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Encouraging Students to Stay, Work, and Play

April 11, 2013 at 8:30 PM

Spring’s slow arrival across New Hampshire is not reflective of the Class of 2013’s feverish preparations for graduation and entry into the workforce. In 2011 New Hampshire’s 32 colleges and universities awarded over 16,000 associates, bachelors, and master’s degrees. Despite these impressive numbers, it was found that 32% of surveyed NH young professionals said they planned to move out of the state within five years of graduating.

New Hampshire’s challenge now becomes identifying and promoting incentives that encourage graduates to stay in the Granite State. This issue has been highlighted during recent Strafford Regional Planning Commission outreach events and Regional Community Conversations and through the efforts of organizations such as Stay Work Play and WorkReadyNH.

In 2009, Stay Work Play was established to further a 55% Initiative- working to increase the number of graduates that choose to stay in the state to 55% or more. Stay Work Play’s mission is: to work collaboratively across New Hampshire to support ongoing economic, workforce, and community development by promoting the state as a favorable place for young workers and recent college graduates to stay, work, and play when considering employment and lifestyle opportunities.

In order to encourage graduates to stay in the Granite State, a grant incentive program was created. This program highlights local employers, who have agreed to pay down federal college loans of newly hired NH graduates over the first four years of their employment. Students must have graduated from a New Hampshire college or university within the last 18 months, and been hired within the last 12 months to be eligible. This is just one way that graduates are being encouraged to remain in the Granite State.

WorkReadyNH is another organization geared towards jobs creation driven by individuals properly prepared to enter the workforce. This program, in conjunction with the Community College System of New Hampshire, the Office of the Governor, the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development, and the NH Department of Employment Security, provides assessment, instruction and credentialing in key skill areas identified by employers as important in the workplace. The program works through a four-step process. Step One allows the potential worker’s skill levels to be assessed in areas including applied math, reading for information, and location of information. Step Two encourages improvement in skills through online training modules and classes. Step Three is the culmination of the course, where participants earn certificates that they can then use to show potential employers the skill sets they have acquired. Step Four involves using these certificates in the job application process.

The program is free for eligible participants, which include NH residents who are 18 or older, not a full-time student, and have basic math and reading skills (sixth grade level). Courses are offered at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, Manchester Community College, River Valley Community College in Claremont and Keene, and White Mountains Community College in Berlin, Colebrook, Conway, North Conway, and Littleton. Employers are also encouraged to offer interviews to those with certification, and to showcase both their business offerings and the types of employment available.

In addition to the accomplishments of statewide organizations working to encourage job creation and retention in the state, Strafford Regional Planning Commission has actively recruited and hired new college graduates in support of its own Stay Work Play recruitment practices. In fifteen years, Strafford has hired fourteen recent college graduates, most from the University of New Hampshire located in the region, and many more interns.

In March citizens participating in the Regional Community Conversation in Dover voiced concerns with the availability of workforce housing for young people migrating/immigrating into the state. In addition, participants expressed the idea that businesses and NH-based companies need to recruit more aggressively to incentivize students to remain in or return to NH.

Strafford recently conducted outreach at the University of New Hampshire’s Memorial Union Building over the course of three days, collecting input from nearly 200 students. Students mentioned a need for more employment options as a key factor in improving the region and staying in the state.

As Strafford begins to create a vision for the region, the input gathered from such outreach events becomes vital in ensuring quality planning efforts for future economic development, and sustained community growth. For this reason, Straff9rd chose to target students as a vital and essential outreach group. Current students represent the future backbone of the NH job market, encouraging economic growth that will not only enhance the Strafford region but the state as well. Strafford ’s three days of outreach at the University of New Hampshire ensured that we reached this audience and allowed Strafford staff to tap in to students’ concerns and ideas for the successful future of the Strafford region.

Strafford Regional Planning Commission continues to do outreach as well to encourage individuals to help Strafford staff create a balanced plan for the future. If you have any ideas for what the Strafford Region, or the state, can do to encourage initiatives such as Stay Work Play, leave a comment and let us know. We would love to hear your ideas!


Shayna Sylvia, SRPC Community Outreach Intern, UNH Class of 2012

Tags: Regional Planning Community and Economic Vitality Outreach SRPC
Category: Strafford Regional Planning Commission

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