How many of us want to be close to home in the last years of our life? I believe most of us want to be close to our home and the place where we were born. Humans have a strong homing instinct. So how can we develop our home if we spend our youth and middle age in a far-away place? This brings me to the concept of bringing employment opportunities to the people rather than people to the employment opportunities.
I once saw a picture of a community in the Northern part of Saskatchewan. It had about a hundred houses. When I searched for more pictures, I came across one that was taken about a century ago. It had about seven houses. So, the growth rate for this community is about ninety houses in as many years i.e. 1 per year. As the community grows so will the infrastructure such as buildings, roads, water, sewer, healthcare and public facilities. In a hundred years there is 1 school, 1 health care facility, a few kilometers of roads, water, sewer and 1 water treatment plant. Briefly, if we see the span of 100 years, it is not much and the development per year is minimal. If this is planned well, it is possible to create and maintain this facility with a small amount of money. But more so, this is also a job creating facility. At least 25% of the community can be gainfully employed for the creation and maintenance of this facility.
What about the remaining 75%? Let us say that about 50% will be unavailable due to schooling and old age. So, another 25% are still waiting to be gainfully employed. If the opportunities are away from their home, it will begin a slow migration away and take away the opportunity of growing this community. Eventually this community will wither and soon may not be able to flourish. That is why we have to make all efforts to bring employment to the people rather than bring people to the employment.
There are many ways to bring employment to the people. Arts & crafts and tourism are the traditional exports from small communities. It is now time to look beyond the traditional ways with newer technologies and electronic communication. Processing and manufacturing, energy generation and software development are areas that are within reach of even the smallest communities today. In the beginning, the prices may not be attractive, yet if the communities persevere they can carve a small niche in the huge market. The similarity of time zones, closeness to the market and quicker acceptance in the market provide a strong competitive advantage that can be leveraged to gain market entry as compared to overseas products.
Food processing and small unit assembly are items that can be given increased attention to find suitable opportunities for implementing this idea. Under small unit assembly, low technology- high labour items may help with the initial product identification. If each community decides to be self sufficient in power generation or water use, they could then use the money for other projects. And finally, software: it is a great equaliser in the market place when it is combined with innovative idea. All the three areas of Processing/Manufacturing, Power/Water generation and Software could be used for the development of that community. This will help to retain the young work force and enable the older population to transfer their culture and knowledge as well as live in their own community till their very end.
As an engineer and a project manager, the answers to these questions form the basis of my contribution to the community. I present these views to exchange ideas that I have collected over my travels half way across the world.
Hemant Anand P.Eng PMP
B.Sc Eng MMS MPM