OPINION: Bold plan needed for young ideas

What is the role of talent in revitalizing our ­cities?

How do we attract, retain and nurture the ­talent needed to lead our city’s future generations?

Those who are considered as part of the ­talent pool and voluntarily migrate to a new and ­distant community tend to have three characteristics. They are young, between 25-34 years old, ­single and college or university educated.

These young folks primarily move, in this case, for two main reasons: employment and lifestyles – quality of life.

Cities such as London are currently struggling with strategies to keep their young and fresh talent retained, which is a growing problem. The talent that comes right out of our post-secondary institutions is vital to the success and prosperity of our future.

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It’s necessary to retain and attract talented people so we can increase the productivity of our workforce and to encourage high value, knowledge-based industries. That’s because as our population ages, our tax base continues to shrink as well, causing municipal budgets to tighten even more.

While the challenges are daunting, there is a rising generation of leaders, instinctively comfortable with technology, that are confident in innovative solutions for what might otherwise seem to be intractable problems.

They understand that cities compete to attract new residents, businesses and visitors by offering a high quality of life and vibrant economic climate.

And they understand that sustainable economic development is shaped by the value created by both people and businesses, leveraging technology as an accelerator for growth.

These leaders know that economic development requires the balanced growth of business, talent and technology that enables value creation and innovation.

Cities that embrace today’s technology trends are attracting businesses, entrepreneurs and workers who thrive in the digital world.

Nonetheless, young people often want to move away from their “boring” hometown, even if it does offer economic opportunity, and to ­experience life in cultural hubs.

Simply put, young people want more than a job. They want a city they can make their own, whether it’s through renting a unique downtown loft or giving up a car to embrace a city’s public transportation system. They want dense urban amenities that allow them to leap in and have fun when they’re not working, and they want a strong labor market so they can find their next job when they’re ready.

There is a growing body of academic ­research on the consumption choices and lifestyle as ­opposed to productivity factors in migration ­decisions. And in a global battle for talent, where in-demand professionals have lots of choices, cities have to be ready to satisfy their residents — or risk losing them to a competitor who will.

Although lifestyle considerations and consumption choices are becoming increasingly important, productivity and job growth are still necessary for overall economic growth. In other words, simply enhancing the quality of life of our community will not, by itself, contribute to economic or population growth beyond an increase in resident retirees.

The only way young, talented entrepreneurs will stay in London is if doors are open for them. This is a community effort which means the city needs to provide leadership opportunities for the next generation and allow youth to have the voice, mentorship and resources necessary to succeed.

So in the end, we need a comprehensive ­talent retention and attraction strategy that serves the larger purpose of making our community a good place to live, work and play.

Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi

Amir Farahi is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the London Institute. He is an entrepreneur, columnist, public speaker, and is currently specializing in Economics and Political Science at Western University.

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