Lack of jobs and study opportunities forcing people out of Derry

Deaglan Long.
Deaglan Long.
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Dozens of Derry professionals have spoken of how a lack of employment and study opportunities at home, has forced them to move abroad, in a new study honing in on emigration.

A survey has been conducted by local Quantity Surveyor, Deaglan Long and forms part of wider research to pin down why so many young people leave Derry, or are planning to do so, and what can be done to stop the draining of the city’s talent.

Over 70 young professionals have now completed the ‘Emigration from Derry/ Londonderry’ survey, among them young teachers, engineers, architects, legal and medical professionals, with most aged between 18 and 30.

Mr. Long, who had to go to Scotland and England to find internships and employment himself before getting a job back home, said a key finding from the research that over 65 per cent of those surveyed would want to come home if the opportunities were there.

He said: “There are a lot of people that still like here and want to be here but they just can’t due to the economic conditions.

“The mentality of the people of the town is if you want a good job you have to go and that is something that is evident. You are lucky to get a job at all and if you are third level educated it is all but inevitable you have to move away.”

Around a fifth of those who responded now live in Belfast, while the others are scattered across Europe, America, the Middle East Canada, Australia and New Zealand, most only returning home for holidays, and 10% having never come back.

Most of those surveyed said their decision to leave was due to lack of job and study opportunities at home.

Almost every person asked about what they wanted to see in Derry called for more jobs, decent wages and/or investment, with one person saying the city needed an “increase in jobs opportunities to retain top talent and make it easier for students to return to Derry, rather than leave to England, Ireland and beyond”.

Others called for the decentralisation of civil service jobs to Derry.

One person said they left for employment elsewhere as the only jobs they could find locally after graduating was call centre work.

Numerous respondents also called for expanded or new university provision in terms of courses, students places and connections to colleges internationally, hubs for start-up businesses, and improved transport infrastructure.

Others said that they would like to see an end to political divisions, a more diverse social scene and nightlife, and investment in local youth and programmes that attract people back to the city after graduating, and better air connectivity, and one-hour journeys to Belfast.

Many of the respondents said the biggest difference they have found was in the people, with many missing the friendliness of Derry.

Speaking about the results, Mr Long said: “The two things which were the biggest surprise - 20% of the people had just moved to Belfast, so they are literally up the road, so we have got the exact same tax, the exact same situation as them, so why are the companies going up there and not here, when we are supposed to be the second city?

“The other thing that jumped out at me was over 65% said they would move back to Derry if they had the opportunity. There are a lot of people that still like here and want to be here but they just can’t due to the economic conditions. So what can we start to do here to make Derry a more interesting place for them to move back to?”

Speaking about the wider economic situation in the city, Mr Long said: “The mentality of the people of the town is if you want a good job you have to go and that is something that is evident.

“You are lucky to get a job at all and if you are third level educated it is all but inevitable you have to move away.

“That points to bigger issues here with the university provision, and the courses offered here to attract bigger employers.

“What seems to happen is most people who move away end up coming out of university in whatever city they are in and staying there because there is nothing here to drive them back.

“All we are doing is training our young people to go away and service a different economy.

“There’s a big problem here and it’s political, social and economical. We need to address all three.”