Brain gain

In the decades since the decline of the American steel industry, northeast Ohio has lost many of its educated residents to more booming regions.

However, recent evidence suggests that the tide is turning.

According to U.S. census data from 1995 to 2000, Ohio lost 18,409 highly educated residents. Almost 16 percent of the Cleveland-Akron metropolitan area left during that time.

The American Community Survey reported that from 2007 to 2009, 1,715 graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher moved into northeast Ohio. This is in contrast to the 1,742 graduates who left, leaving a deficit of only 27 degree holders.

For Youngstown, the news is even better.

“The most recent data that I have indicates that the loss of college graduates in Youngstown is zero,” said Shawn Brown, associate director of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education.

The NOCHE, a group that focuses on raising the number of people with undergraduate and graduate degrees, reported dramatic increases in educational attainment in northeast Ohio.

Brown said northeast Ohio is now drawing more educated residents than it is losing.

“And we must, because the jobs of today and the future require college education,” Brown said.

Estimates reveal that about 60 percent of all jobs in Ohio will require college education by 2018.

In preparation for these requirements, the Eastern Ohio P-16 Partnership for Education was founded in 2009.

This organization is a collaboration of local education and community elites, including Youngstown State University President Cynthia Anderson.

It aims to prepare students from preschool through undergraduate education for the region’s new economy and the demands it will have. Some of these strategies include guidance and preparation for standardized testing and best practices work with local schools and teachers.

Stephanie Shaw, executive director of P-16, said since job markets are always evolving, so must educational institutions.

Shaw said a lot of opportunities exist in science and teaching. She highlighted the shift away from heavy manufacturing and toward the region’s burgeoning technology sector.

“We’re at a pivotal point. Manufacturing isn’t the same as when some of the graduates’ parents and grandparents started. These are highly skilled jobs that require skilled workers,” Shaw said.

YSU is meeting this high technology demand through the YSU College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. From 2005 to 2012, the college increased the number of awarded degrees from 294 to 332.

“Certainly, it bespeaks the quality of education the university offers. Companies used to locate where there were natural resources,” said Michael Hripko, director of STEM research and technology-based economic development. “Now, they’re located where there are intellectual resources.”  

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