Study underway to see how many remain in the Okanagan
While it is no secret that the Okanagan is a magnet for retirees, an unexplored issue is where the future lies for the younger generation, particularly university graduates. Do they stay after finishing their post-secondary schooling? Can they find work related to their studies? How many graduate and move on to seek employment?
These are a few of the questions Emma Talbott hopes to answer. The University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus graduate student, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in interdisciplinary graduate studies, is embarking on a thesis that will identify the rate of student retention in the Valley.
“‘When I graduate, I have to leave the city,’ is what a lot of (my classmates) tell me,” Talbott says. “I want to find out if they actually left. I suspect more people are sticking around, but not necessarily in their field of education.”
Talbott has sent questionnaires to recent grads and alumni to find out where they are and what they’re doing. Talbot, who graduated in 2010, wants to explore who stayed, who left and whether those who remained found work in their area of study, or took alternate employment to stay in the Okanagan.
Talbott is working with Carlos Teixeira, an associate professor of human geography in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences.
“We will know for the first time what their feelings are,” says Teixeira. “Why did they leave the Valley, why did they stay? We have to do research in order to understand the challenges. We need to look forward. We need to start discussing (challenges) now.”
Talbott suspects the so-called brain drain is a known problem, adding her thesis will also delve into options to keep young adults in the area.
Teixeira says it is the first time a study of this nature has been done by interviewing graduates about the issues they face upon completing their post-secondary education. The arrival of UBC in the Okanagan in 2005 heralded a new era of knowledge for the Valley with some of the greatest minds in the world coming here as faculty and students, he says. The challenge now is figuring out how to keep those young minds in the Okanagan, and that is where the study will play a key role.
Teixeira expects Talbott will provide recommendations to city, provincial and private industry officials once the study is complete.
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