This set of numbers will probably raise a few eyebrows here in Peterborough, but that’s good because it’s a pretty good news story for our community.
Statistics Canada (Stats Can) has just released population estimates of the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and in the age category of residents aged 20 to 24
Peterborough ranks number 1 with 8.04% of our population in that age group.
That’s right, 1st - up from 9th place in 2008. And this statistic does not include students!
So, who are those in the 20-24- year-old category? These are young people at the start of their careers, who are more educated than ever and more tech savvy than any other generation.
A Stats Can report called “A Portrait of Youth” released in February of 2018 identifies the education level of this group.
The report concludes the following about youth: “They are more diverse, educated, and
connected and socially engaged than past youth, and in many ways are well positioned to succeed in today's complex global society. But not all young people are sharing these benefits. Some youth are unemployed or are in temporary jobs. Some are
struggling with mental health challenges, addictions, and homelessness. And not everyone feels included.”
Peterborough Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Stuart Harrison recently did an interview with Jordan Mercier on Extra 90.5FM asking the question: “What is drawing people in this cohort to Peterborough and what is keeping them here?”
We’ll take a crack at answering those questions. Perhaps they are returning home or perhaps they attended Trent University or Fleming College or a private institution or the trades school and have chosen to stay in the community.
Comparatively Peterborough is relatively affordable, there is a vibrant arts scene and a multitude of ways to experience the community indoors and out. And it’s also an attractive place to raise a family.
Knowing we have this cohort in our midst, the question then becomes how do we keep them? What are the tools? One of Peterborough’s strengths is our entrepreneurial culture. Over the past decade a concerted effort by the private and public sector and not-for profit business organizations has turned Peterborough into an incubator for business in all areas of our diverse economy.
Employment is another tool. The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce believes there is many an opportunity to increase the job prospects here. In the Portrait of Youth report, only 5% of 21 year olds enrol in apprenticeship programs. This is an opportunity. Peterborough and other rural communities need our skilled tradespeople to build the
infrastructure that will help us grow. The Chamber is asking the provincial government to have a flexible ratio for apprenticeships in rural and small urban communities. The intended outcome of this request is so that more young people will have the opportunity to build their lives in the community of their choice and not have to move away.
Another way we are trying to open the door for youth is by encouraging more technology development and innovation by asking the federal government to create a nationwide “my first patent program”.
The Chamber is also excited about the beneficial impact of the VIA Rail High Frequency Rail project which is on track for continued development. This direct access to the world from Peterborough plays well with the characteristics of a diverse, connected and socially engaged youth.
And when we talk about the socially engaged and opportunities for employment and action, the Peterborough Chamber recently put forward a national policy resolution asking the federal government to consider forward thinking structures to achieve social financing for community projects, as well as a stream of funding through the Community Futures network to help support early stage social enterprises.
Being at the top of the list for most 20-24 year olds in terms of a percentage of population gives Peterborough the advantage in the war for talent. But that means we still have to fight to make sure the environment is in place so this talent can find gainful employment and a supportive community that wants to see them succeed.