Sunday, August 17, 2008

Brain Drain Report

The creative class is fleeing Phoenix. Where are they going? Detroit:

And as if all that weren't bad enough, word's in that we're losing Liz Cohen. Cohen, the topic of a New Times cover story not so long ago, is the super-cool multi-media artist whose latest obsession has been rebuilding car bodies, along with her own. She's off to Cranbrook, an artsy-fartsy school near Detroit, to teach photography. She can pal up with Mark Newport, a former ASU prof with a thing for knitting superhero costumes.

Rust Belt Chic attracts another talent.

Nebraska is feeling the labor crunch with bored young adults moving away in droves and no boomerang migration on the horizon. A human resources expert from Grand Island thinks the solution is to make the community so cool that recent graduates won't leave. Where else have I seen that plan?

Actually, the latest rage to stop brain drain is to match instate jobs with instate graduates. Like online dating, the right people are having trouble finding each other:

“We also recognize that someone who lives, say, in the Lakes Region may know nothing about the greater Nashua area,” [Chris Williams, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce,] said. “For example, our ambassadors could work with St. Joseph Hospital and a candidate from Dartmouth College in Hanover.”

Of course, I think trying to keep graduates from New Hampshire universities and colleges from leaving the state is folly. However, Mr. Williams does describe a significant barrier to the migration of talent. The intimate knowledge about any community doesn't travel well. Philadelphia has come up with an innovative solution to retain a bit more of the talent that immigrates to study at the region's excellent institutions of higher education:

Recruit bright, public-spirited grads from local colleges. Deploy them into one-year stints doing meaningful work for local nonprofits, which contribute $10,000 to underwrite each position. Set the fellows up to live together, five to a house, in regular Philly neighborhoods. Make the housing free, and give each fellow a modest stipend, enough dough so he or she can sample what the city has to offer.

The Philly Fellows initiative suggests that college students don't know the city that well and the value proposition of living there never sinks in while they are matriculating at school. I like the program because it helps increase the spillover from universities into the local community. In keeping with the monastic traditions of scholarship, college campuses are not designed to integrate into the host city.

No matter how clever, working to keep graduates from leaving is not the best approach to increasing talent. Last November at the first IntoPittsburgh meeting, Mike Madison mentioned Bulldogs in the Bluegrass:

Bulldogs in the Bluegrass is an innovative summer internship program designed to bring approximately 28 Yale students to the Greater Louisville, Kentucky area for the summer of 2008. The program, sponsored by the Yale Club of Kentucky, is now in its 10th year, with nearly 300 Yale undergraduates having already experienced the best summer of their lives as Bulldogs in the Bluegrass! The mission of Bulldogs in the Bluegrass is to employ hardworking Yale students in meaningful internship positions, introduce these students to the assets and leadership of the Louisville community, provide benefit to local employers and enhance the community as a whole.

This successful program is expanding to other cities and helps facilitate the migration of Yale graduates to cities that otherwise don't appear on the mental maps of highly sought after talent. Mike should get busy organizing Bulldogs in the Burgh. Pittsburgh is already behind Cleveland on this count. Read more about the brainchild of Rowan Claypool, the founder of Bulldogs in the Bluegrass, here.

1 comment:

John Morris said...

"In keeping with the monastic traditions of scholarship, college campuses are not designed to integrate into the host city."

Isn't that a core problem? I can see for the first year or two of undergrad, but after that the isolated ivory tower concept is just bad.

First of all, it has to be big reason college costs so much since universities have to provide all the facilities from food to sports and entertainment that exist for free in an integrated urban setting. Notice that most for profit sschools like the Art Institutes usually locate in downtowns or focus on online courses.

I don't think it's an accident that NYU is by far the most popular school for applicants.