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Philadelphia’s young people: Ambitious, eager … and they want to stay here

Posted Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Education & Talent

This article was originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal.


Philadelphia-area college students and young professionals agree that their next job opportunity is likely to be local. This bodes well for efforts to spur economic growth, foster entrepreneurialism and attract new businesses to the region. Campus Philly and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia (the Chamber) recently studied student and young professionals’ perceptions of the Greater Philadelphia job market and their priorities for work. The two surveys called Ready to Launch and Cultivating the Next Generation of Leaders reveal a talent pipeline for Greater Philadelphia that is ambitious, optimistic and committed to working and thriving here.

Campus Philly’s study surveyed over 1,000 college students and found that 67 percent of them say that they are likely to stay in the area after graduation, and 88 percent see great job prospects here. The Chamber’s study of a similar number of young professionals found that 93 percent thought their next job could be in Greater Philadelphia and 97 percent would recommend the region to others as a place to live.

Not only is talent intent on staying in this region, the young people surveyed are ambitious and eager for professional growth. Campus Philly and the Chamber found that opportunity for growth was the top factor in selecting a new job for both college students and young professionals. College students in Campus Philly’s study anticipate having an average of 2.79 jobs by the time of their 10-year reunion and the young professionals in the Chamber’s study bear this out, with 25-29 year olds reporting 2.6 jobs since college and 35-39 year olds reporting having 3.6.

Both studies reveal challenges and opportunities for our region. Greater Philadelphia has experienced job growth over the past five years, but, at 7 percent, this growth has been slower than other top 10 metros, though just recently squeaking by New York. Does this mean that students’ and young professionals’ ambitions and expectations for multiple opportunities in the early years of their career lead them to pursue opportunity elsewhere? Amenities that draw college students and young professionals to Philadelphia continue to flourish, but with investments in schools, transportation and affordable housing for families lagging, will 20-somethings’ enthusiasm for living here translate into long-term residency?

Both Campus Philly and the Chamber – through its Education & Talent Action Team and Young Professionals Council (YPC) – are making investments and developing a coordinated strategy to answer the needs of young people eager to build their futures here. Campus Philly offers a region-only internship and entry-level job platform for college students and employers that’s free to use. More than 2,000 regional college students are active users of the site, and hundreds more going to college outside the region use the website as well. The Chamber’s YPC has more than 1,500 members who are actively seeking opportunities to engage in the community. This year the Chamber launched a unique mentoring program between YPC leaders and executives of Chamber member companies, for each to learn leadership and civic engagement lessons from each other. It is programs like these that help us establish Greater Philadelphia as the place that collectively delivers purposeful engagement for the current and future leaders of our region.

Greater Philadelphia has experienced a talent resurgence. Since 2000, there has been a 50.7 percent increase in city residents over 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher and a 36 percent increase for the region as a whole. This growth is not a matter of chance. It’s the product of concerted efforts by Campus Philly, the Chamber and other organizations to ensure that Philadelphia is inviting and welcoming college students and young professionals to build their futures here.

Deborah Diamond is president of Campus Philly. Rob Wondering is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.

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