What makes college students choose to stay in – or leave – St. Louis after they graduate from one of the colleges in our region? It’s a question that’s top-of-mind for the St. Louis Regional Chamber as it works to position St. Louis as an attractive place to attract, engage, and retain talented college graduates.
Some answers to that question were forthcoming from recent research the Chamber commissioned Stakeholder Insights, to conduct. Both the questions and the answers were then featured in an NPR interview program – St. Louis on the Air – hosted by Don Marsh on May 5, 2016. Lisa Richter, managing principal of Stakeholder Insights, and Valerie Patton, St. Louis Regional Chamber Vice President, Economic Inclusion and Talent and Executive Director, St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative, shared findings from the research and some of the Chamber’s plans to use the survey data in designing new ways to tell our story and to attract talented young people to our region.
When asked, “What’s the headline here?” Richter responded that graduating students say the strongest reasons for staying in St. Louis are finding the right job, and being able to build a career here. Marsh commented that those were more or less to be expected, but Richter added a point of emphasis: “Students told us that landing that first job was even more important in a tough economic climate – and after having spent a large amount of money to secure a degree. And follow-up opportunities – the next job or promotion – are also critical considerations.”
Patton stated that while the Regional Chamber has its “subjective impressions” about how St. Louis is attractive to college graduates, they needed data to validate their thoughts on why students stay or leave. When Marsh asked if the data was encouraging, Patten responded “Absolutely, we’re encouraged!” Another finding on the positive side: students agree that St. Louis is both big enough to support a sophisticated urban culture, yet small enough to enable people to get around and gain access easily. Findings like these help the Regional Chamber and St. Louis focus on several narratives that might tell our story more compellingly, and highlight our strengths – as well as our challenges.