Why They Leave
Kristen Bialik is like many other young college students in Michigan. She loves the Midwest, but she’s not planning on staying here after she graduates from the University of Michigan.
“I mean I’ve thought about it but I never really imagined that there would be any opportunities coming out of graduation so I kind of always assumed I would have to go somewhere else for the first few years.”
But when I asked Kristen whether she had even looked for jobs in Michigan, she said no. “It’s just sort of my assumption,” said Bialik. So she’s packing her bags when she graduates and will head to Chicago without even checking for jobs here.
That’s not unusual for recent college graduates in Michigan.
Mike Finney is CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK. It’s is a local resource for businesses. He’s not surprised students like Bialik are leaving Michigan. Finney said, “The kind of employment opportunities that are attractive to that young talent simply don’t exist in Michigan.”
Or at least that’s what everyone seems to think.
Britany Affolter-Caine is the manager of a program that tries to keep Michigan’s college grads in-state by connecting them with local businesses. It’s called Intern in Michigan. She argues there really are job opportunities for recent graduates right here in Michigan.
“There was a survey done recently that looked at talent graduating from Michigan universities and at least half of them weren’t even looking in Michigan for jobs because they assumed that there were none. The employers did a similar survey and you have just the opposite perception: they assume that there’s no talent in the state. They look out of state. So there are jobs, there is talent, they’re not connecting.”
The problem doesn’t have to do with jobs, but with perception. People see Michigan as a dead zone. Friends, mentors and even parents tell their kids to get out before it’s too late.
Affolter-Caine says the problem doesn’t have to do with jobs, but with perception. People see Michigan as a dead zone. Friends, mentors and even parents tell their kids to get out before it’s too late.
“No parent wants their child to leave the state, but here in Michigan many, many parents are pushing their children out the door, out of the state, because they want them to be successful. They’ve heard the news. They think Michigan is a wasteland, which is patently false. But that’s the perception that they have, and it’s now driving reality.”
Try and convince recent graduates that there are good jobs in Michigan and they’ll look at you like you’re telling them to believe in Santa. It may be out of style to believe, but they want to — you just have to give them a reason.
Affolter-Caine says it’s career counselors at colleges and universities that can persuade students to stay here in Michigan. They’re the ones talking to students when it comes time to make the big decision.
- The Brain Drain (November 5, 2009)
- Staying in Grand Rapids (December 10, 2009)
- Hiring Gen Y (December 17, 2009)
- Creating Policies to Lure College Grads to Detroit (November 20, 2009)
- Pledging Allegiance to Michigan (November 16, 2009)