As our name suggests Community Futures is concerned about the health and sustainability of our North Island and mid-Coast communities. For many years now we have seen our community populations shrink to some degree every year. People move away for jobs or school. Fewer families move here or stay here, which is evidenced by the closure of schools across the region in the past few years. We are also not attracting young families to our region in the numbers that are needed to support our industries, schools, businesses and services.
In addition to a decreasing population, the workforce that we do have here is, like all regions of the province, getting older. Estimates indicate, for example, that the average age in the forest industry is now around 55 years of age. Given that it is often our younger population that moves away from the region, it is likely that other industries and businesses on the North Island also face the impact of an aging workforce.
There are some promising signs, as the forest industry remains strong and other industries are helping to diversify our job market, but we need to do more to attract or retain young workers and their families to our region.
Young people from the North Island often have to leave to attend post-secondary institutions, whether for academic, professional or trades-related career training. One of our challenges is to find ways to encourage them to return to the region, pursue their careers and ultimately raise their families in our beautiful North Island region.
This series of columns will profile individuals who have done just that. These are individuals who were raised on the North Island, left to further their education and have returned. The profiles will reflect their lives growing up, the careers they have gone on to pursue and how they see the North Island now that they have returned to live here again.
We’re calling this series “Professional Comeback.” The stories are meant to inspire our young residents and those not living here now, to consider the benefits of returning to the North Island after they have completed their education.
We look forward to hearing your comments and perhaps your own experiences with “coming back home.”
David Mitchell, General Manager