NextGen working on strategy to keep youth in Cape Breton

Those attending the NextGen Leadership Society's forum Tuesday in Sydney worked on ways to bring younger workers to Cape Breton and create conditions to keep the ones born and raised on the island.

NextGen Leadership Society talks about successes, ways to match skills with job opportunities

Erin Gallagher and Adam Young, board members of the NextGen Leadership Society, were at a forum Tuesday to talk about creating conditions to attract and retain young people to Cape Breton. (CBC/Hal Higgins)

About 100 young professionals met Tuesday in Sydney to brainstorm ways to create job opportunities to retain and attract young people to Cape Breton.

The NextGen Leadership Society's forum focused on recommendations contained in a consultant's report commissioned two years ago called: Creating a Prosperous Future: Young Talent Strategy for Cape Breton Island.

The report lays out short-, medium- and long-term strategies. It talks about such things as creating a support network to encourage couples from Cape Breton who moved away to return home. The network would match up their abilities and training with suitable job opportunities in Cape Breton.

The study also recommends developing a "succession plan" so that when business owners retire, they have groomed a young person to take over.

Ingrained misconception

Participants in the forum also heard from a panel of young people who are making a success of their careers in Cape Breton, including internationally acclaimed cartoonist Kate Beaton and emerging filmmaker Ashley McKenzie.

NextGen board member Adam Young, a musician and Parks Canada employee, points out one of the biggest challenges for a young person trying to make it in Cape Breton is rooted in a misconception.

"I think it might be a generational thing," he said. "It's fairly deeply ingrained in order to achieve success you have to leave Cape Breton.

Action plan in works

Keynote speaker Doug Griffiths, a former Alberta MLA, talked about major mistakes people make in community life, such as being short-sighted about future development or ignoring immigrant neighbours and international students at the local university.  

The forum, held at the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation, was live streamed, allowing participants at the NSCC Strait Campus in Port Hawkesbury and the Baddeck courthouse to join the discussions. 

The society's next step will be developing an action plan from the consultant's report and the other ideas that spring from the discussion around it.