Some soon-to-be graduates are looking to leave, despite love for their home

By Miranda McGregor

Adventure, employment, and relationships are drawing some of Manitoba’s young professionals out-of-province, despite their reluctance to leave.

Kennedy Woitas, a 25-year-old diagnostic medical sonography student at Red River College Polytechnic, is considering a position in Edmonton, Alta. Her class is being recruited by out-of-province employers from Alberta and British Columbia.

“These other jobs out of province are actually offering to pay to further our education to help us specialize in different types of ultrasounds, which would make me a more desirable candidate if I wanted to come back to Manitoba,” she said.

Payworks indicates Manitoba has the third lowest minimum wage in the country, ahead of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, at $11.95 an hour.

The private Edmonton company is offering better wages and benefits totalling more than $30,000 to entice upcoming graduates. Woitas said she’ll miss her dog and the Winnipeg community, but without a lot of full-time sonography positions available in Winnipeg, she can’t justify passing up this offer.

In 2019, Statistics Canada reported that Manitoba’s median household income fell below Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. And Manitoba ranks outside the top 10 best places to live in Canada, according to Numbeo.

Regardless of these statistics, some graduates still struggle to leave the place they call home.

“I wanted to stay here, I’m really close with my family, and I have amazing friends, so I didn’t want to leave. But in the back of my mind, I thought I could because I’m still young and I’m single and it wouldn’t be a big deal,” she said.

David Sims, a 2021 graduate of The University of Winnipeg education program, took a teaching position in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut and moved in September 2021.

Manitoba teacher David Sims ventures out on an Arctic Ocean sea ice trip off the shore of Broughton Island with the RCMP on Sunday January 30, 2022. Sims left Winnipeg in September 2021 to experience teaching, and living, in a northern community./DAVID SIMS

“It wasn’t wanting to get out of Winnipeg at all. I wanted to give myself an experience in an alternative school setting,” he said.

The pros of job security heavily impacted his decision to move, even against the cons of living in a remote community and navigating a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend, he said. He signed an indeterminate contract and is being paid close to twice what he’d be making in Winnipeg.

“I’d always been curious about opportunities in the North, whether that was northern Manitoba or in the territories. I always thought it’d be a really cool thing to do; especially when I’m young and have mobility,” he added.

Noah Boonov, a 23-year-old theatre and film student at The University of Winnipeg, is looking for acting and artist in residence jobs in Ottawa, Ont., where her long-time partner just secured employment.

“I don’t really want to leave. I really like Winnipeg. Being in a long-distance relationship, I’m learning the sacrifices you might have to make to keep this relationship in balance,” she said.

Boonov worries about losing her hard-earned networked connections and the cost of living in Ottawa but is optimistic about succeeding in a new city and being reconnecting with her boyfriend.

Boonov expects to graduate in June, and Woitas in August.