Friday, July 01, 2005

Brain Drain: Delicious!

Two weeks ago, Gloria Diaz posted on a hot topic around town: brain drain. In case you're out of the loop, it's not as gross as it sounds. What we're talking about is Fort Wayne natives going off to college and not returning to the Summit City after graduation.

There's been a lot of hand-wringing about this loss of intellectual capital, and I think it's high time I added my two cents:

So what?

You heard me. So what if some of the best and brightest decide they want to move elsewhere when they have the chance? So what if they decide that what Fort Wayne offers isn't exactly what they're looking for at the moment?

Let's suppose for a moment that all the Brain Drainers actually did want to stay in Fort Wayne. Where would they work? These kids don't want to start working on the assembly line at the GM plant, after all. It's not as if there are a glut of open jobs, and certainly not the kind of jobs that are attractive to recent college graduates.

Imagine if, instead of talking about generic college graduates, we were talking about your son or daughter. Other than selfish reasons like wanting to live near your grandchildren, why would you want them to stay in Fort Wayne if they could find a better job in another city, a city where they really enjoyed living? Not so heinous, eh?

But if, say, you're the mayor and you do want to keep more college graduates in town, what can you do? Sure, you can try to attract companies that offer the kind of jobs these kids are looking for, but will you ever snag enough to turn the tide? Probably not.

Here's a suggestion: before these kids have their degrees in hand and are looking for a place to go, before they even go off to college in the first place, let them know that they're wanted. Let them know that they're appreciated. Recognize their achievements while they're still here. Go out of your way to let older teenagers know that the city cares about them.

Fort Wayne Community Schools already (or at least did when I was in high school) runs an internship program to get their students out into the business community, and more programs like it can't hurt in establishing early connections between our best and brightest students and our best and brightest companies. Once these kids are off to Muncie or Bloomington or Los Angeles, it's probably too late to convince them to come back after school's out.

But let's remember that sending our kids out into the world isn't such a bad thing. Moving to another city where you've got a better chance at succeeding at your chosen career isn't sad -- it's smart. After all, not everyone's dreams include a picnic lunch on the banks of the muddy waters of the St. Joe...

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