Pittsburgh is a beautiful little city, full of history, culture, art, and modern technology. Despite some rocky spells with economic downturns, the Black and Yellow City has bad a strong comeback by drawing in tech start-ups and artists alike. The universities in the city limits are top notch in various fields of study. From Carnegie Melon to the University of Pittsburgh to smaller private colleges, the institutions of higher learning are of international acclaim and boast some of the best-educated graduates produced in any given academic year. The issue for Pittsburgh? Keeping them from packing up and heading home as soon as their commencement ceremonies come to a close.
Pittsburgh is not unique in this issue — capital flight plagues lots of college towns, small rural cities, and even developing nations. Students come for the education, get what they need from the city, and leave once they feel they’ve outgrown what the area has to offer. Nations like Ghana in West Africa find that their students get degrees and promptly move to the UK or United States rather than stay and help improve their motherland.
If we want Pittsburgh to maintain the upward growth in population, economic development, and technological boundary-pushing, we have to encourage educated young adults that the city of Pittsburgh can be their forever home, both in terms of how the city is right now and how they can personally contribute to its steady improvement. With the impending mass retirement of baby boomers, we need our young people excited about seeing themselves in Pittsburgh long term.
One promising tactic? More internships. Many college students fill their summers with “trial periods” in the profession of their studies by taking non- or low-paying internships in or tangent to their intended workforce. Many colleges, including CMU, are looking for ways to strengthen bonds with local employers, from entrepreneurs to established headquarters of international corporations, with the hopes of keeping them in the city after graduation by means of strong job opportunities.
The city as a home, not just a place with a job, also offers amazing perks that simply aren’t being marketed effectively. The Graduate Opportunity Index ranks cities on a scale from zero (lowest) to one (highest) based on the affordability of the cost of living for recent college graduates, availability of entry-level jobs, and the presence of other recent graduates. As of 2016, Pittsburgh ranked the highest with a score of 0.85. Overflowing with young people, reasonably-priced housing, and jobs for young professionals, Pittsburgh is the place to be.
In order for us to keep our talent within the city, we have to continue to build bridges to and from colleges. All festivals and community events have to be marketed to college students, and that often means pursuing twitter, facebook, and Instagram campaigns, not just the standard posters and flyers. Connections to student life committees, career centers, and special interest groups could prove invaluable not only to companies looking to grow and hire young talent, but to the sustainable development of the city as a whole.