‘It takes a village’
Kentville Police, Dalhousie partner for Mentoring Plus program
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.”