In his book "Caught in the Middle", Richard Longworth discusses the importance of community colleges in the battle to cope with economic globalization. I read it while teaching at a local community college. I even used Longworth's book as the course text. Concerning retraining, this is the best avenue.
Community college graduates are more likely to stay in the region. The teachers and adminstrators do a better job of working with local businesses and addressing talent needs. Resources for workforce development should be concentrated in community colleges, where the return on investment is greatest.
Where does that leave four-year colleges and universities? I don't think they should be centers of labor mobility. Graduates from these institutions are the nomads, relatively speaking. This is the geographically mobile workforce that defines the United States and its economic success:
Lana Wrightman, whose father was a ranching cowboy, spent most of her childhood “ping-ponging from ranch to ranch, mostly between Texas and Wyoming”. She reckons that by the time she reached her late teens she had clocked up about 20 separate homes (though some were short spells with relations) and gone to four different middle schools and two high schools. It was a restless childhood, driven both by necessity and by lifestyle aspirations, which she now views with mixed feelings.“I never formed close friendships because I knew that I would be moving on in a short time,” Wrightman says. On the other hand, she thinks that not putting down deep roots made her more independent and adaptable, especially when it came to travelling as a graduate student to the UK.Her contemporaries did not exhibit the same independence or ease of transition and were, she believes, the worse for it. “My first group of friends had lived a very rooted existence and were leaving home for the first time,” Wrightman says. “They found university very difficult and I found their close-knit, needy friendships claustrophobic to the point of suffocation.”
Wrightman's story highlights the pitfalls on exclusively depending upon a retrained local workforce. The region will weed out certain characteristics of risk taking needed for robust innovation and job creation. But there is also perile in the obsession of attracting the creative class. The most educated are the most geographically fickle. What becomes of your city when the 15-minutes of destination fame is over? Furthermore, what do you do with the labor "stuck" in various neighborhoods where poverty is a chronic problem? In that regard, Dayton has it half right.