More young Albertans are making the choice to leave the province for other opportunities rather than making a home here, according to a new report.
The publication from the Canada West Foundation found in 2016, for the first time since 1988, trends began changing. It notes the province had nine per cent fewer 25 to 29 year olds in 2021.
Alberta’s economy and net youth migration has generally centred around the boom-and-bust cycles in the oil and gas sector. But, as stated in the report, “the world has changed and so too has the oil and gas sector. Alberta’s economy and communities are in transition.”
That’s not to say Alberta is an awful place for younger Albertans to call home. With great outdoor adventure opportunities, housing that is much more affordable than a pair of major cities on either end of the country, and a now-booming tech sector, there are reasons to stay.
The question now being asked is, how do we keep Alberta-born youth in the province? And how do we attract more youth from outside Alberta?
Work to live, not vice-versa
Another perceived issue found in the report is Alberta’s ability to improve overall quality of life and supply homes that will satisfy both personal and professional needs.
The report found that youth in Alberta, Vancouver and Toronto “perceive that Alberta does not offer a breadth of career choices, that the province lacks vibrancy and that there is a lack of inclusion of diversity.”
Alberta saw a sharp rise in job vacancies between 2019 and 2021 in sectors like oil and gas, construction, and finance, among others.
When surveyed, several young Albertans said they work to live, not the other way around, adding they want a place that they can feel proud to call home. Some of the topics that were factored into that decision were cleanliness and safety of communities, public transportation, proximity to experiences, diversity and inclusion, and the reputation of a region.
“For many youth, their identity is linked to where they live; they want to feel good about their choice of place,” the report said.
And many young non-Albertans perceived Alberta’s personality, if you will, to be largely based around oil and gas, as well as more conservative thinking — both viewed negatively by young Canadians living outside the province.
One of the bigger takeaways from the report is that decision and policymakers need to understand that today’s younger generations have different goals and values than the youths of the past.
Some recommended strategies to help keep people in Alberta include:
- Ensure children and youth understand their aptitudes and interests, have a broad understanding of the diverse career opportunities available and on the horizon and the education and training required to enter them;
- Develop competency-based post-secondary education designed to build the competencies required to move into new careers in diverse sectors in the Alberta economy and reduce the skills mismatch that exists in the province;
- Create quality experiential learning and work-integrated learning opportunities for all students that allow them to build verified competencies while gaining work experience.
Meanwhile, the report outlines other strategies that could help in attracting youth to Alberta:
- Employ progressive municipal government policies that can be complemented by business-friendly higher level of government policies designed to attract investment and new employers.
- Accelerate ongoing community revitalization efforts that develop more walkable (and bikeable) living, working, and entertainment spaces that are attractive to youth.
- Encourage small and medium sized (SMEs) employers to hire and retain more diverse youth through the provision of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion training kits for organizations and SMEs.
- Expand safe public transit both within and between communities.
- Provide safe and inclusive spaces where youth feel valued for their diversity of lived experience, thought and capabilities.
In conclusion, the report says Alberta will need to adjust its views on youth migration in the province, and a turnaround in the oil and gas sector isn’t the answer this time.