Several years ago, Cumberland County's municipal units through the Cumberland Regional Economic Development Association hired David Bruce of Mount Allison University's Rural and Small Town Program to develop a repopulation strategy they hoped would end the ongoing drain of this area's best young minds to jobs in other parts of the country.
Completed in 2006, the Cumberland County Repopulation Strategy was very clear in the challenges facing this area. It found issues such as youth retention and recruitment of volunteers are threatening the county economically.
The stats were an eye-opener and led to the creation of the youth retention project and the hiring of a youth retention and attraction co-ordinator, whose job has been to take that information and use it to make this area attractive as a place to live and work.
It's still too early to determine if theplan has worked, but it appears as though this county is ahead of the curve in doing something about it.
A population forum in Wolfville earlier this week pointed out many of the challenges faced here are similar to those across the province. The conference was told rural Nova Scotia's aging and shrinking population could make it hard for government to raise tax dollars for services like schools and health care.
On the flip side, it's expected that some 56,000 jobs will be open up in the province by 2014. However, unless municipal units, government and the business community itself do more to create links with today's younger generation, there may not be many people around to fill those jobs, making it increasingly difficult to compete in the global economy.
We need to find out just what young people want and what it will take to get them to come home. Instead of fostering the attitude of we know what's best, let's actually listen to what young people have to say and offer the incentives needed and make that changes required to make this province and this county the place in which youth want to live, work and raise a family.