Ohio: Losing Grads and Jobs

Well, my physical therapist gave me the OK and I hit the concrete at 5 a.m. this morning. Oh, my. I’m dragging my knotted and inflamed left leg and foot around at what best could be discribed as a slow crawl. But, hey. I’m on my feet — and moving. There’s hope.

Wonder if the same can be said for Ohio’s struggle to retain college grads and jobs. I was thinking about that this morning, following the post I wrote yesterday about NCR packing its corporate bags and exiting Dayton for Atlanta.  And I don’t believe for a minute that CEO Bill Nuti decided to head South because of a dearth of “young, educated people.” That excuse may have some validity if you are relocating a company to a new location, starting from scratch with a new employee base. But you need a barf bag when you hear it being applied to a community that has housed a company for 125 years. Hey, Bill — provide good jobs at attractive salaries and they will come, or stay. Trust me on that one.

Still, keeping graduates from Ohio colleges in the state, and attracting grads from other states, is a concern — but I’m not sure it gets the attention it deserve except when we have a very public event that leads to a round of community and government leader handwringing. An educated workforce is the key to Ohio’s future (and the economic future of the nation for that matter). That’s pretty much the view of a March 2008 report of the Ohio Board of Regents that examined the condition of higher education. The report’s executive summary leads with this statement: “Ohio’s future is linked to education and innovation.”

Here are two of the key findings:

  • Ohio produces more bachelor’s degrees per capita than the national average, but, like several other states, many college graduates leave Ohio. However, fewer college graduates relocate to Ohio than other states. The result is that the net percentage of Ohioans with associate’s or higher degrees is lower than most other states.
  • Ohio is so far behind other states in educational attainment that it will take extraordinary measures for Ohio to catch up.

The members of NCR’s board, like most, couldn’t find their collective asses with both hands in the dark. But maybe they have done us a service here in Ohio if we agree with them that the state has to focus on education at all levels — and take extraordinary measures to improve the reality that the state has a hard time retaining and attracting college graduates.

And this isn’t one of those academic exercises conducted by think tank wonks. It is also a problem that has to be addressed now. Yesterday, almost immediately after I wrote my post about NCR, The Plain Dealer posted a story titled “Study: 60 percent of Ohio’s college grads expect to leave the state.” Here’s from the story and its report of a study of 800 Ohio college students:

Almost 60 percent of students said they plan to leave the state after graduation. Those who came to Ohio from other states to attend college were the most likely to leave, with 79 percent saying they won’t stay. Fifty-one percent of native Ohioans said they plan to leave, according to the survey.

The reasons students gave for wanting to leave Ohio are similar to those given for the past 10 years or so, ever since “brain drain” became a catchphrase. They want to live somewhere “active, exciting and fun,” but, mostly, they want to live in a place where they can build a career.

Only 11 percent of students surveyed think Ohio is an “excellent” place when it comes to job opportunities, the survey said.

But the sour economy nationally may be preventing students from picking up and moving just for the weather, for example. Almost 90 percent of students surveyed said work would be the most important factor in where they live after graduation.

New problem. No.

And in many ways it’s a circular argument. No jobs. No way to retain grads. No grads. Easy to relocate jobs. Ask NCR.

Are extradordinary measures needed. Yes.

And soon.


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