How can Winchester attract and retain young people?

Liveblogged notes from the #WinchBiz session on attracting and retaining young people in Winchester. Prone to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax.

Why do events like WinchBiz have so few under-35s present? it’s just as much their city and future, so how can we get them to engage with the city — and see it as their future? The council finds this a frustration, as well, according to session moderator Kate.

Cost of living is always going to be a factor – and that’s not just housing prices. It’s accommodation and theatre tickets and… They need jobs that pay well enough to keep them here. And many of the bottom end salaries for creative careers in Winchester just don’t attract the right level of talent, because it’s so expensive here. The theatre has had to put some extra money in the salary pot for deal with it.

Could we have a fund that supports new young people to establish themselves in the first couple of years in their career? Part of the problem is that Winchester’s economy is very public sector dependent. And public sectors tarting salaries tend to be quite low. And that brings us back to affordable housing. That’s going to be needed for apprenticeships, as well.

But at least one attendee found that students were uninterested in taking up jobs here.

Is Winchester just too… boring?

Another attendee has two 20-something sons in IT, but one is in Shoreditch in an exciting, cool co-operative space. London’s expensive, but Winchester’s expensive and boring. The Festivals people are talking about aren’t the ones that attract young people. How do you address this? We need good spaces which feel vibrant. The central regeneration needs to look at this. Another attendee’s daughters at University in Manchester, has no intention of moving back here because “it’s like being dead”. She only goes out at 11pm, and there’s no option for that in Winchester.

At a recent regeneration workshop, the issue of a lack of places for young people to hang out was given as a problem. There’s no-one safe for them to go. There’s nowhere cool for them to go.

“Young People” are not an homogenous group, suggested another attendee. Those that have means can hang out on coffee bars, those that don’t go to McDonald’s for the free wifi – and get kicked out after 20 minutes. How do we create a culture that appeals to different groups of people? We need to be more inclusive.

Indeed, the demographics are showing that, on average, they’re taking drugs and drinking less than previous generations.

The university and the college of art seem very separate from the city. Students making a decision to stay or go are one group. There’s other local young people. The answers to keeping them here are going to depend on the demographics, and we need to understand those before we seek solutions. The Southern Policy Centre is starting work on research on that area.

Does Winchester have what young people want?

We need to talk to the people who aren’t here as much as the ones who are here. But we also have to be realistic about what we can do – many young people just don’t want what Winchester has to offer, and Winchester doesn’t be any to add what they want – like chain restaurants and big out-of-town destinations.

Live music is one thing that attracts some young people, and venues here in Winchester are under threat.

Should we be concentrating more on the 24 and 30 year old postgraduates with relevant skills?

You have to give people a reason to be here. Young people are incredibly creative. Salary and accommodation are no barrier if they have reasons to want to be in a place. Is this a for Ron ambition? Is it actually worth trying to be a funky, cool place for young people to be.

Maybe we’re a place for the older demographic?

It’s hard to appeal to everyone – maybe we need to accept that they won’t come back until their mid-30s. We could be looking at the wrong demographic.

It isn’t just one thing that makes a place cool. You need places and activities and paces, that attract other people. How old do you have to be to want to live in Winchester. Is it terribly boring to use “nice place to raise kids” as a reason to retain our graduates?

Let’s not forget those who aren’t going to university. Can we keep those local people? Can we bring the jobs that are out there to their attention? How do we get them into local careers, and let them grow in Winchester? Many of those need just a helping hand for certain employers, like apprenticeships, or part-time work, to get them into the workforce.

Any solution is going to be complicated, because only focusing on one issue won’t allow us to make the changes we need.

Do we really need to create new things? Or do we need to communicate what we’ve got better.

One attendee pointed out that we hadn’t talked entrepreneurism. Why would a young entrepreneur come to WInchester? Part of the problem is the costs of space or shops in the city – it can compare to London. There’s nowhere affordable for 20 graduates to come and start an entrepreneurial fashion or creative business in Winchester.

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