Monday, October 12, 2009

Sen. Keller invesitgates UNM's brain drain

After reviewing the census demographic research presented to the Legislative Economic and Rural Development Committee on New Mexico’s “Brain Drain” Problem, Senator Keller has announced plans to craft legislation to help address deep structural challenges in New Mexico’s labor force.

“We can’t expect to build a rich diverse growing economy when 60% of our work force leaves the state. This is big reason why, we continue to, and may remain near the bottom of the nation when it comes to GDP and productivity. We invest in citizens’ education, we provide lottery scholarships for our Universities and our investments are walking right out of the state," said Keller.

"Like most New Mexican’s I thought most native born folks come back at some point, but this study shows that is a myth, its only 2%," said Keller. "I’m concerned about how our state competes regionally when 8 out 10 people who are born here moving to states nearby for higher paying jobs."

The UNM study conducted by Dr. Dely Alcantara found, among other things, that 60% of born New Mexican’s leave our state after schooling and only 2% return. 8 out 10 of the individuals who leave go to neighboring states. It also found the “Brain Drain” effect; those who have a higher degree are 4x more likely to leave than the average person born in New Mexico.

"The “brain drain” means there is a finite amount of good jobs that will come to our state because there simply isn’t enough talent. For economic development to stick we have to create ‘clusters’ where generations of New Mexicans are matched with good jobs in a particular industry. We’ve got craft our economic development policy to keep our top talent and bring those who’ve left home,” Senator Keller explained at the committee meeting.

He outlined several proposals that could be used to help support talent retention in our state:

  • Track the long term demand for particular jobs in our state (for example the number of engineers we need over the next 10 years) and supply of labor we are graduating at our universities (the number of engineer graduates) to better inform the business community and higher education curriculum.
  • Bolster our 40+ state industry incentives to include preferences for ‘returnees’ (born New Mexicans who have left) and native born New Mexicans, specific increased percentages of New Mexicans in management and ‘career path’ positions.

“This will link our business development initiatives to help stop the Brain Drain and prevent us from becoming a ‘low cost’ labor provider for the rest of the country,” Senator Keller noted.

  • Refocus our incentives programs toward supporting ‘economic clusters’ which include supply chain partners for key industries rather than only for specific industries.
  • Reinstate a State Planning Office to provide a long term strategic planning arm for our state government that can coordinate services, education and economic development efforts against changes in our state’s workforce demographics
  • Provide greater point preferences for New Mexico companies in government contracting to help create more jobs locally
  • Stream line business registration and licensing to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start a business is our state
  • Support access to the types of financing need to support local small business job creation like entrepreneur/venture capital, micro lending, job training funding, incubators and small business lending.
Last session, Senator Keller sponsored SB 175 to add “returnees” to the JTIP program which was adopted by the program this summer. He also sponsored SJM13 requiring the states bureau of economic research to track long term workforce supply and demand. Senator Keller shared he will be drafting legislation on these topics and will introduce them next session if the topics are in line with the Governor’s call, if not they will be rolled in the next 60 day.

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