Pennsylvania Acts to Staunch ‘Brain Drain’

By: - December 3, 2001 12:00 am

Like many states, Pennsylvania faces a “brain drain”– the loss of young people who graduate from state colleges and choose to apply their skills elswehere. At least 20,000 of them left the state between 1995 and 1997, the most recent two-year period for which such data is available.

To defuse this threat to its future economic stability, Pennsylvania is trying to change its image and appeal. “We want people to see (the state ) as tech-friendly. So many people believe the state is nothing more than dead coal mines and old steel mills,” says Robin Culver, a regional coordinator of the makeover effort.

TV ads and web sites market this new look by portraying Pennsylvania as a place to go to school and pursue a career. The ads are also designed to lure new employers to the state by playing up its higher education system.

“Come invent the future,” the hip, youth-oriented ads proclaim. You can see an example by clicking on television ad.

State officials say progress that has already been made in attracting high tech jobs to the state — jobs in information technology, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing will help combat the brain drain.

“Technology is an industry that stereotypically attracts youth,” says Joe Yarzebinski, Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Regional Coordinator. “With 25,000 unfilled tech jobs, the state has a great springboard for its Stay and Invent the Future’ campaign.”

On the drawing board for more than two years but officially launched just two months ago, the Stay and Invent the Future initiative divides Pennsylvania into 10 separate areas in order to play up regional strengths.

Teams of business, education and political leaders in each region are competing for grants that will promote regional opportunities and pay for internships and other employment icebreakers that might help attract and retain young talent. Proposals are due by Dec. 31.

The initiative was a pet project of former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge, who resigned in October to join President George W. Bush’s cabinet as director of homeland security. It initially carried a budget of $10 million, but that sum was recently reduced to $9 million because of a state budget crunch arising from the national economic downturn.

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