London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
A survey completed last month by the Emerging Leaders London Community Network suggests more than half of residents between the ages of 20 and 44 are thinking of leaving the Forest City over the next 10 years.
Sean Quigley, the executive director of Emerging Leaders, doesn’t have a firm solution to this problem. However, he is hoping the survey will start a conversation around what London can do to maintain, or even attract, this important demographic.
“When it comes to this report, it is a snapshot; it is an opportunity for us to pay attention, to start a conversation,” Quigley said. “If we are going to drive anything forward as far as the plans council has, the province has, the federal government has, then we need to keep this young talent pool here.”
Emerging Leaders is a non-profit organization that was founded with a focus on attraction, retention and engagement of this very group of people.
Its survey of 280 respondents, nearly 84 per cent of which are part of that 20-44 demographic, says that 20.6 of respondents said they were not likely to remain in London in the next 10 years while 36.5 per cent said they were only somewhat likely to remain over that same period. The survey did say 42.9 per cent of people said they were very likely to remain in the Forest City.
“It very much confirmed things anecdotally,” Quigley said. “Everybody who has read the survey has said, ‘That’s exactly what I thought.’ There are no surprises. So if there isn’t, then why aren’t we doing something about it right now?”
Quigley said the survey results provide an opportunity for Emerging Leaders, indeed the whole community, to work together in finding potential solutions to this problem.
“What we didn’t do is say we need to do this and this and this. The reason why is we don’t have the answers. We are a part of it, but we aren’t the whole solution,” said Quigley, who added the current plan is to continue the conversation over the summer and then present the survey, its findings, and the results of those community discussions at the Emerging Leaders annual general meeting on Sept. 13.
“We have said there is an issue here and now we need everybody in the community to come together and work on it,” Quigley said. “So it becomes action oriented as opposed to standing there saying the sky is falling.”
It is a situation that Peter White, London Economic Development Corporation president and CEO, has seen all too often. In fact, White said this latest survey reflects the three biggest problems young London job seekers face in their ongoing search.
White narrowed down those problems as the difficulty many people face in penetrating the so-called “secret job market,” the “very low turnover rate” among many London companies and — perhaps most frustrating — the mismatch between the available jobs and individuals with the necessary training.
“One of the issues we have is a skills mismatch. There are a number of great jobs, but the problem is we don’t have people to fill them,” White said. “It is an issue where you have to deal with the hand you’re dealt with the resources. We would love to see more retraining dollars. That is an area we would love to see more opportunities.”
One area that will have many opportunities is youth entrepreneurship, which is something Steve Pellarin, SBC executive director, obviously knows a great deal about.
The SBC, as the name suggests, works with small business. The definition of small business is very broad, Pellarin said, but he adds it is important to note that 75 per cent of businesses have nine or fewer employees.
And while many young entrepreneurs turn to self-employment, particularly in difficult financial times, Pellarin said that often creates significant obstacles to those looking to get into the existing job market. After all, most of those businesses have little room for advancement; particularly as the owners themselves tend to have multiple job responsibilities.
“I think a lot of youth are looking for companies that are going to provide long-term career opportunities. The reality is, those businesses are few and far between,” said Pellarin, who was quick to add is far from alone in coping with this problem.
“Any city of a similar size (to London) has that challenge. Unless you are willing to go to the larger cities like Toronto, you are going to be faced with that numbers game,” Pellarin said. “The larger city you go to, the more large employers and the more opportunity for advancement you are going to have. What is comes down to is a balance between that quality of life versus career opportunities.”
Whatever the solutions might be, Quigley said it is important that London residents become involved in the conversation.
“We have all kinds of issues, but we have outstanding people in this city, and if that kind of talent comes together to work on something, there is no limit to what we can accomplish,” Quigley said. “What it takes is creating a space for the conversation to happen and not deciding the results before we have even started.”
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