Two-thirds of Saint John teenagers don't see themselves staying in the region within 10 years, according to a new survey by the Greater Saint John Community Foundation.
The Youth Vital Signs report looked at how high school students view Saint John, how they feel about growing up in the city and what needs to be improved.
While 67 per cent of the teens, aged 13 to 18, said the right education and training opportunities are available in the region, only 32 per cent said they see themselves living and working in the region 10 years from now.
Less than half of the more than 4,385 youth surveyed — 46 per cent — feel they are able to pursue their career choice in the region.
"The results weren't surprising," said Kylie Fox, a Grade 12 student at Harbour View High School. She is leaving to study theatre in Montreal this fall.
"There isn't much opportunity for me in particular here in Saint John," said Fox.
Classmate Hannah Wallace, who plans to study sciences at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John this fall, worries all the "really ambitious people" will leave and the city will "go downhill."
"Like Kylie has big ambitions," said Wallace. "I would leave if it meant me getting into med school and becoming a doctor somewhere else.
"And I think the people that don't have ambitions, that don't really know what to do with their life, will probably end up staying," she said.
But Grade 10 student Jon Taylor, who also attends Harbour View High, said not everyone is in a rush to leave. He believes there are still opportunities in Saint John for people interested in the skilled trades.
"I'm not entirely sure why people would want to leave if they're going into trades because this is a wonderful city for that," said Taylor.
Employment, education among top concerns
Access to jobs was one of the top concerns of the teens surveyed, said Jenny O'Connell, a researcher with the Human Development Council, who pored over all of the data and compiled the results.
More than 50 per cent said more employment opportunities for teens should be a priority.
"Youth unemployment is 20 per cent in New Brunswick right now, 26 per cent for male youth," said O'Connell.
Thirty-two per cent of the survey respondents currently have a part-time job.
"It gave us a really rich data set," O'Connell said.
The youth, who were surveyed at 11 high schools in the greater Saint John area last November, identified employment and education as being among the most important indicators for improving the region, along with homelessness and poverty.
They were questioned about eight indicators, which were each given a letter grade, based on the mean score.
- Health and wellness, C
- Belonging and community, C
- Employment and education, C
- Arts and recreation, C+
- Homelessness and poverty, D
- Crime and safety, C-
- Transportation, C
- Environment, C-
Students were surveyed at the following schools: Belleisle, First Steps, Hampton, Harbour View High School, Kennebecasis Valley High School, Rothesay High School, Saint John High School, Samuel De Champlain, Simonds, St Malachy’s and Woodlawn.
The study was the first Vital Signs report focused solely on youth aged 13 to 18. The participation rate in Saint John surpassed any other city in Canada.