Local business works to reduce the brain drain

Robert Fisher photo Students meet with eager employers at the first Youth Job Fair at Fundy Middle and High School.

ST. GEORGE – At the first Youth Job Fair in southwest New Brunswick last week, high school students from across the region converged on Fundy Middle and High School to meet and talk with employers to learn about job opportunities here at home.

Glenn Hawkins, of Community Development of Eastern Charlotte, noted that one of the things preventing the region from growing is young people leaving because they aren’t aware there are good opportunities for them here. The so-called brain drain is a problem in New Brunswick as a whole and is especially problematic in the southwest corner of the province.

“We’re a very prosperous area of the province, but we’re not perceived to be,” said Hawkins. Changing that perception is another goal of the event.

“We just need people,” he continued.

The impetus for the event came from employers who are looking for help in getting the word out about opportunities in the area.

Huntsman Marine Science Centre in Saint Andrews was there to let students know about volunteer opportunities, summer jobs and week-long education programs available to students to give them a grounding in what the marine sciences are about.

“Introducing them to marine biodiversity, ocean mapping, engineering and to connect with the teachers,” to let them know about the programs, was the bigger picture agenda according to community outreach specialist Courtney Piercy.

For the Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC), the goal was to help educate students about the opportunities with entrepreneurship and self-employment, complementing the entrepreneurship curriculum in school.

“There are a lot of entrepreneurship classes so we wanted to be here to support if any students had questions about starting a business,” Rebecca Smith from CBDC said.

Future St. Stephen is responsible for helping businesses grow in St. Stephen and growing the economy. Kendall Kadatz, president of the organization, wants to help local high school students be aware of the good opportunities in Charlotte County.

“It’s not just a place you need to get away from,” he said, adding that if they do go away, they should think about coming back because there are good opportunities here.

Students were bused in from high schools throughout the region to meet and speak with local employers. Companies large and small, for- and non-profit were available to speak with the young people about what they can achieve in the area and let them know of opportunities they may not have considered previously.

While this is the first event of its kind in the region, Hawkins hopes to grow it in future years and possibly expand it to schools outside the confines of the region. The event will move to a different school next year and rotate through schools in the area. His hope is that one day they’ll need a space bigger than a school gym. Hawkins was grateful to Working NB, which funded the fair.

robertfisher@stcroixcourier.ca