Posted by Jimi Coplen
Executive Director, Haskell Development Corporation, Texas
In rural America, we know that "brain drain" is a real problem. We do an excellent job of educating our children, teaching them a good work ethic and turning them into extraordinary adults. Then they leave for college, never to be seen again. Employers are struggling to find the available workforce, communities must rely on the same five people to do everything, which prevents small communities from flourishing. But what are we doing to tell our children that we want to get them back?
Our local Workforce Solutions organization organized a WOW (World of Work) event for high school students. This event presents various careers that can be realized throughout the region. He puts business people and real-world trades in front of high school students. They can ask questions about different careers, participate in simulated activities, talk to experts, etc. It's a great event.
This year, five community economic promoters from small towns gathered to host a booth. But instead of telling students what the economic developers are doing, our booth has highlighted the "brain drain"! (Of course, students did not know this term and did not know that they were part of the brain drain.)
We sent the loud and clear message to 3,000 students that after college, business school or whatever they decided to do, we want their brains in rural Texas one day! We let them know that their community is counting on them! We also gave them a list of work in progress in our small communities with estimated salaries. Despite what they may think or say, there are really good jobs in rural communities.
The highlight of our booth was a great brain built by one of our colleagues. We asked students to "choose our brain". Reluctantly, they put their hand in a hole and on the other side were small balls of brain-shaped stress where it was written, "Working in rural areas is cool!" Rural Texas!
We took this opportunity to plant a seed and ensure that someone sent these students the message that they were the future of their community. It's good to go out and see the world, get an education, but one day, we want to get them back!
The communities represented on the Brain Drain stand were Tye, Haskell, Seymour, Gorman and Snyder, Texas, as well as our regional organization, the Texas Midwest Community Network.
See more photos of the cabin here.
A special thanks to Jimi Coplen from Haskell, Texas, for sharing this story!
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