Professionals want to return home but need jobs to bring them back

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My Perspective, Hattie Dyck

It’s not exactly news that Nova Scotia is becoming a retirement community, which was the theme of a speech that Halifax businessman Ian Thompson recently gave to the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce.

 It’s been more than three decades since people started talking about the brain drain of our young people. And all it’s been to date is talk. It’s made many a great speech, but the only positive aspect of it so far, is that the applause feeds the ego of the speech maker.

In 1980 one of my sons graduated from Dalhousie University with a teaching degree. He didn’t have a hope of finding a full-time job here so he went to a Cree Indian village in northern Manitoba, taught there for three years and then transferred to Virden, Manitoba. He then got married and has stayed there. Always hoping he’d come back home. I used to send him newspaper clippings about a shortage of teachers looming on the horizon, when a supposed expert from the teaching profession announced a large group of them was about to retire.

After a few years and more than a few pronouncements, I gave that up and realized retired teachers rarely retire, they just continue to substitute and the school boards rely on them rather than hire new teachers they have to pay benefits to. There’s dozens of young teachers around here substituting and can’t find a full-time job. They, or their family have likely spent $60,000 plus for their degree only to find them sitting by the telephone waiting for a call that there’s a day’s work out there for them.

Who can blame them from going elsewhere to find steady employment? I don’t blame retirees from making themselves some extra money, but, in the long-term if the system is geared to keep young people out, it is our loss in many ways when they leave Nova Scotia for other places.

Now I’m reading there’s a large group of nurses about to retire, and so our nurses now in university will be able to find a good job here. Also, those who have left Nova Scotia can return to this province. I don’t for one minute believe that this will happen. It’s much cheaper for the health authorities to take retired nurses back on contract or on some sort of deal where they think it costs less money.

I’m betting they’ll do the same as the teachers and so unless for some reason our young nurses are unable to move away, they’ll do so at the first opportunity. Otherwise they’ll be sitting around for months if not years before they get full-time work.

Nurses are one sector of our community that are well paid, so I suspect the incentive for retirees to continue on will be high, and who can blame them as long as the health system allows it to happen. It’s time for the health authorities to think of the future, to take advantage of those trained to use advanced technology, and to realize that the future for all of us is in the youth of today. It’s not good enough to educate them and then throw them away. We need to find a way to keep them here. And that means well-paying jobs.

If our present experience is any guideline this won’t happen. We’ll mosey along without looking forward as long as we can. Change doesn’t come easily to any of us and it seems to come hardest to those in authority who are comfortable in their own income and are marking time until they can retire with a good pension and income security. The sad part of it is the future for those who are young and middle aged today will depend on how we prepare for tomorrow, so maybe it’s time to light a fuse under leaders who are willing to sell us down the river with a lack of initiative and long range thinking.

Looking at the smaller picture of our own county, we are not becoming a retirement community here in Colchester County, we already are one. Yet we continue to build sports facilities for the kids who move away before they earn the money to pay taxes to even maintain them. Good paying jobs are rare in the town and county and we’re losing rather than gaining them.

If we lose 10 postal carriers there’s 10 good paying jobs gone, and I expect some of the good jobs that Scotsburn Dairy provided will be gone as the unionized workers bump ones now working in the Truro plant. I don’t hear any protest from the Chamber of Commerce about that. It’s all about how businesses can make more money and keep the minimum wage as low as possible. I’m not sure how businesses hope to increase their bottom line if workers don’t have money to buy what they sell.

Thompson urged the business leaders to change or flounder. In this time of more and more free trade, when the world is absorbed with quickly changing technology, when even the northern communities are using robots as teaching aids, that statement couldn’t make more sense. He sees hope for our export market if we change with the times. I sincerely hope his optimism is rewarded.

In this past year I have particularly noticed the increase in the price of food, the price of power, the price of maintaining and putting gasoline in our car, the price of our telephone and television and the price of some non-essential items that I want but maybe don’t need to buy. As a retiree and with only two in our family, we have been able to absorb the increases without any major disruption to our lifestyle. However, I wouldn’t want to have a family to care for and pay for today even if there are two parents working. Having been a one-parent family I shudder to think how they can cope with the increase in price of essentials they have to absorb from their income.

It’s no wonder there’s strikes.

On a positive note, I’m told the Bill Rawlinson Memorial Outreach Fund has been extended so applicants living beyond a 10-mile radius of Truro can apply. Also, the March 31 application date has been extended. This fund, which began in 2007, is intended to help those who have been out of school for a while and are economically disadvantaged. Some are struggling to make ends meet and may need help to further their education to do so.

To date people have been helped with funds for many things including tuition, textbooks and equipment, professional license, work clothing and computers. Applications are available at St. John the Evangelist Church on Church St. in Truro. Rawlinson was an active member of that church and his family initiated this outreach program to honor his memory.

Truro and area has many wonderful organizations trying to help those in need in many ways. Unfortunately, these groups can only help. It’s business that provides jobs that make the economy grow or wither.

The Chamber of Commerce, along with local government, has a big task ahead, and it’s more than just encouraging building more structures which we seem to do best in our town and county communities.

 

Hattie Dyck is a local author who loves folklore and local stories.

Organizations: Dalhousie University, Chamber of Commerce, Bill Rawlinson Memorial Outreach Fund Evangelist Church

Geographic location: Northern Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Virden Manitoba Truro Colchester County

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