The team behind a new pilot study examining youth attitudes towards emigration have said they are shocked by the results.
Local youth and community workers, Kat Healy and Darren O’Reilly, were speaking after processing the data from the first batch of survey and interview results from 124 young people from different backgrounds and hailing from right across Derry.
The team now aims to move out into more schools, colleges, training and youth organisations across the city to create a baseline to help map the employment, study and social needs of local young people.
Darren O’Reilly is Youth Co-Ordinator at the Rosemount Youth Forum and an Independent Derry City & Strabane District Councillor, while Kat works with the Foyle Race Equality Forum and a host of other youth and community-based organisations across the city.
Kat and Darren said that the youth study is a baseline of people who haven’t yet moved away and with no real connection to employment or college as yet.
“To get a better understanding, we looked at the possibilities of them leaving, and why they would like to leave. Then we looked at seeing how that can be broken down,” Darren said.
Kat said the reason for doing the research was because they became aware of the aspiration for migration “as a phenomenon in discussions we were having with young people from right across the region.”
Speaking about the survey results, she said: “It’s much worse than we thought it was.
“Less than 5 per cent want to stay here and that is from right across the age profile, the different ethnic, political, geographic and class backgrounds - there’s no one part of the population that is more likely to stay.
“The other thing is, it’s not just an indefinite plan most of them have. Most of them have actually looked at what they want to do when they leave. It’s thought through. They are specifying the places they want to go; why they want to go there; what training or job they want out of it.”
She added: “I think the biggest factor is economic. We asked the question of whether this was legacy issue, sectarian issue and substantially, it is not.
“It is a lack of opportunities and resources here and seeing economic upturn outside of the north west.”
Kat added: “The other worrying thing is, I would work a large part of the time with black and ethnic minorities and migrant young people, many of them are first generation - their parents moved to Derry for better opportunities, typically with the hospital - and now their children are going to be first generation migrants going the other way.
“These are people from all over the world, whose families moved here and now feel very included in Derry, even have Derry accents, but they won’t stay.”
Speaking about the youth survey, Darren said: “The main thing is how many people, different demographics, different backgrounds. all want to leave the city. It’s alarming.
For us it’s frightening.
“A percentage of the people we have been talking to see older siblings, neighbours, friends, family members who have moved away. They are comparing the quality of life they have outside the city compared to people who have stayed. The opportunities outside the city are greater, and that is a deciding factor in them wanting to leave the town.
“What we are trying to do is a develop a grass roots, community response to an issue that I think is a regional issue.”
Early studies suggest that among those wishing to progress to university, many see Belfast as a better alternative for study, with Liverpool also a popular choice.
“This study is going away and looking at what courses would they be looking to do and are they available in the city, so it is also mapping for future purposes so that we can contact the likes of local universities and say if there is a high demand of young people leaving for specific courses, and see why they can’t be facilitated in the city,” Darren said.
The research team have been tying in with other surveys conducted by local quantity surveyors among Derry people who have already left the city and made new lives elsewhere.
Mr. Long spoke last week of how he hoped to set up a ‘Boxpark’ shipping container-type retail development at Fort George to help grow indigenous local businesses and develop new start ups, which would in turn train up young people to a professional standard so that they can help carve out careers for the future.
The idea has been backed by numerous local businesses and endorsed by Kat and Darren.
Darren said the BoxPark proposal was a great example of a project that could have a positive impact on the lives of those for whom university is not an option.
“We are also looking at young people who might be looking at moving away for employment, who might not necessarily have a lot of qualifications or skills or training.
“What we are looking at is identifying how we can facilitate some projects and programmes here that can give them the training and expertise to be able to have some core skills.
“What we are seeing now locally too is a lot of Facebook businesses set up and young people with ideas, and I think if we had the BoxPark it would be a way of encouraging those young people to bring their ideas into a social setting.
“It’s a step process into actual businesses in the city.
“What we would be focusing on is specific training for specific business future planning; of identifying what Derry can be a niche market for, and putting the resources into that and trying to forecast where we can bring in STEM and looking at alternative industries and looking at future industries.”
Kat adds that the BoxPark could be “sort of a hub because they can share their skills across different specialities, so if there are people doing an I.T. business locally, or marketing, they have access to the rest of the business models there”. Both agree that there seems to be a major disconnect between the young people and those with the power to make decisions that affect the and their future.
Kat said: “We have been involved in a number of youth consultation events where the people in power and the people in decision making processes were not able at all to even speak the same language as the young people they were talking to. They weren’t even asking the right questions.
“We have young people that are willing to engage with decision makers as often as they are asked, but people become frustrated when you see nothing happen or expectations aren’t managed properly.
“It’s not that there is a lack of willingness to participate it just gets lost in translation.”
Darren adds: “They need to see a wee bit of light and a wee bit of hope and that somebody is doing something in partnership with them to help them. They have no agenda, all they are looking for is better opportunities.”