At the start of the Louisiana Smart Growth Summit in November, keynote speaker Mitchell J. Silver – who works for the Department of City Planning in Raleigh, North Carolina – gave his audience some constructive criticism:
“Baton Rouge, you’re not keeping your young people. They're leaving," said Silver.
"They go to school – LSU, Southern – get a great education and saying, ‘I don’t like this place. There’s no opportunity here.’ You spent all that time educating your best and brightest and they leave.”
LSU Career Services Director Mary Feduccia says stats from her office tell a different story. According to graduating student surveys conducted at the end of every semester, the percentage of LSU graduates staying in the state has actually risen from about 46 percent in 2000 to almost 53 percent in 2012, with nearly twice as many students responding.
FEDUCCIA: The pendulum has shifted. When I first started at LSU Career Services 15 years ago, there were a greater percentage of students going out of state than there are now. Now, you have to take into considering that our survey is conducted two weeks before graduation, right up until graduation and so at that time not all of the students have full-time employment. But based on the data that we do have, we see that more students are staying in-state now than they were 15 years ago.
WESTERMAN: So why do you think the pendulum has shifted?
FEDUCCIA: I think there’s more opportunities now for them and I think that they’re more savvy about identifying job openings in Louisiana.
WESTERMAN: What about changes in the tactics industries are using to recruit new graduates to stay in the state? What has changed about that over the last 15 years?
FEDUCCIA: We work really closely with employers to have a strong presence on campus so that when they do have job openings, whether those are full-time job openings or internship openings, that our students know who they are and are more inclined to want to apply. And so to have a strong presence on campus we encourage them to meet with faculty to attend student organization meeting, to participate in our recruitment events, to recruit through our office and they’re doing this is greater numbers now than they had been.
We hear from graduates, from students all the time that they’d much rather stay in Louisiana if they could find competitive job opportunities because in Louisiana, you know, we have this unique culture and students who attend LSU usually adjust and adapt very well to that, and would like to stay if they could find good jobs.
WESTERMAN: Do you have any data or have seen any trends in your office of students in certain majors or fields of interesting more likely to stay in-state after graduation?
FEDUCCIA: Well, in looking at the data that we do have, students who are in Liberal Arts, Education, Construction Management and of the engineering discipline Civil Engineering tend to stay in-state in greater numbers than those who are in other fields.
WESTERMAN: As a career counselor, is it your goal to keep LSU graduates in the state or to help them find a job wherever possible?
FEDUCCIA: Well, I mean, ideally we would like them to stay in the state. LSU is a state institution and we’re educating them very well, so ideally we’d like them to stay in the state. But we don’t restrict their opportunities and exploration only to the state of Louisiana.
WESTERMAN: What do you think, as a person who counsels many students into their first job, the state could maybe improve upon to keep even more LSU grads in the state?
FEDUCCIA: Well, I know that our Department of Economic Development and our workforce development agency are working really hard to bring employers to Louisiana to create those career opportunities. And we work closely with, especially with the FastStart office and the Department of Economic Development, the Chamber of Commerce to help bring in businesses. Part of our job is doing outreach to employers from other states encouraging them to come recruit at LSU as well as to consider, you know, moving into the state.