Miami is winning the brain gain race. A recent study supported by the Knight Foundation listed Miami as one of the top areas in the nation attracting young professionals.
Miami’s share of educated millennials increased by almost 25 percent in the last 10 years, including a jump of 118 percent living near downtown. Why does it matter and what has changed to induce young, college-educated talent to stay in or move to our great city?
▪ First, having young talent matters, a lot. In 2011, The Beacon Council commissioned a study that found South Florida trailing behind other metro areas in innovation and influx of young professionals — a fact that came up frequently in recruitment efforts to woo companies to locate in Miami. The question was asked repeatedly. “Will I find the skilled workforce I need to grow my business?”
The skills that businesses seek range from highly educated MDs, PhDs, engineers, software developers, etc. to highly skilled trades’ people including nurses, technicians, plumbers and electricians.
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So how has South Florida remedied its previous brain drain condition? First, we are growing more of our own talent. Under the leadership of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools placed among the highest achieving school districts nationally in reading and math. Our graduation rate has improved dramatically and students have greater options to pursue career-focused curriculum at one of the many magnet schools and charter academies.
Through the One Community One Goal initiative, academic and business leaders are working together, in an unprecedented fashion, to identify skills for today and tomorrow’s jobs, and close the skills gap. The Academic Leaders Council, led by FIU President Mark Rosenberg, includes the superintendent and the presidents of our local colleges and universities.
Miami has also become a thriving college town with more than 380,000 students living and learning in our community. In today’s increasingly mobile world, we can’t forget that young people look for quality of place as much as they look for the right job to fit their career goals. The experience students have living here while in school is critical to helping them decide to make Miami their permanent home.
As a relative newcomer to Miami, I can tell you that our community has much to offer young professionals whether they are starting a family or enjoying the single life. Miami is rich with authentic neighborhoods, ethnic cultures and an evolving music and arts scene. We have a wide range of sports, recreational and cultural activities, plus unique culinary venues and communities to cater to all tastes. We have lifestyle choices to match a person’s interests throughout their life stages.
▪ Second, Miami has evolved as a global business destination. The dearth of Fortune 500 corporations to train and entice young professionals has been overcome by an increasingly entrepreneurial ecosystem that is highly desirable to today’s millennial. According to the Kauffman Foundation, the Kansas City-based think tank that focuses on start-ups and entrepreneurs, Miami is ranked second nationally in entrepreneurship, beating out perennial favorites such as Boston and Silicon Valley. Our entrepreneurial infrastructure continues to mature thanks to groups like Endeavor Miami, Launch Code, eMerge Americas and the Idea Center which provide mentoring, funding and networking for young businesses.
Miami may have won a battle in attracting young talent; now we have to win the war. We must support them so they stay in our community. We need their ideas, energy and ingenuity to continue to position Miami as a true global city, competing with Hong Kong, Singapore and Sao Paulo.
The Beacon Council launched the New Leaders Taskforce with that in mind. In June the task force presented its second annual “Why Miami” panel discussion, where 200-plus young professionals shared their thoughts about how to meet the needs of the new generation. Their ideas included: fewer cars and more transit, quality public education, policies to embrace innovation, green spaces, access to recreation, the arts, and a diverse, open community.
So while there is still work to be done attracting and retaining young talent of all types and ethnicities, we believe a young generation with a global mindset will be increasingly drawn here and choose to make Miami home and we will all be the better for it.
Larry K. Williams is the president & CEO of Miami Dade’s Beacon Council.