Monday, February 18, 2008

Let's Stop New England from Going Gray

If we wanted to focus on one thing that would ensure New England's long-term competitiveness, I think it ought to be retaining young people. They're impatient ... creative ... and they challenge the status quo in ways that can be really revolutionary in start-ups and big companies alike.

Yesterday's column in the Globe focused on a disturbing trend, illustrated by this graphic:

Every company thinks about young people when they have an entry-level, low-paying job or internship position to fill. And that's OK. But entrepreneurs, executives, and investors need to come up with more creative ways to get onto campuses and explain what they do ... and bring students into their offices, even if they're not currently hiring or filling internships.

I've been nudging the New England Venture Capital Association to create an event that would connect students and recent grads with the VC community...and suggesting to our biggest companies that they should host "open houses" where students and others could come to their offices to learn about an issue that's important to the host company. (Like Google hosting MySQL camp and many other informal gatherings on its Mountain View campus.) What about a Boston Scientific open house focused on next-gen implantable devices, or an EMC open house on cloud computing?

I know there are a million even better ideas for integrating young people into our region's innovation economy -- making New England act more like Velcro, and less like a revolving door for the hundreds of thousands of students who come here to get educated.

(Note: the original article that inspired this column, "Demographic Demise" by University of New Hampshire economist Ross Gittell, is here in PDF form.)

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