A prized commodity in the knowledge economy is not just knowledge companies but the talent that needed to make them work. Every community wants to get smarter and offer a workforce that has the skills to attract innovative companies.
Writing in Forbes, author and demographer Joel Kotkin offers an analysis of Census data shared with the magazine by demographer Wendell Cox that identifies metro areas with the highest growth percentage in their college-educated populations over age 25 from 2000 to 2010.
The top five metros with the fastest-growing segment of college-educated workers:
1) Las Vegas NV
2) Riverside CA
3) Raleigh NC
4) Austin TX
5) Charlotte NC
Kotkin notes some “surprise” cities on the list, places such as Charlotte, Nashville and San Antonio.
“In the past decade, the metropolitan areas that have enjoyed the fastest growth in their college-educated populations have not been the places known as hip, intellectual hotbeds,” Kotkin writes.
“Hip” is, of course, in the eye of the beret wearer (though Nashville has certainly earned enough national bona fides to be considered hip). Intellectual hotbeds is another matter.
Each of those region offers a prime example of how leveraging strong quality of place with higher education assets not only supplies the labor pool with college-educated workers, but also attracts and retains highly educated talent.
Charlotte is not only the second-largest financial services center in the nation, but it also includes growing life sciences, aerospace and defense, and energy technology segments, all of which demand highly educated workers.
It’s also a mecca for motorsports, and while the stereotype is of a guy in grease-stained overalls working under the hood of a car, the sport runs on teams of engineers and technicians, many who graduated from motorsports engineering programs offered by the region’s highly regarded colleges and universities, such as UNC Charlotte.
Nashville is rightly known as Music City, and its college programs in areas such as sound engineering and entertainment management draw students from around the world, many of whom end up working in the region’s diverse music industry when they graduate. Nashville is also a health-care capital, with more than 300 health-care related companies based there, .many of them operating globally.
Vanderbilt University, the largest private-sector employer in the city, reaches into all facets of the economy. It conducts research across a range of disciplines, and its hospital system and medical school draw talent from around the world.
San Antonio, too, is a life sciences hub. The Southwest Research Institute is one of the largest independent research facilities in the nation, where a team of 3,000 scientists and researchers conduct pioneering work in areas such as chemistry, space science, nondestructive evaluation, automation, engine design, mechanical engineering and electronic.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, with enrollment of nearly 31,000 students, is a hub of innovation. Two major university research centers, the Institute for Cyber Security (ICS) and Center for Infrastructure Assurance & Security (CIAS), have helped the region establish itself as a breeding ground for IT and cybersecurity-related enterprise.
It is no accident that these communities can produce, attract and retain highly educated talent. Each has vibrant and growing knowledge-oriented industry clusters aided in some measure by the presence of major universities. It shouldn’t be a surprise at all that they are getting “smarter.”
Is your community attractive to college-educated workers? What’s your strategy for increasing the educational attainment of your workforce? What roles do higher education institutions in your community play in driving growth in knowledge-oriented industry segments? Share your thoughts.