Find a Community then Find a Job?

What do you long for in a community?

It’s a good question and one posed by author and speaker Rebecca Ryan in her recent keynote address at the Economic Developers Conference of Ontario in Toronto. She also shared a major shift being reflected in today’s generation.

For more and more young people, thinking about where they want to live comes before finding a job.

While my generation found a job first or followed a promotion or company move, the next generation has flipped the order. First they choose an active, creative, engaged city and only then will they focus on finding work. Finding communities, as well as employers, that mesh with their values and lifestyle is a signature unique to the next generation. In other words, and as Ryan’s book title states, it’s a case of “live first, work second”. 

So why is it important to understand the thinking and motivation of the next generation?

It’s all about the demographics. There simply aren’t enough of the next generation to replace the baby boomers as they retire from the workforce. By 2022 we will likely have a shortage of 3.9 million workers in Canada. This means that even if you want to ignore the young whippersnappers and what they long for in communities, you really can’t afford to. It means we will have to be very intentional if we want young professsionals to be attracted enough to live in our communities.

How exactly do we design communities to make the next generation homesick?

Ryan suggests there are seven quality of life indexes for this skeptical generation (skeptical because, as she puts it, more people under 40 believe they will see a UFO then believe they will collect a government pension).

First off in terms of quality of life, they want to know, “Can I afford to live here”? Secondly are there earning opportunities that are many and varied? They will also want to know if it is a community that reflects health and vitality. The next generation also values a smart community and will be looking for one that values education. Having both a college and a university means Niagara will definitely score well here.

Transportation is also a serious consideration. How easy is it to get around town and out of town? Our youngest son admits he is spoiled by the exceptional public transit system in Toronto. In fact, he turned down a job in Edmonton because it meant he would have to buy a car.

Engagement is a sixth factor as social capital and communities that accept and engage all people are critical. 

Lastly, and not surprisingly, after-hour considerations are big. Contributing to this is the research that shows marriage and parenthood being pushed back. According to Statistics Canada, the average age for first marriages is rising steadily for both brides and grooms - 34.3 for men and 31.7 for women.  As a result, the social life available after work and on the weekends is a key factor in determining where to live.

While on some level it may seem strange to choose a community first and then worry about work, perhaps there is some merit in the thinking of this generation. Is there really a need to hurry down the road to more responsibility? After all what’s wrong with thinking that 30 is the new 20? Chances are those among us most likely to see this as a problem will be the KIPPERS……Kids in Pocket Preventing Early Retirement!

Posted on 02-07-10

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