Encouraging young people to build a future in rural communities is key to a resilient economy and in offering a prosperous future for these areas.

As our recent podcast featuring the Rural Youth Project revealed, pioneering projects like this are providing a lifeline to many young people in these areas.

As a young person living in a rural community, Amy Stinton, from our consultancy team talks about her experience of growing up and establishing a career in one of England’s most rural and sparsely populated counties, Herefordshire.

“From a personal perspective I’m very fortunate to be rurally born and bred and, importantly to have had the opportunity to develop a career here.”

The Rural Youth Project survey in 2018, showed that while it’s challenging for young people to build a life in rural communities, only 26% want to move to urban areas for better career opportunities. This shows that with the correct support, young people have the appetite and drive to keep rural communities on their feet.

“For me, growing up on a farm and with a passion for agriculture, led me to Harper Adams University, based in the neighbouring county of Shropshire. This was a stepping stone into a career at communications agency, Pinstone.

“While much of the work is related to the farming sector, it actually saw me enter the PR and communications sector – a career that’s more generally a city-based opportunity.

“But that’s not the case for most, which is why the Rural Youth Project caught my attention as a way to support and fight the corner for young people in rural areas.

“If we can retain the energy and ideas that young people bring, it can only be good for the local economy and wellbeing in the countryside. Likewise, offering the training and opportunities that allow people to grow and develop in their roles.

“It may be that the new era of more homebased working will open up far more of the country and give more young people the chance to build a career and life in beautiful rural areas like Herefordshire.”

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Rural Youth Project

The Rural Youth Project was launched in 2018, driven by the concern of the lack of young people staying in rural areas. It was the topic of an episode of Pinstone’s Agri Food Comms-Cast, that welcomed the director and co-founder of the project, Jane Craigie, and project and communications officer, Alana Black.

They set out the challenge, describing how when people move to urban areas in search of careers and affordable housing, they also take their knowledge, enthusiasm and income, which can put the rural community under threat.

This project allows employers, the community and government to understand why young people live where they do, why they leave and why they return, which is key to develop and improve the sustainability of the rural community and encourage people to remain.

The Rural Youth Project research in 2018, was completed by 755 people between the age of 18 and 28 and they highlighted that the main concerns for young people are:

  • Affordable and suitable housing
  • Connectivity
  • The capability to be able to secure a job with an affordable income

“In 2018, 72% of young people were really optimistic about their futures in the rural community, but since the pandemic, in September 2020, this has now halved,” said Jane.

“However, young people want to remain in rural areas and their desire to move to urban areas hasn’t increased with Covid, but they feel that they need the resources to be able to stay, such as housing and jobs.”

Another interesting question was around what support young people would like to see from the government.

The response was access to better mental health services as well as more enterprise support, so young people have the capability to build their businesses and diversify.

Jane and Alana were clear that society needs to address these issues and recognise that young people are fundamental to the sustainability and resilience of the rural economy and its communities.

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