Education plays key role in retaining and re-attracting millennials

Perth South, Town of St. Marys working together on Perth4Youth initiative

By Stewart Grant

At the November meeting of the Perth South Economic Development Committee, continued focus was given towards strategies for retaining and re-attracting youth to our community. The “Perth4Youth” strategic planning process was a countywide initiative aimed at reversing the trend of youth leaving the region. St Marys and Perth South completed a joint strategic plan.

Interim Economic Development & Tourism Coordinator Hannah Conroy reported a project they are currently working on as a result of the Perth4Youth plan involves interviewing a number of  local youth (ages 29 and below) in order to understand why they chose to build their lives in Perth County.

“Many people in this age group are not aware of the opportunities that are available locally and while they like living here, they feel they need to leave in order to be successful,” said Conroy. “We want to encourage youth to come back home and attract new youth as well. We are gathering stories of young professionals that portray the benefits of living here and the opportunities this region can offer young adults. We’ve already begun featuring these on social media and will continue to do so to encourage youth to live and work in the region.”

At the recent Perth South Council Meeting, the importance of retaining and re-attracting youth to the community was echoed. Councillors in unison agreed that our local schools play an important role in the education process on this subject. St. Marys DCVI Principal Scott Richardson was cited as an example of an administrator who understands the issue and has been very helpful. DCVI teachers were also acknowledged during the meeting for their willingness to help, and it was noted that they were well represented at the recent Perth South Networking Breakfast.

With Avon Maitland District School Board (“AMDSB”) Trustee Lynette Geddes in attendance at the recent Council Meeting, Perth South councillors took the opportunity to discuss a number of ideas of what else could be done at the school level to raise awareness of career opportunities for youth.

Councillor Melinda Zurbrigg pointed to AMDSB’s failure to participate in the Province-wide “Take Your Kid to Work Day” initiative (presumably due to liability concerns) as a missed opportunity. “Here’s a perfect opportunity to showcase what is available in our area, but we don’t participate,” said Zurbrigg.

Councillor Jim Aitcheson initiated a thoughtful discussion on the topic of getting youth into the trades, where there are so many opportunities today for people to be successful. “When kids get into school, they are generally pushed towards college and university while they are never encouraged to get into a job in the trades,” said Aitcheson. Geddes responded by referring to the Pathways Initiative that has been in place for a number of years to address this problem, though she generally agreed that the initiative has not been very visible within the school system.

Other Perth South Economic Development Committee News:

• The Stratford Perth Centre for Business hosted a successful networking breakfast in Perth South on October 30th at River Valley Golf Club in partnership with Perth South and St. Marys. Perth South Treasurer Rebecca Clothier presented the Perth4Youth joint strategic plan to the various business owners and community members in attendance.

• Finnie Distributing hosted a Business Tour on Tuesday, November 14th to showcase their expansion and discuss opportunities available at the plant

• The Stratford Perth Centre for Business Networking Breakfast in Perth East is scheduled for November 21st at MC Hamburgers

• The Connect 2 Skills program being led through the Four County Labour Market Planning Board is currently recruiting. This includes 4 weeks training and 2 weeks paid placement to prepare adults for jobs in the manufacturing sector. Graduation of first cohort was last Friday, November 3rd at the museum

• The next “Opportunities” Economic Development and Tourism Newsletter will be released next week

• Be sure to follow @PerthCoTourism on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

• Hannah Conroy reported that we’ve had travel writers visit the County this year, including Let’s Discover Ontario whose videos can be seen online by searching “Let’s Discover Ontario Perth County”

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