By: Zach Geldert

Trolling through the halls of Main and McDougall, I hastily confronted 14 individuals who were minding their own business with the question that every person ponders from an early age; what do you want to be when you grow up? Some may wonder why would I affront strangers with such as personal question and the answer is that I wanted to understand what students saw in their future in terms of their career goals as well as their life goals. I asked each student what their major was, what they planned on doing after graduating, and where they saw themselves in 10 years (in terms of family and where they would live). The most interesting aspect of these interviews was not just the diversity of career goals but also the general wish, rather than certainty, that they would stay on PEI. In the table below I have aggregated the results.

Faculty Degree after bachelor Wish to stay on PEI Leave but come back to PEI
Arts 4/4 2/4 1/4
Science 7/8 3/8 2/8
Business 0/2 1/2 1/2

As rudimentary as the survey was it indicates a few important issues for university students at UPEI. Firstly, the vast majority of students surveyed feel that they need to pursue a degree after their bachelor’s. Although most of these subsequent degrees are professional degrees it is nonetheless indicative of the fact that students feel that a 4-year degree is no longer sufficient in today’s world.

Secondly, students expressed a withheld willingness to stay, work, and live on PEI. Many students said that their first choice would be to stay on PEI, however, they would only stay if they could find a secure job. Anyone who has lived on PEI for any amount of time is well aware of this perpetual worry. There is no easy solution to this problem. It is a reality that PEI is only so big, thus it can only supply so many jobs and leaving many of our highly educated youth with no other option than to go off-island to find meaningful employment. It is imperative that government and private sector employers recognize this worker emigration. It would be in their best interest to hire the highly skilled youths coming out of university and to ‘return’ skilled islanders to PEI to improve our workforce and overall production of ‘skilled’ goods and services. In terms of those who did not wish to stay on PEI at all expressed a willingness to ‘experience’ more of the world and big city life.

Lastly, and on the bright side, almost all of those who I interviewed expressed a sincere willingness to help others/animals as the reasons for choosing their field of study. This is interesting because one normally assumes that the primary goal of work is to make money. While some skeptics may classify this willingness as the product of ‘idealistic youths’, I believe that our generation will be one in which the emphasis on helping others will be the paramount aspect of work. Seeing as technologies already exist that remove much of the administrative duties that filled the lives of previous generations and free up the time of so many skilled workers to affect meaningful and productive change on our Island and throughout the world.

I would like to thank all of the students interviewed for this article, as they all took time out their studying to talk to me. I would also like to wish all of them the best of luck in their life pursuits and implore everyone to raise your voices publicly about the need for continued skilled job creation on PEI. If the issue remains relevant there is a much stronger likelihood that the government and the private sector will notice that if they do not change, they will be underusing a highly intelligent, caring, and compassionate future workforce.