Monday, The Telegram published the results of an online survey of graduating high school students across the province, asking them the age-old question facing students at the end of secondary school: what next?
The answers were as varied as the students themselves, but one part of the survey was pretty clear: when it comes to “where next?” the answer for almost two-thirds of them was “not here.”
A whopping 64.3 per cent of those surveyed expect to leave the province, while another 15 per cent plan to move from their hometowns but stay in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The departure numbers are even higher for eastern Newfoundland, where three out of every four students are getting ready to go down the road.
You can’t fault them: there are things to see and places to go, and more than anything else, there are more opportunities, both for education and, more critically, for stable employment.
While the rest of Canada’s economy is expected to grow this year, this province’s is expected to contract. Entry-level pay rates are low, public sector jobs are close to being in a hiring freeze, tax rates are high, and home ownership expenses are outstripping what’s reasonable.
Add to that the fact that the provincial government is continuing with deficit spending, adding more debt to the tax burden of those who stay here, and you can see why it’s not very attractive.
The problem is that we need young people. We need their drive, we need their energy, and to be perfectly blunt, we need their years of being strong taxpayers — we need them to be here when their best taxpaying years are upon them, when they are punching above their weight and paying in more than they are taking out of the system in costs.
We need them working in our hospitals, and we’ll need them more than ever as our population continues to age and depart the workforce.
But what would you say to this student from central Newfoundland?
“The financial situation, no matter how much the government would like us to think it is getting better, is not, as budget cuts and such aren’t going to get us out of a hole if we just keep on digging. There is no reason to stay on a sinking ship if there is a life-raft nearby.”
Perhaps what we have to say is “good luck and farewell.”
And maybe, just maybe, we should think about saying “sorry,” too.
Because, faced with huge financial opportunities just a few years ago, we spent a birthright like grasshoppers, instead of saving like ants.