‘It takes a vil­lage’

Kentville Po­lice, Dal­housie part­ner for Men­tor­ing Plus pro­gram

Annapolis Valley Register - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS SAULNIER KINGSCOUNTYNEWS.CA Chris.saulnier@kingscountynews.ca

A part­ner­ship be­tween Kentville Po­lice and a Dal­housie pro­fes­sor is look­ing at ways to en­cour­age re­tirees to share their ex­pe­ri­ence with peo­ple try­ing to figure out ca­reers.

Gor­don Michael from Dal­housie Univer­sity’s Col­lege of Con­tin­u­ing Ed­u­ca­tion is the force be­hind a men­tor­ing pro­gram called Men­tor­ing Plus, which is de­signed to con­nect high school stu­dents, un­em­ployed peo­ple and groups of peo­ple try­ing to figure out what ca­reer paths to choose with re­tirees who can share their ca­reer knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence gained from dif­fer­ent work en­vi­ron­ments.

The first ori­en­ta­tion ses­sion for Kentville took place on May 17 at the Kentville Volunteer Fire De­part­ment au­di­to­rium, where Michael, who was joined by in­vited mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, led the dis­cus­sion on how this pro­gram will take shape dur­ing the next few months.

“This is the first plan­ning stage,” said Michael. “We wanted to do this part be­fore sum­mer, like ev­ery­thing else, then in the fall we’ll come back and start the process.”

Kentville is just one of a hand­ful of com­mu­ni­ties that will act as start­ing points for this pro­gram to be­gin – other com­mu­ni­ties in­clude Truro, New Glas­gow, Sydney, and more.

“Be­tween now and the end of June we are plan­ning ses­sions in Truro and Sydney. We hope to do the others in the fall,” said Michael.

The pur­pose of the pro­gram

Michael explained the pro­gram ben­e­fits both sides – young peo­ple and re­tirees – and that the idea came from the re­al­iza­tion of two is­sues and op­por­tu­ni­ties fac­ing the Mar­itimes.

The first is that the Mar­itimes have a sur­plus of re­tirees com­pared to the rest of North Amer­ica.

“Nova Sco­tia, New Brunswick, and Florida have the largest per­cent­age of peo­ple per pop­u­la­tion over 65 of any­where in North Amer­ica,” said Michael. “The Mar­itimes are ba­si­cally an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, but rather than treat­ing them as a hin­drance or a li­a­bil­ity, they’re a re­source.”

A lot of the time, these in­di­vid­u­als are alone, un­en­gaged with their com­mu­ni­ties, and can eas­ily feel like they have no pur­pose, he said. Michaels hopes con­nect­ing these in­di­vid­u­als with the younger gen­er­a­tions in need of guid­ance will help.

“We’ll give them an­other pur­pose,” said Michael. “The stud­ies show that if you stay en­gaged for two hours a week, you re­duce lone­li­ness and it con­trib­utes to the re­duc­tion of de­men­tia, you stay health­ier, that’s a good thing.”

The sec­ond is­sue Michael said is the Mar­itimes have large groups of young in­di­vid­u­als who are un­em­ployed, not tak­ing part in any post­sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram, drop­ping out of their post-se­condary pro­grams, or can’t de­cide what it is they want to pur­sue in life.

“How do we keep our peo­ple in Nova Sco­tia work­ing? I mean, we’re all strug­gling with that, I’m just try­ing to cre­ate an­other tool to help out the is­sue,” said Michael. “We want to fo­cus on young peo­ple, about 16 or 17 and up, who are think­ing about ‘what am I gonna do now?’”

Good first step

Michael says men­tor­ing is the first step for many in­di­vid­u­als in re­al­iz­ing their true po­ten­tial, and a new step to­ward stay­ing en­gaged for the post-ca­reer pop­u­la­tion.

“So, what we’re try­ing to say is re­tirees have a lot of knowl­edge, skills, and net­works; how do we con­nect them to dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions of high school stu­dents, un­em­ployed peo­ple, groups of peo­ple try­ing to figure out what to do in life as a ca­reer, that’s the very ba­sis of it.”

A third as­pect of this pro­gram - and the rea­son why Michael is choos­ing to part­ner with po­lice de­part­ments in each of the com­mu­ni­ties he’s cre­at­ing this pro­gram in - is the re­duc­tion of crime.

“We part­nered with the po­lice de­part­ment be­cause they came to us and said, ‘how do you re­duce crime?’ Well, if a per­son has a job, that helps re­duce crime,” said Michael. “That’s one con­nec­tion, but we know there are many con­nec­tions to this, the school sys­tem is look­ing at this, agen­cies can look at this, the busi­ness com­mu­nity could look at it, a lot of peo­ple could be­come in­volved.”

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