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Talent attraction is a critical need throughout the state of Indiana. There are some major factors for communities to consider related to quality of place such as housing, school, parks, etc. However, these often-expensive projects do not need to prevent regions from taking strategic steps forward now. There are immediate and inexpensive ways in which communities can be intentional today about attracting talent. Here are our top six recommendations to start attracting your future leaders today.  

1 Start with your own. The college students who grew up in your community or region of the state are the “low hanging fruit” that you’re trying to gather. They are going to land somewhere. Do they know that you’d like them to come back home and make an impact? We believe you’ll have greater success if you target the students who are from your community or region. Be sure they know there is something for them in your region of the state.  

2 Celebrate before they leave town. Most communities know where their High School Seniors are heading after graduation. Don’t wait four years to start recruiting them back! Start the conversation before they leave. This may sound too simple. But find a location in town and throw a party. Or better yet – crash someone else’s party. Sponsor the high school graduation rehearsal and have a couple of local leaders show up and say “We’re so proud of you! And we can’t wait to see you back here during your breaks. Please contact us when you’re looking for summer jobs and we’ll help you out! Let us know if you need anything while you’re away.”  

3 Stay in contact. It would be meaningful for these students to hear from you early in their first semester. Have your chamber members send them a note and perhaps include a few coupons for them to use at their favorite coffee shop when they are back home. Text them an invitation to a casual gathering on the Wednesday of Thanksgiving break.  

4 Welcome them back during breaks. Many students return home at Thanksgiving and even bring friends. Rally your local leaders, chamber, young professions, etc. to host an open house at one of the student’s favorite spots. No program. Just friendly faces and some free food. Prepare your local leaders to mention a few things while mingling. 1. If you’re interested in working over winter or summer break, I’d love to connect you with local opportunities. 2. If you’re interested in meeting someone in your field of study, I would be happy to help you connect with someone locally when you’re home next. 3. If you need anything, you have a whole community of folks here to help you.   

5 Hire them for summer jobs and internships. Help them find a spot. They often would prefer to come home because they have housing available with family. Ask your local employers and chamber members what jobs and internships may be available for students. Send a note to students at their home address over winter break to let them know about the opportunity and how to apply. When students are home for the summer organize a few activities for them to do in your region. Again, this doesn’t need to be over programed, but an invitation to regional activities like concerts, minor league baseball games, canoe trips, and service projects are good ways for students to learn about what your region has to offer.   

6 Offer them jobs during their senior year well before their graduation. You can’t start with number 6. If you do, it will be too late. However, if you have done 1-5 during their college years this will be a natural step for them and for you. But universities have job fairs in September and your competitors will be handing out offers. So, be sure that they know you want them before they commit to a different opportunity.  

These six steps are all about relationship building and helping the next generation to know that they are valued and that they are the key to the future of our communities. They want to make an impact. They desire to have fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. Be sure that they know that opportunity exists in your region of the state.  And tell them to bring their friends!  


If your community has additional strategies for this challenge, email us and let us know. We’d love to share your story. 

Jeff Eads is the Director for Industry Engagement at Ball State University.