Summary of This Project
The Beaver County Youth Engagement Strategy project was a two year research project conducted by the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities in partnership with both FCSS organizations in the County, and Alberta Health Services. It was completed March 31, 2017. The purpose of the project was to provide the basis for policy makers and youth programmers in Beaver County, Tofield, Ryley, Holden and Viking to make evidence-based decisions to improve youth engagement, volunteerism, and employability, with an overarching long-term goal of improving youth retention in the region.
Research was conducted with grade 8 to 12 students in the region; and with community members. Additionally, supporting research was conducted on youth employability in the Beaver region; and on the topic of regionalization in general. A Strategy Roadmap was created. It is a comprehensive mapping tool which delineates a pathway, based on the goals and statements of key organizations and communities in Beaver County, to achieving an increase in youth retention and engagement. The Gap Analysis accompanying the Roadmap identifies missing components and any shortcomings, which may inhibit youth retention and engagement, in the goals and vision statements of the organizations and communities.
Three rounds of research were conducted with the students in Ryley, Tofield and Viking Schools. In the first round of research, students identified 1152 assets in their communities. Total number of assets included duplicates: the duplication of an asset indicated the prominence of the asset due to being identified by multiple students. The second round of research involved activity surveys in which students identified how they spent their time outside of school and home: what they did, with whom they did it, for how long they did it, and where. The data from these surveys was analyzed to show the strength of relationships in the variables. For example, it was found that many Senior student activities tend to take place closer to their school town and in smaller groups compared to Junior students.
The final round of research was a workshop in which students identified their current volunteer, engagement and employment; what they are interested in for volunteering, employment and engagement and the barriers to those three things.
One workshop per community was held in each year of the project; and one with the membership of the Beaver Regional Partnership. From these workshops, ten priority goals for youth engagement, employability and volunteerism were identified. Using primary research from the schools and employability survey; and from academic literature, 85 recommendations were developed. As a community that is good for youth is good for everyone, several recommendations reach beyond the youth target population. The recommendations, along with 34 original reports from the research identified above, and several hundred academic literature sources are available in the Beaver County Youth Engagement portal. This resource base will form the basis for action in youth engagement, volunteerism, and employability planning, programming and policy going forward.