USNH chancellor targets retention of young people

Higher education, business and government must work together in a comprehensive effort to showcase the state’s employment opportunities and quality of life to encourage more college graduates to live and work in New Hampshire, according to University System of New Hampshire Chancellor Stephen Reno.

In an op-ed article that runs in the Jan. 19-Feb. 2 New Hampshire Business Review, Reno discusses what he calls the “common cause initiative,” which he says includes a comprehensive marketing campaign geared to convince 55 percent of college graduates to stay in New Hampshire, as compared to the 50 percent who stay today. Such a shift, he argues, could have a significant positive impact on the state’s economy.

According to Reno, if 10 percent more of the new graduates who planned to leave were to stay and work in New Hampshire, the state would add 629 employees to the workforce, and these employees could have a $42 million impact on the state’s economy.

If such an effort were sustained for five years, the cumulative impact would be 3,144 more employees and an economic benefit of $636 million, Reno writes.

Such a shift could help make New Hampshire a younger state, could stimulate entrepreneurial ideas and new businesses, and have a potential ripple effect on high schools graduates, of which half currently leave New Hampshire to attend college, according to the chancellor.

Annually, more than half of the 16,000 graduates and individuals earning certificates from NH’s colleges and universities leave the state.

“This departure of more than 8,000 educated individuals represents a huge brain drain and only darkens our future employment picture,” Chancellor Reno said. “As a state, we need to encourage more of these people to stay and work in New Hampshire. Even a small shift in the migration rate of our college graduates would have an enormous impact.”

Among his recommendations:

• Survey college juniors and seniors in New Hampshire to gain insight into their future plans and why they plan to stay or leave the state upon graduation.
• Assemble a team of representatives from business, the state and higher education to design and run a “tourism-like” campaign to promote New Hampshire as a home and destination for younger people.
• Assemble a coalition of representatives from New Hampshire business associations and state chambers of commerce to develop a central Website/database that showcases businesses and lists employment opportunities geared for recent college graduates.
• Create an online toolkit for businesses to establish internships as well as web-based profiles of students who have done internships and then transitioned into full-time employment here.

“The success of a retention program in Hew Hampshire will depend absolutely on our ability to inventory, post, and market exciting and rewarding jobs, and make students aware of these opportunities in conjunction with the other intangibles that make New Hampshire such a desirable state. It will take more than a village to get this done. It will take a new statewide partnership of business, professional, and community leaders, policy makers, and higher education. New Hampshire is especially well positioned to do this,” writes Reno. – JEFF FEINGOLD

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