Sunday, May 11, 2008

When Human Capital Won't Leave

I've claimed that I could author a blog only about brain drain. This past week was particularly fruitful and I have a queue of stories I could use for a post. Today's tale concerns Northeastern Wisconsin, home to Green Bay:

"When you talk about brain drain, it's not so much specific bodies leaving the area. It's that we don't have a brain gain," said Mark Harris, manager of organizational development for Enzymatic Therapy in Green Bay.

Surveys conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay show that nearly 90 percent of its graduates remain in Wisconsin and more than 70 percent remain within 50 miles of Green Bay.

"We do have a small percentage of our students who do want to leave and go somewhere else. It is by far a very, very small number," said Linda Peacock-Landrum, placement director at UW-Green Bay.

Contrast the above narrative with this article in the Green Bay Post-Gazette:

Mining local talent early and creating a strong sense of community can not only enhance work force development in our area, but also give young people a strong and vibrant community they'll want to remain a part of, experts say.

Both stories reference the ability of the region to retain its graduates. However, the local workforce requires more training to meet the needs of businesses. Yet the thrust of Green Bay's solution is to decrease out-migration and induce more expatriates to return.

My first impulse is to scratch my head. Where is the strategy to attract new residents? Well, perhaps I don't fully understand the problem. Of those who do leave Green Bay, what is their level of educational attainment? Another read of both articles reveals an interest in that more elusive demographic:

Graphic designer Luis Avalos went to work for Arketype in Green Bay about three years ago, after graduating from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

"I was looking at going to Chicago and those big cities where they have more advertising agencies, but one of my teachers suggested trying Arketype … so I tried it and I like," he said.

If your hometown is going to invest more in its human capital, you best have a few initiatives in place to convince them to stay. Good luck, Green Bay.

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