Opinion Columns & Blogs

City must recruit, retain young adults

What is the benefit of keeping young people in Wichita? For many of us, it's about family and friends. For employers and community leaders, it may be about talent and work force.

It's also about economic loss. In the next four years, the flight of young professionals could cost Wichita $610 million.

That attention-getting number is part of Destination ICT, a study the Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) and the Wichita Educational Foundation had Next Generation Consulting conduct to determine how Wichita stacks up against other similar cities. YPW is a membership group for ages 21 to 39 committed to making a difference in our community. YPW aims to partner with others to make Wichita the destination of choice for homegrown or recruited young professionals.

In many ways, the results of the study validate what many have said. This study quantifies the outcome and offers achievable recommendations. Next Generation Consulting conducted focus groups and Web-based surveys, interviewed employers and analyzed secondary data.

So how did we stack up?

First, some good news: We have something to offer that young professionals highly value. One of our greatest assets is our cost of living. We are an affordable community in which to live, work and play. While we celebrate and promote this fact, we also know from research that it's a starting point, not an ending point, and many other factors also influence decisions.

One of the issues in which we don't do as well is our perception of the community and lack of awareness about community assets. We've heard this one before, and the way it affects other issues is clearly a concern.

Another issue is that young people are concerned about the diversity of career opportunities and don't understand the depth of existing opportunities. We need to continue to focus on diversifying job opportunities, while also increasing knowledge of current opportunities.

You can read more about these and other issues important to young people based on national research and how our data compares with peer cities in the full study at the Web site www.ypwichita.org. Other issues include diversity, educational options, green spaces, a variety of after-work activities, a thriving downtown and options for getting around town.

As young people, it's part of our collective DNA to move on these issues now. We also know that it will take teamwork, resources and a collaborative effort. We've already begun to reach out to other organizations, and you will see change in the near future. Visioneering Wichita already has started moving on many of the recommendations through the networks and relationships in place.

As Young Professionals of Wichita celebrates our fifth anniversary, we want to thank the community for supporting the collective voice of young professionals and for participating in the Destination ICT study. We are eager to work together to use these results and build on the existing community progress, because in the end, the attributes that attract young people are often what all ages are looking for in a community.