Cumberland County Repopulation Strategy Released
October 12, 2006
AMHERST, NS – Placing more emphasis on education within Cumberland County will help encourage young people to stay or return as well as help build understanding of different cultures to foster immigration, says a recently completed study. The Cumberland County Repopulation Strategy includes a number of action items related to culture awareness and education, youth attraction, settlement services, social supports, and infrastructure. It also takes a look at the County=s labour force with an eye to planning for future needs.
The study was facilitated by Mount Allison University’s Rural and Small Town Programme and initiated by the Cumberland Regional Economic Development Agency (CREDA), with Steering Committee support from all five municipal units as well as key regional development partners. The study was carried out over a seven month period and focused on retaining and attracting young people and working toward attracting immigrants to the area. Community meetings were held in Amherst, Springhill, Parrsboro, Oxford and Pugwash. Students at each of the County=s seven high schools also added input.
Although 5000 people moved to Cumberland County between 1999 and 2004, 5,500 left the County. At the same time, the County received 83 new immigrants. Most of the people who moved into Cumberland County were between the ages of 45 - 64, typically not the ages to have young families with them. The study found that although the County=s workforce is stable at the moment, most workers are between the ages of 35 - 44. This aging workforce indicates that there will be a need to replace a number of people in the coming decade.
Community and youth participants in the study were asked to comment on issues related to youth retention and immigration. From their responses, several key issues emerged and a repopulation strategy/action plan was formed. Recommended actions include:
- Establish a multi-cultural organization and English Second Language (ESL) training
- Address the perception that immigrants would 'take jobs away' from local people
- Introduce cultural diversity issues to elementary and junior high schools
- Invite settled immigrants to participate in school programs
- Create more Youth Town Councils like the one already established in Parrsboro
- Offer a wider variety of post-secondary training locally
- Develop a database of young people who have moved away to let them know of happenings and job opportunities locally
- Promote entrepreneurship and succession planning, building on experience gained by youth from outside local communities
- Survey youth who have moved away to determine what might be done locally to make the area more attractive
- Establish Settlement Teams in local communities. These teams would be responsible for establishing a single point of contact within each municipality where newcomers could access information about the community as well as regional information like health care, school services, government services, and more.
Study participants also noted the need for social supports for newcomers. Appropriate and affordable housing was high on the list as well as more daycare service and more widespread family resources like Maggie's Place. Cleaning up or removing derelict properties, particularly when they are on a main approach road to a community was an important issue for study participants concerned with creating a positive first impression. Better access roads to rural areas and the availability and provision of high speed internet and broadband were seen as deciding factors for helping attract potential immigrants.
“Attracting young working families is one of our objectives which align with other projects such as Skills Inventory Phase Two,” said CREDA Executive Director Rhonda Kelly. That project identified some of Cumberland’s private sector labour force needs, both short term and long term. A proposed third phase of the Skills Inventory Project would look at the public sector such as the teaching, administrative and medical professions to determine what opportunities there will be for jobs.“ In order to recruit people to the area, viable opportunities for employment must be identified,” Kelly said. “The identification of investment opportunities within key sectors may also provide additional incentive for relocation to, as well as repatriation to the region.“ she added.
Kelly also said that community partners and municipal units have key roles to play in encouraging welcoming communities.
For further information, contact:
Gwen Zwicker, Research Associate
Rural and Small Town Programme
Mount Allison University
144 Main Street
Sackville NB E4L 1A7
Rhonda Kelly, Executive Director
35 Church Street, P.O. Box 546
Amherst, NS B4H 4A1
Ph: (902) 667-3638