Our future success rests in the hands of our youth

Students experimenting in class.

With the world’s population expected to rise significantly over the next few decades, there will be an increasing need for innovative solutions to feed more people and care for a rapidly aging demographic. In 2017, Bayer Canada partnered with Let’s Talk Science, a local non-profit focused on encouraging more youth to expand interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers.

The world’s population has grown significantly over the past century rising from around 1 billion in 1900 to over 7 billion today. The population growth that occurred over the 20th century was three times greater than all population growth that occurred prior to 1900. Over the next 40 years, we are expected to make way for close to 3 billion more people, largely driven by growth in more impoverished areas of the globe, such as Africa and India.

In addition, Canadians and indeed a majority of countries across the world are also bracing for what will be a much older generation of inhabitants. Seniors in Canada are expected to account for 25 per cent of our country’s population by 2050 and other nations like Japan, Germany and South Korea will experience a median age that is over 50. In fact, in 2017 there were more seniors than children under 15 living in Canada – a first in census history.

Seniors in Canada

Seniors in Canada are expected to account for 25 per cent of our country’s population by 2050.

So what does this mean and why is it of concern?

According to experts who presented their findings at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, the world will need to grow 60% more food by 2050 to meet population demands, despite how challenging it is expected to be for farmers and growers. Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures demonstrated that “nearly 33% of the world’s arable land has been lost to erosion or pollution in the last 40 years,” meaning that there is an overwhelming need to find a way to grow more food with less resources.

Comparatively speaking, health system analysts are also predicting an increase in demand on health care expenditures as nations scramble to put in place more supports to grapple with the needs of a rapidly aging demographic. Historically speaking, seniors have been known to account for a disproportionate amount of health system spending given the complexity and frequency of disease, as well as other health conditions. Seniors often rely on numerous levels of medical intervention and social supports to help stay healthy and active. So, similar to the need for more food production, health systems will also have to adapt in order to provide more services with less available resources.

There’s no question that with so many challenges ahead, the future will rely greatly on more innovation and creative ideas, and who better to live up to that challenge than our younger generations. In fact, Bayer, who has a robust youth and summer student program, is focused on developing solutions to these very same issues.

Canadian organizations like Let’s Talk Science are looking to help stimulate creative thinking amongst our youth in an effort to tackle issues like these down the line. The organization’s mantra is to inspire a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) amongst younger generations. According to the organization’s website, approximately 70 per cent of Canada’s top jobs, from health care to skilled trades, require some level of STEM education and yet less than 50 per cent of high school students are graduating with senior courses in STEM.

“Canadian youth need to prepare in new ways for the evolving citizenship and work demands of the 21st century. Too many students continue to disengage in science studies despite the growing importance of STEM skills” said Bonnie Schmidt, president and founder of Let’s Talk Science. “Although we are encouraged by the positive outcomes of our elementary and secondary school programs and recent improvements in post-secondary STEM participation rates there is always more to do.”

In 2017, Bayer Canada undertook a review of its community support efforts, engaging employees to help define the partner they would most like to work with. Overwhelmingly, employees decided to partner with Let’s Talk Science, recognizing strong affiliation with the company’s global purpose, “Science for a Better Life.”

All around us we are witnessing an increasing need for more innovation and more creative thinking.

“All around us we are witnessing an increasing need for more innovation and more creative thinking,” said Derrick Rozdeba, Vice President of Communications, Public and Government Affairs at Bayer. “Whether it’s the need to come up with solutions to the world’s hunger problems or to develop medicines in support a growing aging population, our employees felt a strong connection and are excited to support Let’s Talk Science.”

In early 2018, Bayer-Canada made its first $150,000 donation to support the efforts of Let’s Talk Science and so far the support is being put to good use.

To date, the non-profit has developed partnerships with school boards and post-secondary sites across the country including its most recent partnership, the First Nations University of Canada in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The focus of Let’s Talk Science’s partnership with the First Nations University of Canada is incredibly unique and forward thinking, especially given that Canada’s indigenous communities have grown four times faster than their non-indigenous counterparts since 2007, according to Statistics Canada. Blending indigenous science and oral traditions with experiential learning and STEM, the partners will look to enhance community collaboration, as well as training and awareness with communities and education centres throughout Saskatchewan for the benefit of primary and secondary students.

“We are excited about where this partnership could take us,” concluded Schmidt. “We believe that our youth offer considerable hope for the future and it is through our collective efforts to further engage and excite them that we believe we will come up with the next generation of creative thinkers, ready to take on the challenges of tomorrow.”