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City Data Show Young Talent Leaving Town as Calgary Stagnates

Young people in Calgary are moving on, with census data picking up a demographic shift driven in part by the decline of the city’s dominant industry.

“Calgary has historically been a young city, with a median age well below the national average and a youthful dynamic to match,” CBC reports. “But the census data shows the city is aging—and quickly—with so much of the recent population growth weighted to the 55-plus crowd.”

Although the city has grown 20% in the last decade, with a net population increase of almost 250,000, municipal data show the number of 20- to 25-year-olds falling by 4,400, or 5.5%. And some of the interviews CBC collected last week might help explain why.

“Every time I talk with family back in Calgary, it seems like it’s a little depressing right now,” said Nicole Newhouse, 24, who left for university in 2014 and has no plans to come back. “Calgary, I feel, is just very old and stagnant.”

“It’s a lot of people who don’t really see a future for themselves there,” agreed former Calgarian Chloe Loblaw, 20, who now studies at McMaster University in Hamilton. “They don’t want to work in oil and gas—either because of the environmental implications of it or they just don’t really see a future in that field —and feel like if they live in Calgary, that’s kind of a written-in-stone future for them. So they felt the need to move away.”

Calgary Career Counselling President Dr. Laura Hambley told CBC she hears the same story over and over again. “She says many young people who come to her organization in search of career advice say they would like to stay in Calgary but aren’t sure it’s realistic,” the national broadcaster writes.

“We’re hearing concern and worry and fear,” she said. “They want to choose careers that are viable and where there will be employment,” and “we’re seeing lots of stories about young people who are bright and who have worked hard at post-secondary and yet cannot get a position.”

With a “war for talent” under way across North America, Hambley it’s a “real risk for organizations” if they fail to recruit and develop new talent. But their bigger problem might be the more diverse living experiences available to Calgary expats in other communities.

“The art scene here, I find, is more vibrant than it was in Calgary,” Loblaw said. “That’s something that’s really important to me and important to a lot of young people—the feeling that you can go out and do fun things.”

Newhouse said she’s finding more and more to like about Toronto.

“The office life is a lot younger, and everyone I work with has a master’s or a PhD, which is very different from anything I’ve done in Calgary,” she told CBC. “In all my jobs there, we used software platforms from, like, 1995 or something like that, which is when I was born, and it just doesn’t seem like anything is really moving. I feel like Toronto is just way more lively right now.”