Londonderry’s young, and life in the land Down Under

JOB opportunities in Londonderry, like many towns and cities, have been affected by the economic downturn and with universities churning out graduates, there are few jobs to satisfy the demand.

With more and more young people finding themselves in a difficult position, competing with hundreds of others for the few jobs available, some have chosen to seek employment in foreign countries.

Australia attracts thousands of young people every year, those from Northern Ireland are included in the UK figure of 25, 274 permanent migrants arriving in Australia in the 2011/12 financial year. This makes the UK the second source of settler arrivals, just behind New Zealand.

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One of those who left Londonderry in hope of seeking more promising job prospects is 25-year-old Jessica Jackson. Now a psychiatric nurse living in Melbourne, Jessica said Australia “opened up another world” for her.

She said: “When I was 19 I came to Melbourne for a holiday to visit family. My intended stay was for three weeks and I ended up staying three months. I fell in love with the lifestyle, weather and optimistic career opportunities and I felt this was an exciting place to live. I returned home and saved for 12 months and returned to Melbourne a year later. I have been here for just over four years.”

According to figures published by the Australian Government’s Department of Citizenship and Emigration, July to December 2011 saw 8,439 people from the UK emigrate to Australia, with Western Australia being the most popular area to settle. Included in this figure were 2,119 students on temporary stay visas.

Jessica added:”I think that young people from Northern Ireland are like any young people around the world, they crave adventure and experience. I would have to say career, weather and lifestyle are the three main things that would attract a person to move to Australia. I think Londonderry is a beautiful and historic place. A place that I am very proud to say I come from. But I think it lacks that excitement that young people crave.”

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The Australian Government statistics also show that in 2010/2011, there were 574,743 temporary entry visitors from the UK living in Australia.

Jessica added: “I know lots of people that have moved from Northern Ireland to Australia to live but also on working holiday visas. Two of my best friends in Australia are actually two Londonderry girls. What I have found in Australia no matter what part you are in, is that when you hear that someone from home is here there is a sense of solidarity. I have become good friends with a lot of young people from home that I didn’t know that I have met in Melbourne.”

It is not all bad news for Londonderry, research featured on the Ilex Urban Regeneration website states there are over 42,000 people employed in the city. It also shows that during the economic boom of 2005-2007, there was an employment growth of 4.6 per cent, exceeding the Northern Ireland rate of 4 per cent. However, according to research released by Derry City Council in 2012, there were 295 unemployed claimants with a degree or Higher National Diploma in the city, a factor that may cause graduates to consider emigration.

The problem of highly skilled, unemployed people hasn’t gone unrecognised. Tina Gillespie, Acting Strategy Manager for Derry City Council, and the Kickstart to Work programme says: “As unemployment increases, there are a greater number of competitors competing for the same jobs. We need to create an economy that is good for employment and also offers a good quality of life to persuade people to stay.”

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However, from the perspective of Yasmin Robinson, 22 from Londonderry, not enough is being done.

She said: “I have been wanting to go for quite a while now, I never got round to saving until now. My boyfriend and I will hopefully be going within the next few months. I want to do a bit of travelling and then get a job, I think it definitely offers better job opportunities than over here. If there were more graduate programmes and job opportunities here then there would be no need for so many people to move away.”

Jessica Jackson expressed a similar opinion, she said: “I think that young people all over the world are searching for that adventure and will always travel. But I think that if Londonderry had prosperous job opportunities for young people then they would be more inclined to stay to further their career.

“I know people at home who have law degrees but they are working in a bar due to ‘no work’. So people feel the need to emigrate to get work to utilise their degree and develop a sense of worth and achievement.

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“The financial stresses on the economic climate in Northern Ireland have also not helped.”

The development in technology has made it less of a ‘big deal’ but perhaps no less daunting for people emigrating to such faraway places.

Jessica said: “I miss my family every day. My mum especially, she has been my ‘rock’ through my whole experience in Australia. Her wise words have been full of encouragement and guidance, but we speak on the phone and text nearly everyday.

“My brothers, sisters and I use Skype, which has been a great way to keep in touch. I also miss my friends, and not being able to be there for them in big events in their life.

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“But I am very proud of them all and we catch up regularly. I have to say there is one more thing I do miss about home and that’s a ‘chicken ball special’ from the Rice Bowl!”

When asked what advice she would give to any young person considering venturing to Australia, Jessica said: “I would encourage any young person in Northern Ireland to at least come and experience Australia.

“I would say research where you want to go in Australia and know what you want from your experience. Every region of Australia is quite different.

“Attempt to have a job set up before you arrive because I have seen people struggle when they have come to Australia and not been able to get a job for a couple of weeks. It would be also good to go somewhere where you know somebody that can show you around. I feel like I am constantly learning and moving forward, moving here really changed my life.”