Thank West Michigan colleges for Rosy Outlook on Youth Employment

Thank West Michigan colleges for Rosy Outlook on Youth Employment
March 25, 2014/MLive

By Thomas Haas

It’s a headline worth savoring: “Grand Rapids Ranks High Nationally in Employment for Young Adults, Study Shows” (MLive, March 14, 2014). But before we breathe a sigh of relief, some perspective is in order.

Unemployment is still too high and the workforce has lost ground overall. Yet, the job picture for young workers is the best in a decade, and this is very good news.

This did not happen by accident, or only because job providers are hiring again. Rather, it is the result of three distinct but complementary things:

• The creation of talented graduates by our area’s colleges and universities

• A rebounding economy, enabling area businesses to resume hiring

• A vibrant community in which to live, work, and play

All three must be present in order to keep talented young people in West Michigan – and this is a big change. It used to be that graduates followed jobs.

No longer. Today’s college graduate would rather pick the community in which they want to live and then look for work.

That’s why place is so important. Yet another recent survey named Grand Rapids to the Top 10 of the nation’s most exciting mid-sized cities, citing nightlife, live music, parks, outdoor recreation, and great restaurants as reasons to live here.

This is exactly what L. William Seidman, the founder of Grand Valley State University hoped would happen if Grand Rapids could become a college town. Worried that young people would leave the area for college and not return, Bill was the driving force behind the creation of Grand Valley.

Today, 84 percent of Grand Valley’s most recent graduates – who come here from every corner of the state -- are working or attending graduate school in Michigan. The vast majority stay right here in West Michigan.

Vibrant cities, great job providers, and talented college graduates – these are the things that secure our economic future. We are well on our way.

Thomas Haas is president of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.