WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference call today with student reporters to discuss his efforts to attract and retain young, talented adults in Ohio and reverse the trend of "brain drain" that has affected the state in recent decades. Ensuring Ohio's viability as a post-college destination for young adults is critical to the state's economic recovery and competitiveness in the 21st century.
"Many young people receive a top-notch education in Ohio, but then leave our state to pursue other opportunities. These students should represent the future of our state: they're tech-savvy, educated, and have the skills to fill 21st-century jobs. And at the same time, Ohio has a lot to offer, from its biggest cities to its smallest towns," Brown said. "But many young adults don't perceive Ohio as having the right career or social opportunities for them."
"That's why more needs to be done to turn ‘brain drain' into ‘brain gain'-which we can achieve by supporting business incubators and regional partnerships that create jobs," Brown continued. "We can also work at better connecting universities with local communities through internships and service learning."
In 2008, only 62.7 percent of bachelor's degree holders and 56.44 percent of graduate degree holders still lived in Ohio three years after graduating from one of Ohio's institutions of higher education. Last year, the Thomas Fordham Institute commissioned a survey of Ohio college students on their post graduation plans. Fifty-eight percent responded that they planned to leave the state. Their perceptions were that Ohio fell short on offering job opportunities, career advancement, and social life.
Brown has led efforts to reverse "brain drain" and to ensure that Ohioans get the training and skills they need to fill the jobs of the 21st century. Brown is the author of the Business Incubator Promotion Act, which would support and create "business incubators" in hard-hit regions of Ohio and the country. Ohio is home to more than a dozen regional business incubators, and the National Business Incubation Association. Such incubators have proven highly successful at creating jobs and coordinating resources in a region.
In April 2009, Brown introduced the "Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success" (SECTORS) Act to promote job creation. This bipartisan piece of legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July, supports the development of targeted workforce training programs to meet the specialized needs of regional emerging industries, or "sectors." Under the SECTORS Act, local stakeholders-business and industry partners, unions, education and training providers, and workforce and development administrators-will develop a targeted plan for that industry. Such targeted plans will help ensure that local workers have access to critical training and workforce development programs to give them the skills they need to meet the needs of emerging industries. A skilled workforce bolsters Ohio's long-term competitiveness and helps attract new business and economic development.
Young people look to cities and towns with a high quality of life and meaningful, good-paying jobs. To encourage young people to start working and building a family in Ohio, Brown is actively working to bolster Ohio's ability to help cities, towns, and rural areas thrive. In an effort to make Ohio's communities more accessible, the Senate Banking Committee, on which Brown serves, recently passed the Livable Communities Act. By empowering local and regional planning, the Act would help communities promote sustainable economic development and better coordinate local, state, and federal housing, transportation, and housing programs, while saving taxpayer dollars. The community redevelopment programs in the Livable Communities Act can help Ohio's cities attract and retain the people and jobs necessary to compete with cities across the nation.
Brown is also exploring ways to engage students in the off-campus community through service learning, field experiences, paid internships, co-ops, mentorships, local research opportunities, and more. These opportunities to connect with local businesses, nonprofits, government, and other community assets enrich a student's education and often lead to local employment. Through these opportunities, students also build a stake in their communities and create roles and lives for themselves locally.
In August, Brown visited the Youngstown Business Incubator for a roundtable on "brain gain" aimed at ensuring that Ohio attracts and retains talented young people in Ohio. Brown was joined by young professionals and local business leaders to craft new strategies to reverse "brain drain."