Brain drain? High school students talk fiscal future of Newfoundland and Labrador
Grade 11s and 12s from Random Island weigh in on how province’s finances may affect them
Stay or go?
It’s a simple question many young people are perhaps asking themselves today in Newfoundland and Labrador.
After Tuesday’s provincial budget announcement, people both young and old are talking about the financial future of N.L. and how it can affect the people living here.
Finance Minister Tom Osbourne said in the budget speech, while currently about $14.6 billion in debt, the province expects a surplus again in 2022-23 — stating, “Our plan is working. Our future is promising.”
But for some Grade 11 and 12 students at Random Island Academy, their understanding is the current climate in the province is still dire — and it might affect their upcoming post-high school decisions.
In an interview with Matthew Cook’s drama class, students told the Packet that although they don’t necessarily follow the political scene closely, they often hear the news when their parents talk about it.
And much of it is negative. Sawyer Collins says when he read the total current debt for the province, the amount surprised him.
“It’s pretty scary,” he says. Collins is not sure if this will outright affect his decision but admits he’d definitely leave the province for work.
Grade 12 student Jennifer Hart says she’s been accepted to Memorial University for the fall semester and hopes to study pharmacy.
“I’ve done a little bit of research and it says there are jobs here in Newfoundland for pharmacists, which is something that has attracted me to going into it.
“But it’s hard to tell what will happen six years down the road,” she said.
That being said, if the situation necessitated it, she would consider moving out of province for work.
Hart says her older brother moved away for work about five years ago.
Sheridan Parrott is interested in the medical field, and she hopes there will continue to be a demand for her employment in Newfoundland.
“I’d like to stay here but if I have to, the I guess I’ll have to move away to do that.”
Other students, like Jordan Baker, Kayla Watton and Abby Blundell, are looking at electrical engineering, psychiatry and lab sciences as respective career choices.
They expect there to be availability for these types of positions at home.
Watton and Blundell say while they feel secure with those career choices right now, any future changes could affect that option.
“All the cuts kind of worry me … It’s a long time until the job actually comes,” says Watton.
All the students agreed they would be much more willing to stick around if the perception of the future of the province was brighter.
Cook says as a teacher of many senior high students, he’s seen this kind of dilemma before.
“I do see a lot of uncertainty,” he says. “They’ve obviously seen a lot of people in their communities and sometime friends and family go away. I think that always looms in the background for them.”
He adds many of the students seem to really want to stay but are afraid they may end up limited in their future as a result.
“Whether they realize it or not, they talk about it. There are definitely concerns there on what the future is going to hold for them.”
Matthew Cook’s drama class, from left to right: Jordan Baker, Sawyer Collins, Jennifer Hart, Abby Blundell, Kayla Watton, Belle Simmons and Sheridan Parrott.