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  #1  
Old Posted Jun 29, 2010, 1:35 PM
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Is Attracting College Graduates Worth It?

The Talent Game


Jun 28th, 2010

Vincent Valk

Read More: http://americancity.org/buzz/entry/2420/

Does Milwaukee have enough college graduates to thrive?: http://www.jsonline.com/business/96226434.html

Quote:
“It’s an enormous problem,” a local businessman told the newspaper. A relatively low proportion of graduates is taken to mean that a city’s human capital is not up to snuff. And human capital is the cornerstone of the knowledge economy – if you can’t get it right, you’re done for. So the argument goes, anyway. But as Jim Russell points out at Burgh Diaspora, not all talent is created equal. Indeed, it may not be graduates that you want, necessarily, but migrants. Migrants are especially entrepreneurial, and the further they’ve come to get to your city, the better. But what do you do to attract these people, anyway? Hire Richard Florida, paint some bike lanes and set up citywide wi-fi?

Maybe Milwaukee can try to be Portland on Lake Michigan. But as the last line of the JS piece points out: “It’s a tough competition. All cities want to do it.” “It” being attract “creative class”-type talent. Also, as Portland’s unemployment rate rather emphatically points out, attracting people is just part of the equation. You also have to give them something to do. Urbanophile, aka Aaron M. Renn, suggests that cities work at finding a niche and exploiting it, rather than all chasing the same goals. “The question is what specific types of people you can attract to your city,” Renn says.

This hints at something larger, I think: an evaluation of what we really mean when we say “human capital.” People hear about “human capital” and “talent” and, at least in urbanist circles, tend to think vaguely of freelance graphic designers bringing bikes on to light rail while happily sipping flavored coffee (yes, I am stereotyping). But the world only needs so many designers, researchers and programmers. Is a good mechanic or electrician not “human capital”? How about high-tech factory workers, or medical assistants, or traveling salesmen? Perhaps I’m oversimplifying the matter, but I think the phrase “attracting talent” has come to imply “attracting yuppies, or yupsters.”



Cafes, bars—is that all it takes to retain young, educated people? Credit: prayitno via flickr

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  #2  
Old Posted Jun 29, 2010, 7:34 PM
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It's true that cities are forever climbing onto bandwagons -- in recent decades it's been silicon whatever, biotech, convention centers, creative class, green tech....

These can be about getting part of a growing pie, or getting more of the same pie. This is clearly the latter (even though the baby-boom echo is entering the workforce in peak numbers right now).

Generally, jumping on a bandwagon means you're in a crowd. Go in a different direction and you can own a sector or two.
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Old Posted Jun 30, 2010, 4:23 PM
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You can't have a city of "mechanics, electricians and medical assistants" any more than you can have a city of firefighters, police officers and dentists. These are service professions that rely on an existing base population in a circumscribed geographical area. A freelance graphic designer in Minneapolis can design a business card for a mechanic in Milwaukee, but a mechanic in Milwaukee can't repair the car of a freelance graphic designer in Minneapolis.

Designers may sound effete and unnecessary in the abstract, but in this economy, they are capable of generating exports (iPhone, anyone?). This is something a no mechanic, however skilled, will ever be able to do.

With the decline of US manufacturing, the only urban, blue-collar jobs left are in the service industry, but these jobs cannot exist in a vacuum and they cannot support a major city. If manufacturing doesn't recover, Las Vegas and Orlando will be the only blue/pink-collar cities left in the country (because of tourism). They don't export their products so much as import their customers.

Blue-collar cities are having a very hard time of it. They either need to attract educated knowledge workers, or revive manufacturing, perhaps the "high-tech factory workers" mentioned by Valk, or figure out some new form of blue-collar exports. None of these options is easy and some may be impossible.

As Richard Florida's recent work as points out, attracting knowledge workers is a zero-sum game because they need not be circumscribed in quite the same way as service workers. This gives existing knowledge cities and extraordinary advantage.

Valk has not put forward a new working model, although he briefly referenced and old one (high-tech manufacturing). One could argue that we do have a major city of "mechanics, electricians and medical assistants." It's called Phoenix. But because it doesn't have the knowledge workers of a Dallas or an Atlanta, it's in trouble.

Last edited by tpk-nyc; Jun 30, 2010 at 10:27 PM.
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Old Posted Jun 30, 2010, 6:15 PM
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Originally Posted by tpk-nyc View Post
Blue-collar cities are having a very hard time of it. They either need to attract educated knowledge workers, or revive manufacturing, perhaps the "high-tech factory workers" mentioned by Valk, or figure out some new form of blue-collar exports. None of these options is easy and some may be impossible.
You're obviously better versed at this than I am, but this where I have trouble with Florida's ideas. The argument is that knowledge workers are inherently attracted to different qualities than anyone else. I don't buy it. There's plenty of money to be made in service sectors so it's not a matter of affordability or class. Then what? Knowledge workers like Bike paths and coffee shops? Engineers are dieing for farmers markets? Why shouldn't everyone expect that their city try to be a great place to live without worrying about who they are or aren't attracting?
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Old Posted Jun 30, 2010, 6:33 PM
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Originally Posted by tpk-nyc View Post
Designers may sound effete and unnecessary in the abstract, but in this economy, they are capable of generating exports (iPhone, anyone?). This is something a no mechanic, however skilled, will ever be able to do.
Perhaps they can't design a new iPhone. But how does that relegated mechanics to a life of nothing but fixing and maintaining machines?

What would happen if, say, a mechanic who has been fixing mechanic machines for 10 years notices that all of them have a design flaw that's preventing them from operating at their optimum capacity? I'm sure some designers with mechanical engineering degrees may be able to discover this flaw, but who says they're assured to discover it? Either way, the discovery and subsequent optimized design based on it will be generating exports.

My point here is that human capital is simply that - "human" capital, not "capital of only elite college-educated minds". We should be encouraging everybody to be thinking, not just the chosen educated few. Unfortunately, it feels like the world just isn't built like that, which is probably why TV commercials telling us that "the medical administrative field is the fast growing field in America" seems to dominate the airwaves.
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  #6  
Old Posted Jun 30, 2010, 7:18 PM
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Car mechanics might not export, but factory workers sure do.
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Old Posted Jun 30, 2010, 7:40 PM
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Milwaukee be more like Portland?? Isnt Milwaukee home to Pabst Blue Ribbon? I would say that is about 1/4 the battle right there. Throw in some bike lanes and give things for hipsters to bitch about and the city would be set.

As for if attracting college graduates is worth it? The answer is yes because I am a college graduate that would like to be working in the field I went to school for.
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  #8  
Old Posted Jun 30, 2010, 8:58 PM
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Of course every municipality should foster a livable, efficient and sustainable environment for all its citizens. Furthermore, what a community regards as "livable" varies from place to place. It's subjective and based on aesthetics, politics, history, climate, etc.

However Florida, Valk and Romell are not writing about livability in the abstract but economic growth. Growth is subject to market forces, geographic advantages and the whims (a carefully chosen word) of entrepreneurs.

A city can't easily change its geographic advantages/disadvantages, but it can manipulate market forces (by offering tax credits) and play to the whims of entrepreneurs (by creating lifestyle amenities). The entrepreneur is key here. Valk quotes Russell "Indeed, it may not be graduates that you want, necessarily, but migrants. Migrants are especially entrepreneurial, and the further they’ve come to get to your city, the better."

There's a difference between being "human capital" (an ugly phrase) and being an entrepreneur. Human capital sells his or her labor. An entrepreneur (either an individual or a company) hires other people. An entrepreneur creates growth.

Any large business has both "front-office" and "back-office" personnel. Front-office people actually bring in the business and create work-product whereas back-office people provide support (often highly specialized and valuable support) like accounting, billing, human resources, marketing, clerical, &c. An individual business may be entirely service-oriented, like a law firm, but the front-office personnel (the attorneys) create a work-product (legal advice) that people buy. It doesn't matter how good of an accountant you are in the back-office. If the attorneys aren't bringing in fees from clients, you won't have a job.

To extend the metaphor to a city, entrepreneurs and their employees are the front-office personnel and service industry workers (including very highly compensated workers like doctors and lawyers) are back-office personnel. It doesn't matter how good of a doctor you are. If there aren't a lot of front-office personnel in your city, you're not going to have a lot of patients. The same applies to teachers and auto mechanics, &c.

This can be illustrated most dramatically by Detroit. The city lost vast numbers of its front-office personnel (the auto companies and autoworkers) and it sent the city and the back-office personnel (nearly everyone else) into a tailspin. I'm sure there are many wonderful auto mechanics in Detroit but, irony of ironies, many people in the Motor City are so poor that they can't afford a car.

On a personal level no job is inherently better than any other job. A job may be emotionally fulfilling, or not. It may be highly remunerative, or not. A job is a personal choice. However, on the macro-economic level some jobs are inherently more valuable because they create other jobs. What's more, conventional notions of prestige have nothing to do with it. In Detroit, an autoworker's job is far more economically important than a doctor's job.

For a city to maintain its economy it has to maintain its number front-office jobs. For a city to grow its economy it has to attract front-office jobs (and the people who create them). If not, it runs the risk of turning into another Detroit.

The auto industry is based in Michigan partly because it's half-way between the iron mines of Minnesota and the coal mines of Pennsylvania and West Virginia (a geographic advantage). Today's entrepreneurs are no longer as tightly bound by geography. They can live almost anywhere, according to their whims. Are these whims silly? Pretentious? Capricious, even? Perhaps. But is designating an arts district in an underused part of town any more egregious than offering a $10 million tax credit to a multi-billion-dollar corporation? Which is more beneficial to the community at large?

Florida, Valk and Romell create unnecessary confusion when they write about attracting college graduates. What they're really writing about, as Russell correctly notes, is attracting potential entrepreneurs, i.e., the people who create front-office jobs. Of course, some of the greatest inventors and entrepreneurs in our history dropped out of college (or even high school), but the concern is in "potential" and college grads best are most likely to generate growth in the information economy.

Last edited by tpk-nyc; Jun 30, 2010 at 10:32 PM.
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Old Posted Jun 30, 2010, 9:03 PM
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Originally Posted by tpk-nyc View Post

One could argue that we do have a major city of "mechanics, electricians and medical assistants." It's called Phoenix. But because it doesn't have the knowledge workers of a Dallas or an Atlanta, it's in trouble.


This is bound to stir something up...
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  #10  
Old Posted Jun 30, 2010, 11:41 PM
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As a former/future Phoenix resident, its not that far from the truth. This state doesn't like educated people.

From the Arizona Republic:
Quote:
Arizona to have jobs for school dropouts
14% of posts in 2018 won't need diploma

by Howard Fischer - Jun. 24, 2010 12:00 AM
Capitol Media Services

Arizona is among the top five states in the nation in the share of total future jobs for high-school dropouts, according to a new report.

The study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that nearly 14 percent of the jobs that will exist in the state in 2018 will be suitable for those who do not have a diploma. That is down only slightly from current levels.

On the other end of the education scale, Arizona ranks 30th in terms of jobs that will require some education beyond high school.

Nicole Smith, a senior economist with the program, said the predictions for each state are based on the mix of industry that already exists.

In Arizona, she said, much of the current employment as well as predicted future job growth is in occupations in which education is not a prerequisite.

These include manufacturing, construction as well as leisure and hospitality jobs.

Conversely, Arizona has a lower-than-average percentage of jobs where college or something similar is required, Smith said.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/business/ab...#ixzz0sNnU0hAF
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  #11  
Old Posted Jul 1, 2010, 12:41 AM
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tpk-nyc, I agree with much of what you say, but with a slightly different slant on a couple points.

A region thrives when more money is flowing in than out, ideally with a greater ratio than population growth. Anything that brings money in counts, whether it's tourism, research, stock ownership by locals, manufacturing, headquarters salaries, or, for a small town, a hamburger stand by the highway. Some cities thrive (or have thrived) by simply attracting retirees, who fill houses and bring purchasing power without needing jobs, though many eventually become needy.

Entrepreneurs are obviously important. A healthy city should have a lot of start-ups, as well as a lot of maturing and mature companies that were once start-ups. However, the innovator(s) are only part of the picture. You also need to attract worker bees at every level. Plenty of cities hatch steady flows of start-ups only to see many of them leave for other cities with better workforces. (This is different from leaving in pursuit of better financing or better air connections.)
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Old Posted Jul 1, 2010, 1:08 AM
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I know this is a generalization, but hey, this is SSP, so . . . par for course

Successfully attracting and retaining graduates across a range of "knowledge" fields is one of the main factors which helped Boston and Chicago avoid the Rust Belt decline other Northeastern and Midwestern / Great Lake cities have experienced. At least, this is the view taken by the Boston media whenever another teaching hospital expands in Longwood or Harvard tries to gobble up more land in Brighton. Anyone more knowledgeable on this topic want to chime in?
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  #13  
Old Posted Jul 18, 2010, 11:51 PM
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Urban Lands of Opportunity


June 25, 2010

By RICHARD FLORIDA

Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/27/jo...ef=urban_areas

Quote:
- Over the past couple of decades, a new way of working and a new kind of workplace have evolved. It began in Silicon Valley, where companies ceded a certain degree of autonomy to knowledge workers, recognizing that too much rigidity could stifle creative output. Khakis and shirtsleeves replaced gray flannel suits. And 9 to 5 sometimes became 9 to 9 or 11 to 1 in the morning. But the time was broken up by espresso runs and bike rides, or ultimate Frisbee games during lunch.

- The trend has spread to the point that our lifestyles and our work styles are becoming increasingly blurred. Though my factory-worker father might not have believed it, those people you see hunched over their laptops in coffee shops and thumbing instant messages on their BlackBerrys as they walk through the park are actually working. This new way of work has given rise to what the sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls “third places” — the Starbucks where we go not just to drink coffee but also to send an e-mail; the hotel lobby where we take a meeting; or the local library where we write a report, edit a document or revise a business plan.

- Increasingly, places are supplanting plants — corporate headquarters and factories — as the principal social and economic organizing units of our time. There are several reasons for this. People used to follow the jobs; they moved where the company sent them. But today, people often pick a place to live first and then look for work. Today, it may be where we live, rather than who’s employing us at the moment, that attaches us to our work and careers.

- Despite the hits that Wall Street and the news media have taken, New York remains the center of a diverse and entrepreneurial economy. And regional hubs like Chicago have been sucking up a huge share of the talent and opportunities that were once dispersed throughout surrounding cities and towns. The metabolic rate of living organisms tends to slow as they increase in size. But cities can achieve a faster rate of “urban metabolism” as they grow, leading to more innovation, economic growth and improved living standards.

- Clearly, major cities have a great advantage as this new way of working takes hold. So what can smaller cities and towns do to retain their viability? All successful revitalization efforts focus on upgrading existing local assets — developing better ties among colleges, universities and communities, strengthening business districts, upgrading parks and open spaces, preserving and reusing old buildings and supporting local art and music.



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Old Posted Jul 19, 2010, 5:20 AM
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To me a bigger issue is getting college graduates to stay in the city for the long haul, perhaps for good. You hear about it alot, college graduates who come to large cities such as Chicago when they are in their 20's and then leaving in their 30's. I am not sure if they are refering to moving to the suburbs, moving to other cities or returning to wherever they came from but it is a problem. Why do they move away from cities after just a few years? Where do they go? What does it say about the companies they work for, do they not provide good advancement opportunities for them (of course if they move to the suburbs they might still be working at the same place)? I mean its not like Chicago and other large cities are lacking in middle and upper management positions.

I mean of course I know plenty of people who have stayed in Chicago for good both natives and people who grew up elsewhere but it always bugs me when I read about this phenomenon. I think of it everytime I walk around a nightlife district, I think to myself its wonderfull all these young people are here but how many of them are going to still be here in 10 or 20 years? I know we live in a mobile society and most people arent as fanatical as I am where Chicago runs in my blood but I think we need more newcomers who are going to set down roots here in the city.
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Old Posted Jul 19, 2010, 4:30 PM
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To me a bigger issue is getting college graduates to stay in the city for the long haul, perhaps for good. You hear about it alot, college graduates who come to large cities such as Chicago when they are in their 20's and then leaving in their 30's. I am not sure if they are refering to moving to the suburbs, moving to other cities or returning to wherever they came from but it is a problem. Why do they move away from cities after just a few years? Where do they go? What does it say about the companies they work for, do they not provide good advancement opportunities for them (of course if they move to the suburbs they might still be working at the same place)? I mean its not like Chicago and other large cities are lacking in middle and upper management positions.

I mean of course I know plenty of people who have stayed in Chicago for good both natives and people who grew up elsewhere but it always bugs me when I read about this phenomenon. I think of it everytime I walk around a nightlife district, I think to myself its wonderfull all these young people are here but how many of them are going to still be here in 10 or 20 years? I know we live in a mobile society and most people arent as fanatical as I am where Chicago runs in my blood but I think we need more newcomers who are going to set down roots here in the city.
I think it's pretty common for young people to move around a bit in their 20's, usually amongst larger cities. A good number of people will leave their hometown to go to college. Many then get jobs in that city or a larger regional city, or go to NYC, Chicago, LA, Dallas, etc. While in your 20's and 30's you are usually working for a larger company building experience, then either hopefully move to upper management by your 40's or start your own business. There will be plenty that stay at that point in their life and many that go a different route and move to a smaller city where it can be easier to run the show. A big difference I've noticed is immigrants come to a city then stay there and raise their families there while Americans like to move around more..
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Old Posted Jul 19, 2010, 5:01 PM
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I mean of course I know plenty of people who have stayed in Chicago for good both natives and people who grew up elsewhere but it always bugs me when I read about this phenomenon. I think of it everytime I walk around a nightlife district, I think to myself its wonderfull all these young people are here but how many of them are going to still be here in 10 or 20 years? I know we live in a mobile society and most people arent as fanatical as I am where Chicago runs in my blood but I think we need more newcomers who are going to set down roots here in the city.
These young people will mostly be out in the burbs raising children. They'll stay in the city when there are widely-available decent public schools.
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Old Posted Jul 20, 2010, 9:35 AM
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These young people will mostly be out in the burbs raising children. They'll stay in the city when there are widely-available decent public schools.
I refuse to ever move outside of a city to live in the burbs ever again. Growing up in the burbs is the most I ever want to spend there in my lifetime.
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Old Posted Jul 21, 2010, 4:03 AM
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I refuse to ever move outside of a city to live in the burbs ever again. Growing up in the burbs is the most I ever want to spend there in my lifetime.
And you wont have to even if you have kids and dont let anyone tell you any different. Sure the public school situation could be much better than it is but at the same time most parents have many more options than they think they have, most people just do whatever their friends/family/people like them do and dont really do any research beyond that. I dare anyone to walk around my neighborhood and say you cant raise children in the city.
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Old Posted Jul 21, 2010, 3:31 PM
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Old Posted Jul 21, 2010, 3:34 PM
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Milwaukee be more like Portland?? Isnt Milwaukee home to Pabst Blue Ribbon? I would say that is about 1/4 the battle right there. Throw in some bike lanes and give things for hipsters to bitch about and the city would be set.

As for if attracting college graduates is worth it? The answer is yes because I am a college graduate that would like to be working in the field I went to school for.
NO! Pabst is located in Woodridge, Il a near suburb of Chicago.
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