Arizona currently suffers from a problem: young people are leaving the state in large numbers in search of jobs, opportunities, and communities they want to live in. This is not just a demographic problem, but an economic one. Without young people and young talent residing in the state, Arizona will lack the workforce it needs to advance it's economy in years to come. To combat this problem, Local First Arizona was recently named by The Arizona We Want as the lead partner to develop an action plan for keeping young talent in Arizona. As one of the leading organizations advancing economic development in our local communities, LFA is a great organization to lead this effort in a collaborative way. This month, LFA convened over 20 organizations that have an expertise in young talent to discuss possible solutions and action items to creating a better environment to keep young people in Arizona. Key organizations from the meeting included the Manifesto Project, Tucson Young Professionals, Gangplank, Greater Flagstaff Chamber/IMPACT Flagstaff, Arizona Commission on the Arts, and others.
The group first addressed the challenges that Arizona faces when it comes to keeping young talent in Arizona. Among these are Arizona's inaccurate image that isn't attractive to young people, a lack of community pride, an absence of a youth focus in Arizona economic development plans, and a lack of overall collaboration between regions, sectors, organizations, etc.
To address these challenges, the group then set about creating a specific action plan. Initial strategies include:
- Encourage nonprofits across Arizona to reduce their median age by 10 years or more before 2016.
- Place 48 young leaders in positions of influential leadership on some of the most impactful boards, councils, and commissions in the state.
- Develop more hands-on career exploration programs and ‘tuition free’ internships for high school and college students in traditional and non-traditional settings
- Empower communities and organizations to integrate place-making into their policies, procedures, and lifestyles
- Register 20,000 students to vote in 2014
- Develop new strategies for marketing and identifying this unique place and its offerings
- Reduce rivalry by encouraging collaboration and communication across sectors, regions, organizations, etc.
These action items will help create appealing jobs and guide young people towards them; give them a sense of civic pride and actively engage them in their community; and help solve Arizona's image problem and promote the state as an inclusive place full of opportunity. These items should ultimately put Arizona on the path to creating a place that young people in Arizona will want to remain and other young people from across the country will flock to. Learn more about these efforts at TheArizonaWeWant.org.