Number 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.”  

* In this series about 6 simple ways to be intentional about recruiting college graduates, in my previous post I wrote about the value of starting with your own youth. 

If you’re like me, you know that May in Indiana comes with some high stakes. No, I’m not talking about the race. I’m talking about the influx of high school graduates sending out invitations to their graduation open houses that take place in June. This can make for some busy weekends. And those who have attended a fair share can easily imagine the scene. A well put together poster board with pictures of the graduate throughout childhood, some plaques and certificates laid out highlighting their achievements, the smell of pulled pork in the crockpots, and the sound of bags hitting the cornhole boards. There’s also typically some indication of what the graduate is doing next, perhaps a banner with the name of a college on it.  

Many of our local community leaders tend to know where our graduates are heading for college by simply having lived in proximity to these young people. If it wasn’t the graduation open house, you may have heard it during a senior night ceremony or caught sight of a lawn sign in front of the house.  

Having worked in the employer engagement office at a university, I know that HR departments and economic regions would love to have access to this data for recruitment purposes.    

What does a community do with all this rich information? Try creating an annual event where community members bring together all college-bound students. Perhaps this could be a commissioning ceremony in which leaders in the community say, “We are proud of you. Go out and represent our community well. When you graduate, we are eager to have you come back and help us build this community into an even better place for your future.” During this event, students could be introduced to community members in various industries to form important relationships. 

Local community organizations that provide scholarships have additional information about college-bound students.  These scholarship applications are often extensive and require the applicant to share their anticipated college major. We learn about the scholarship winners through media outlets. But what about the remarkable young people who apply and don’t receive scholarships? Do communities use this wealth of information to connect these young people (winners included) to local mentors who can stay connected with them during their college years?  

Are these opportunities being left on the table (unlike that pulled pork) by communities who are eager, if not desperate to grow their talent pipelines? I think a simple first step is to celebrate our own youth before they leave for their next adventure.  


I am encouraged by Mayor Ryan Daniel of Columbia City and the creative way that he lets graduates know that he wants them to return home after graduation. 

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.