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Attacking brain drain from another angle

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 20, 2009 - Retention is again the magic word at a Regional Business Council reception taking place this afternoon in Clayton. But the invite list looks a bit different. Business and engineering students from area colleges have been asked to attend along with CEOs and young professionals.

The event is part educational (students learn about career opportunities and workforce trends) and part networking.

The reception is part of the RBC's Higher Education Collaboration. The end goal is to promote St. Louis as a good place for college grads to work and live.

As Kathleen Osborn, executive director of the consortium, explained to me, “The RBC approaches [talent retention] from as many different angles as possible, including focusing on students graduating college as well as those already out of college. Our goal is to keep talented young professionals, or those ready to enter the workforce, in the region by connecting them to the region’s business community and opportunities.” 

Keeping top engineering grads here is of particular interest, Osborn said. The RBC’s member companies identified that as a field where it’s hard to find in-town talent, she added.

The list of regional colleges partnering with the RBC in this effort is quite long. It includes engineering departments at Missouri University of Science and Technology, St. Louis University and Southern Illinois University, among others. Business schools still make up most of the names on the list.

As part of a mentoring network that's organized by the RBC, college students are paired with executives in related fields. The RBC works with schools to identify students who are interested in receiving career advice from the local business leaders. The students and executives meet at least twice a year. Today's event features panel discussions about different career paths and what opportunities are in St. Louis. 

Top executives at IT consulting firm The Newberry Group and the agricultural company Bunge North America are co-chairs of the Higher Education Collaboration. They serve as liaisons to the colleges by working directly with chancellors and deans to strengthen the connections between the schools and the business community.

New this year, the RBC is inviting young professionals to the reception. The idea is to get people who have a few years of work experience to talk to the students about how to network and develop a career plan.

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