to live?
- How do we engage youth to become part of the solution?
For more information on a number of exciting initiatives currently underway that look to answer some of these questions, please read part two of this series that will be posted soon.