In an email, the writer asked us:
- Why are young people leaving their small towns?
- What can rural communities do, or are doing, to compete?
These questions relate to a topic that has placed in the top 5 of the Survey of Rural Challenges consistently since the survey began –
Losing Young People.
Why are young people leaving?
Here’s just a few things people told us in The Survey of Rural Challenges about why youth are leaving:
- This town experiences many of the same challenges as other towns this size – bored youth who can’t wait to leave, housing shortages, petty property crime. This is a time when the choices we make will have a huge effect on our quality of life in the future.
- Population is aging as youth move out and few options for work or play to move back.
- We have several new, younger families, and it should be possible to do some dynamic things…however, there is not a cohesive factor anywhere to be found.
- Keeping the younger generation around is key to this town’s survival; at least so they feel like they can return, after upper-education, etc… Whatever brings ’em back.
- The leaders in town need to learn to work collaboratively instead of constantly fighting with each other, or worrying about who gets the credit. It will be hard to attract young people, those of childbearing age if the K-12 system is not improved.
- The downtown looks dead. We need to revitalize old buildings and make it easier for people to start up new businesses. We need updated playground equipment at the fairgrounds and more activities for our youth including teens.
- Young people want to live here but experienced business people will not give young people with little experience career opportunities.
- Younger families and “tree changers” moving in post pandemic due to flexibility working from home, and proximity to a large provincial town.
- Our community is purposeful about encouraging our youth to come back. We have a variety of commerce that attracts blue & white collar positions.
- I am trying incentives to attract new people and retain youth.
What can you do about retaining and/or bringing back youth?
Existing local career engagement, entrepreneurship and bringing them back home are 3 ideas to retain youth. In fact, we’ve written about it before.
Existing local career engagement:
- Blue Collar Career Fair, working with at-risk students and creating hands-on experience opportunities.
- Ponca City grow your own, introducing girls to manufacturing businesses and opportunities.
- Rural Brain Drain, what is it and how 5 economic developers in one region shared their resources.
- Kevin’s apprenticeship story, any rural business can offer an apprentice program.
- Remote work friendly, 3 major factors in rural remote work.
- SSUP, from kids with summer jobs to kids with summer businesses.
- Miller kids’ sheds, tiny businesses in storage sheds, a rural economic development tool.
- Engaging businesses with school entrepreneurship programs, working with your businesses instead of lecturing to them.
- What you can do to help create young entrepreneurs, encouraging and supporting young entrepreneurs.
Bringing them back home:
- Who are your newcomers, do you know who’s moved to town?
- What story are you telling? Rural is not dying, is that the story you tell?
Find more youth articles at SmallBizSurvival for ideas, inspiration and practical advice: https://smallbizsurvival.com/category/youth