A recent Dayton survey finds nearly a third of Daytonians aged 18 to 34 are “totally unlikely” to remain in the city for the next five years. A new initiative aims to reverse this trend by matching more college students with Miami Valley internships.
Advocates hope connecting young people to jobs early on could boost the chances they’ll stay and start careers in Dayton down the road.
The “20 by 20” initiative aims to bring the number of student interns up to 20,000 in the Dayton area over the next two years.
The program launched in response to what some researchers see as a troubling trend.
A Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education, or SOCHE, report found only a fraction of Miami Valley college students end up with local internships during or after college.
That’s a problem, says Silvia Anderson. She’s Montgomery County’s talent-acquisition manager. Anderson says internships can be a critical first step into the job market for many college graduates.
And, she says, young workers are important to the economy.
“Younger folks challenge how we can do things differently and better. And that’s what employers are looking for because that affects their bottom line.”
To try and connect more young people to companies around the Dayton region, Montgomery County is working directly with some Miami Valley universities.
Officials organize career fairs and other events to show college students what the area has to offer.
The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Generation Dayton program also matches students to job and internship opportunities with its network of local businesses.
The chamber’s Holly Allen says real-world job experience can open up new opportunities for young people who may otherwise move out of state for jobs after college.
“I think it’s easy to say, I don’t want to stay in Dayton, or, there’s nothing that Dayton has to offer me, if you don’t get involved and you don’t feel included in the really great things going on here.”
Allen says Dayton offers many opportunities for young people who want to work for socially responsible businesses that also empower them to better the community.
“They are passionate about the Dayton region, they’re coming up with ideas for how they can grow themselves and how they can grow the Dayton area, and they are real advocates for our region,” she says.
Putting young people to work in local businesses before, and after, college graduation can help to keep them in the Miami Valley over the long term, she says.
“We’ve heard from members of Generation Dayton who grew up here in the Dayton area. As soon as they got out of school they went for larger cities and after spending a few years outside the Dayton region they realized, hey, Dayton’s not so bad, it’s really the place I want to be."
Some Dayton officials also want to attract more young people from out of state, including Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman. “We’re always looking at ways to engage, not just with the students that are in the universities but also with our own young people that have moved away," she says. "Figure out ways to bring them home, as we like to say.”
A 2017 CityLab report finds millennials are more than 50 percent more likely to live closer to cities than young people from previous generations.
The report finds many millennials are drawn in by the urban lifestyle.
Lieberman says it’s often difficult for Dayton to compete for young talent with larger cities. But, she says, many young people who go away for college often become homesick for Ohio.
“I probably have at least 10 friends whose children have come back when they’re ready to settle down. They realize that the cost of living in Chicago or New York City isn’t conducive to owning a home or starting a family,” Lieberman says.
And, Dayton’s relatively low cost of living can also be a benefit for some young would-be entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs like Matt Grubb. The 24-year-old Kettering native recently started his own process-serving business, where he delivers documents for Dayton law firms.
Grubb says a number of factors keep him tied to the Dayton area.
“I think I like that it’s a big enough city to where you can have the city life that you want, but at the same time it has rural areas to it. You can travel 20 minutes and you’re out in the country. And the cost of living is really inexpensive,” Grubb says.
Still, Grubb acknowledges Dayton has fewer job opportunities than many major metropolitan areas around the country.
“In bigger cities there’s a lot more work. There’s also a lot more competition. And then again, the cost of living. I probably would have to make at least triple what I’m making now to live as comfortably as I am currently.”
Grubb says he hopes to settle down and continue building his business in Dayton.
Economic development officials hope their efforts to expand internships and job training will make it easier for more young people like Grubb to put down roots in Dayton.
This story is part of WYSO's Scratch series on innovation, business and the economy.