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Creating a talent flow key to future

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THE Economist’s report on Global City Competitiveness cited quality of educational systems and an entrepreneurial mindset as the primary indicators of the ability of cities to develop and attract the world’s top talent.

A city’s best chance of creating and retaining a skilled and talented workforce is to establish early, comprehensive and long-term strategies for jobs and integration of students and skilled workers.

Universities and centres of further education and training act as magnets for attracting young people who will eventually enter the knowledge economy workforce.

However, the pull of this magnet is temporary and cities risk losing their greatest asset – their skilled and educated workforce – and therefore losing businesses, which locate based on a skills pool.

What keeps talent in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro area over the long term?

We need to find that out and challenge ourselves to know what we need to do and how we can offer an alternative. Put simply, whether university graduates and young workers stay or leave our city will be based on job availability, housing and quality of life.

The latter two are not lacking, but job availability is an area in which we need to be aggressive and innovative.

A study on this topic for the Irish city of Dublin noted that policy makers tended to think of these factors as having equal importance.

But it was not as simple as this, the study found, as policymakers failed to recognise three distinct stages:

  • Stage one, in which the challenge is to retain young graduates and skilled workers through employment and helping them build strong professional networks from internships, training and cooperative experiences;
  • Stage two, in which the challenge is to retain university graduates and skilled workers five to seven years after graduation, bearing in mind that retention is enhanced by a city’s ability to provide the amenities for the after-work needs of the young population;
  • Stage three requires the realisation that, as individuals settle and form families, affordable housing requirements and access to urban facilities become dominant.
International strategy and management expert Valerie Germain says: “The ability to build talent capital, whether you are a business or a society, is a long-term investment.

“And one you have to keep at because the better talent you have, the more your talent will be targeted by others.“Continuously developing talent, and effectively challenging it, is key.

“This is a cultural mindset, not an event.”Germain – who is managing partner of strategy and business development at Chicagobased Heidrick & Struggles International Incorporated – says that while all corporations and countries think about their future and sustainable growth, they do not always include strong leadership and growing the right leaders on the agenda.On a fundamental level, successful cities need to utilise relationships for talent attraction and retention.

Whether connecting with the diaspora, creating job opportunities for university students through internships, or building roots to the city through housing opportunities, cities benefit from building strong relationships between new-economy workers and their surroundings.Cities with strategies that recognise talent as a “flow” – both inward and outward – maximise employment despite the effects of economic conditions.

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