Retaining Alabama: The effort to retain talent in a growing economy

Posted On November 27, 2022

Alabama’s colleges and universities attract a lot of students from out of state. Nearly 60 percent of the University of Alabama’s more than 38,000 students in 2021 came from other states or countries. At Auburn, out-of-state enrollment was just under half of its more than 31,000 students last year.

More than three-quarters of those students leave Alabama when they graduate, however. What’s more, about a quarter of in-state students who go to college in Alabama also leave the state to start their careers. Overall, only about half the state’s college graduates are still working in Alabama five years after they graduate.

These numbers are according to Dr. Jim Purcell, the Executive Director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, our guest in the latest episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston.” It’s Purcell’s goal to try to convince more of those students, both in-state and out-of-state, to stay in Alabama.

Talent retention is important for any state, but particularly one that is attracting industry from around the world – including international manufacturers like Airbus, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Austal.  A growing workforce needs to keep more of its college graduates in-state.

Purcell’s office studied talent retention among recent college graduates in its Employment Outcomes Report in 2020. This year, the state allocated funding to create the Retain Alabama initiative in an effort to keep more homegrown talent here.

Part of the process has been surveying soon-to-be graduates on what they value in a community and in a first job, and on their perceptions about the state in general. Countering some of those perceptions, such as those about wages and per-capita income as compared to the rest of the country, is one step toward retaining more talent.

“The economy, and Alabama in general, is not your grandparents’ economy,” Purcell said. “It’s a whole different world, and we’re marketing these graduates to this new economy.”

The other big thing is just making sure the state’s graduating college seniors are aware of all the opportunities that are available in the state. To this end, Purcell is working with state colleges to collect data and contact information on recent graduates, so that they can share opportunities that fit their career fields.

This episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston” is a collaboration with Business Alabama magazine.

Categories: Blog, Podcast, Recruiting, What's Working with Cam Marston