For the most part, the sessions I went to were of high quality and, overall, the event was well organized. The people I met were friendly and extremely passionate about the issues at hand. If anything, the event reaffirmed to me that I want to do this kind of 'stuff'. I want to create a better world. Oh, and I'd like my future to be as good as my parents had it - all 'wants' are selfish, right?
At the Summit, Sadhu Johnston, the City of Vancouver's Deputy City Manager, gave the keynote speech. In it, he highlighted his career and why he does what he does. One thing that really interested me was a program in Chicago (where he last worked) called the Mayor's Office Fellowship Program for graduate students. He explained how they would work on interesting projects for this city (green initiatives, housing, transportation, etc.). Vancouver started a very similar program this year called the Greenest City Scholars. Then I thought, why just graduate students?
A side-note before I go any further: at the BC Youth Summit, I was somewhat in the minority because I wasn't in school and my degree wasn't in planning, engineering, geography, or environmental sciences. Sometimes, I think that's what is keeping me from getting my foot in the door in planning but I don't let that deter me. I'm going to get there but it may take me a bit longer than others (McGill and Ryerson don't know what they're missing!)
Back to it:
At the end of his presentation, I posed him that exact question. It seemed to stump him. Why not have a similar program for people not in school (re: formal education) but with either the experience or passion to do the same kind of work? Really, I'm asking, "what about me!?" He talked about a deal that the City of Vancouver made with UBC that involved wood-chips. However, I think I have a legitimate point. Why don't we search for talent outside the traditional sources? We seem to think that only people with a piece of paper can do the job and I'd say if you open yourself up to other options, you'd be pleasantly surprised.
The SFU/City of Surrey Transportation Lecture Program I attended last year is a great model to start with (they're accepting applications and I highly suggest it). It allowed people in the community with a passion for transportation/urban planning (from all different kinds of backgrounds) to learn from city professionals about how things work. It was well worth the $50 I paid.
Cities and organizations need to be creative and flexible. People are willing to provide their time and talent but can't because they may not meet certain criteria deemed necessary. The youth of today are ready and we're waiting.