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

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Front page - BY JONATHAN PAR­SONS Jonathan.par­sons@thep­acket.ca Twit­ter: @je­j­par­sons

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.”

JONATHAN PAR­SONS PHOTO

Matthew Cook’s drama class, from left to right: Jordan Baker, Sawyer Collins, Jen­nifer Hart, Abby Blundell, Kayla Wat­ton, Belle Sim­mons and Sheri­dan Par­rott.

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