Businesses often list “the next generation” or “youth” as a priority within their plans but how much do we really know about this audience, and how many businesses spend the time to find out what their real challenges and aspirations are?
The research to date amongst rural young people, both nationally and internationally, has been fragmented, but what we do know is that rural areas have a lower percentage of 16–34 -year-olds and evidence suggests that migration of young people away from rural areas hinges on education, employment opportunities, housing and public transport availability. These areas, among others, are critical for the social and economic future of a local community.
Inspired by our participation in leadership initiatives, including the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme and the Windsor Leadership Programme, my colleague Jane Craigie and I have launched this Rural Youth Project to fulfil this research gap, and give rural youth a voice both here in Scotland and internationally.
The research, which will be carried out in England, Scotland, Wales, Austria, Australia, Canada, Sweden and the USA during 2018, has been designed to research and better understand rural youth between the ages of 18–28.
We firmly believe rural young people are fundamental to the vibrancy, energy and economic outlook of rural places. We want to better understand what young people perceive their challenges and opportunities to be, as well as gaining a better understanding of their degree of optimism for the future.
The project, which will be repeated in 2019–22, will aim to identify and engage young rural leaders to help them drive positive change within their local rural communities - together we can make sure rural youth have a voice.