Study suggests much optimism for Island youth

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Young people display sense of engagement, connection to community; don’t blame others

Island youth, when compared to national data, are more likely to complete high school or post-secondary education, but might score lower on standardized tests. They may not be well prepared for the financial parts of their life.

Young people have problems finding a job and have a lack of meaningful work experience or career options. They tend to have lower rates of depression and anxiety, have lower smoking rates, but a higher percentage might be involved in criminal activity.

They have a very high sense of engagement and belonging, display a very high rate of volunteerism and record the highest voter turnout in all of Canada. They feel ignored by political leaders but don’t assess blame on anyone else for their problems.

In a nutshell, there you have today’s typical P.E.I. young person, aged 15 to 29 years.

It’s quite a lot of information to absorb. The challenge is to analyze those statistics and develop a meaningful strategy to help them, employ them and keep them on P.E.I.

The Community Foundation of P.E.I. unveiled its study Taking the Pulse of Island Youth last week. One of the bright areas in the study was the expression by youths that they feel connected to P.E.I., connected to their communities and they feel that they belong. The study found youths interested in a dialogue because all Islanders are in this together.

The study uncovered many optimistic findings and gives lots of room to celebrate that as parents, Islanders did a good job and their children have turned out very well.

It was the feeling of the study that the number of young people living or staying on P.E.I. is declining and will continue to decline. As a society we have to take steps to support and encourage youths to stay and work in the province. Fewer young people and more seniors don’t make for a healthy population mix. All things being equal, the study suggests young people would prefer to stay, work, play and raise a family here.

The press conference outlining the results was accompanied by a panel discussion involving three young people representing ages 15-19, 20-24 and 25-29. The panel covered the topic what it’s like living as a young person on P.E.I. given the limitations of the school system. A Colonel Gray student, representing youth aged 15 to 19, had the most pessimistic viewpoint. She said many of her friends could not find summer work, don’t have a part-time job because they find school far too stressful and are of the opinion the school system is not preparing them for life. The majority of her friends are planning on leaving and perhaps not coming back to P.E.I.

Another panelist in the 25-29 bracket told of completing university education off-Island and returning to P.E.I. for the next phase of her life as a working adult. The panelist in the age group between 20 and 24 thought communication with youth is a priority. He said youths felt there is a lot of pressure on them being the generation to fix all the problems of society.

The Community Foundation is willing to take the study and the youth participants on tour as guests of any group willing to extend an invitation, be it a service club, chamber of commerce, political party or municipality. It’s a challenge we hope many will take up.

We can’t be content to see our young people migrate to Ontario or Western Canada in large numbers and think there won’t be serious repercussions here. We have to change the mind-set that this is normal and acceptable. We can do better.

Organizations: P.E.I.The Community Foundation of P.E.I., Pulse of Island Youth

Geographic location: Iceland, Western Canada, P.E.I. Ontario

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