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Attention youth: town may need you

Forget all the worries about farmers getting old and retiring.

A recent study shows that a wave of retirements is moving toward rural Canada, but it’ll hit Main Street first.

However, researcher Ray Bollman said that while the retirement of rural professionals and service providers is a danger to small towns and the people who rely upon them, it is also a chance at rural revival and options for youth.

“You might have more opportunities than you thought,” said Bollman, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan and researcher with Brandon University’s Rural Development Institute.

He said farmers aren’t at the top of the soon-to-retire list he and fellow researcher Alessandro Alasia published recently, but many of the service providers they rely upon are.

“It’s the professionals, the people on Main Street, the accountants and doctors and lawyers, that have a higher likelihood of retiring in the next 10 years,” said Bollman.

Crucial business operators also might retire, such as hotel/motel operators and funeral home operators. Those businesses and professionals aren’t always easy to replace.

“Can a rural community maintain those jobs? Will they be able to attract young people to those businesses?” said Bollman.

With the grey wave coming, small towns and aging professionals and business operators need to start thinking about how to convince young people that there are good opportunities in small towns.

Many youth assume there will be no opportunities in their or other small towns, but if business operators or professionals plan to retire in a few years, they can let young people from the community know that jobs and businesses might be opening up.

Bollman said some could be attracted to summer jobs at small town offices if they believe it might lead to a partnership or taking over a business in future.

But it’s up to the small towns, the businesses and professionals to make sure the young people know that opportunities may soon be arising.

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