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Joshua Killey - 6/1/2011
Source: http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/contributors.asp?ID=2679

Imagine our logistics industry if our waterways began to run dry, or manufacturing if there was a sudden shortage of steel. Replenishing our supply of educated workers is just as vital - or more so - to the broader 21st century economy.

The CICP study makes a few interesting observations not highlighted in previous 'brain drain' reports It assesses the demand for college-educated workers in Indiana is less than the nation as a whole; our economy skews "lower skill." In this sense, some college graduates are leaving the state out of simple necessity, a lack of job openings.

But the study also diagnoses issues connecting graduates with the appropriate jobs that do exist. Based on surveys of both employers and recent graduates, it asserts that companies often dismiss the potential of young grads based on inexperience. As for students, they typically begin their job search with a location already in mind, many crossing Indiana off the list based on perceptions rather than an evaluation of specific openings.

In short, there are many reasons for pessimism. But at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, we're very optimistic about another finding: The study's authors at the Battelle Institute report that connecting students with local work experiences (internships, co-ops, hands-on class projects) dramatically increases their inclination to seek jobs here. This concept is strongly supported at Kelley Indianapolis, at our Career Planning Office and throughout our academic offerings.

Most faculty broker partnerships with businesses, exposing classes to real scenarios and challenging them to plan, adapt and succeed. For example, both MBA-level and undergraduate students recently worked with Hubbard & Cravens Coffee & Tea Co. to help launch a new type of store (specialty wine and craft beer) in Carmel's City Center - integrating branding, customer data and market research with new promotional strategies to make the opening a success.

This hands-on exposure gives students a powerful advantage in landing internships around central Indiana. Accumulating professional experiences creates bonds that are more likely to keep our students in Indiana, contributing to our knowledge economy. And they graduate with resumes that allow them to compete for more openings than the typical newly-minted degree-holder.

The effort seems to be paying off. Eight-five percent of Kelley's 2012 Indianapolis graduates stayed in Indiana to take their first jobs - though they surely could find opportunities elsewhere.

While Kelley Indianapolis is closest to my heart, we're also part of a larger trend getting students real-world experience. The Lilly Endowment supports the Indiana Chamber's INTERNet statewide internship initiative and a number of other programs focused on slowing the 'brain drain.' The Commission for Higher Education recently restructured state co-op funding to support student employment in targeted industries. And other institutions have embraced experiential learning - Ball State University's efforts in digital media, for example.

This exposure is a two-way street: Students learn first-hand about the exciting career opportunities to be found in Indiana and employers appreciate the pipeline of talent offered by the state's many excellent colleges and universities. They find a mutual interest in staying in touch.

The CICP study highlights many important issues and is also correct in seeing the opportunity hidden within Indiana's low educational attainment rankings. Indiana confers more college degrees per capita than the national average and is among the top states in attracting out-of-state college students. If we can be more effective getting our collegians engaged earlier in their academic careers, connecting them with appropriate opportunities as they near graduation, we can begin turning the "brain drain" into Indiana's competitive advantage.