There’s a saying in business: “It’s easier to keep your current customers than it is to attract new ones.” The same is true in workforce/talent development; it is more cost-effective to focus on retaining the young talent already living, studying, and working in your city than to convince new migrants to relocate to your city.
With this in mind, we are seeing a huge shift in the conversation of “brain drain” from one focused on young professionals currently in the workforce, to one focused on “emerging” professionals - soon to be college grads - yet to reach the workforce.
Many of us live in a city that produces hundreds to thousands of college graduates each year. And many of us live in a city where college graduates may be our biggest export. Sound familiar?
In the state of Michigan, nearly 50 percent of the more than 300,000 students educated by its 15 public universities will leave the state upon graduation for opportunities beyond state borders (Source: "Slowing the Brain Drain", by Dustin Walsh).
College graduates provide a city a big opportunity to increase their Talent Dividend (Source: "How to add $1.6 billion to the region's economy," by Jeff Syroney). In fact, last year Carol Coletta of CEOs for Cities held a Talent Dividend Tour to shine the light on how shifting the entire educational distribution curve just 1 percent to the right offers a city varying degrees of economic impact. For a city like Cincinnati, OH, 1 percent adds approximately 14,500 more students with four-year degrees to the area, creating an economic impact of $1.6 billon.
So how can cities battle brain drain among soon-to-be-college-graduates? Here are three simple ways to bridge the gap between “town and gown."
- Consider working with your higher-education institutions to help locate a selection of programs off campus.
- Encourage students’ involvement in the community at large through volunteerism and experiential learning programs.
- Make it easy for students to access your city by bike and mass transit. Offer free student bus passes, frequent campus stops, late night bus services, and install bike lanes connecting campus to downtown and stroll districts.
2. Increase the number of internship opportunities for students in your city.
Students who have internship and co-op experiences while studying in your city are more likely to stay in the area and have higher employee retention rates. Almost 50 percent of internship students accept permanent positions with their internship employers. The retention of college graduates after 5 years of employment is 30 percent greater for internship graduates. Ideas to consider:
- Create a internship guide to assist local businesses in creating or enhancing an internship program.
- Create an internship specific job bank. Check out InterninTulsa.com.
- Work with your higher-education institutions to provide free or affordable housing for summer interns who are not from your city but either staying or moving to your city for the summer to conduct an internship.
3. Enhance the kind and depth of connections interns establish in your city through partnerships with local Young Professionals (YP) groups.
An intern's experience while in your city needs to go beyond discovering good restaurants, festivals, and cool places to live. It’s important to provide interns opportunities for interaction not only amongst other interns, but also with other like-minded people in the community. Work with your local YP groups to develop a program that exposes interns to the social and professional possibilities in your city. Check out this video about the impact of the i.network program offered by The Network: Young Professionals of the Quad Cities.
Bridge the gap between “town and gown” in your community by investing now and gaining later.