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The Millennial Way: Why young Islanders leave

Understanding millennials
Understanding millennials

Millennials, which include anyone born after 1980, continue to fascinate Gen Xers (aged 36-50) and baby boomers (aged 51-65). Just yesterday, I noticed that a video of Simon Sinek, a Gen Xer, speaking about millennial entitlement was shared six times among some of my Gen X and boomer Facebook friends and almost 900,000 times over all.

But millennials are not just a curiosity – they are the most important players in the P.E.I. government’s efforts to stop our rampant youth exodus, and in the P.E.I. Francophone and Acadian organizations network population growth strategy.

But millennials are not just a curiosity – they are the most important players in the P.E.I. government’s efforts to stop our rampant youth exodus, and in the P.E.I. Francophone and Acadian organizations network population growth strategy.

Policy makers and government officials are resolute: we need to create more jobs for our youth. However, a closer look at what makes millennials tick reveals that there is maybe more to their P.E.I. malaise than meets the eye.

The “mystery” of millennials has been explored in such magazines as Forbes and Times, and the characteristics associated with the young generation include laziness, anxiousness and most importantly, entitlement. But Katharine MacDonald, a P.E.I resident who is writing her M.A. thesis on the drivers of P.E.I. outmigration finds this discourse troubling; “it’s light on the context and heavy on the content,” she says. MacDonald urges older generations to examine the (economic, social) conditions under which millennials are expected to reach the same milestones as their forebears, and to make comparisons between generations more fairly.

In a similar vein, I think the answer to keeping young people here and to getting along with millennials is one and the same: boomers and Gen Xers need to appreciate the unique and cutting edge values of millennials. Unlike baby boomers and Gen Xers, millennials “own” and even celebrate who and what they are, even if it is conventionally frowned upon (all non-normative identity markers, past “failures” such as divorce, addictions, debts, etc.). By extension, millennials also see great value in courageous public displays of vulnerability, something that is especially horrifying and forbidden among boomer and Gen X value systems. Lastly, in contrast to older generations, young people see risk-taking as not only a virtue, but a necessity in our current gig economy.

Once these untraditional values are understood as refreshing, progressive and smart by older generations, millennials will feel like they can be themselves here and the structural changes to our workforce will follow. What I suggest is not necessarily a straight-forward growth in job creation under existing structures, but a rhizomatic, diversification of workforce culture and structure, beginning with culture. Specifically we need an appreciation for new approaches, entrepreneurial spirit and number and quality of achievements as opposed to total number of years worked.

- Natalie Pendergast, Ph.D., of Oyster Bed Bridge, works as a communications officer in Prince Edward Island. She shares her unique perspective as an anglophone working in the francophone community with Journal Pioneer readers, and the reflects on current affairs pertaining to la francophonie in her bi-weekly column.

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