Encouraging More Young Workers to Stay Work and Play in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire is a great state in which to live, ranking very highly in terms of health, safety, low taxes, personal income, and livability. Most individuals who attend college here or visit from another state recall positive experiences vacationing or exploring New Hampshire. They also want to stay or return here later in life. But currently, only about half of the state’s college graduates actually do stay.
The goal of Stay Work Play NH is to expose more young people to the advantages of remaining in or returning to New Hampshire. The overall effort builds off the work of the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) and partnering organizations that established the 55% Initiative in 2007. This effort set a goal of encouraging at least 55% of the new graduates to stay compared to approximately 50% who currently stay.
Stay Work Play NH, Inc. (SWP NH) was established as a nonprofit organization in April 2009 to further the 55% Initiative, support and advance several recommendations made by the Governor’s Task Force on Young Worker Retention in the spring of 2009, and serve as an independent organization to run a website and associated marketing effort geared at providing comprehensive information on what New Hampshire can offer to the 20-30 year old demographic in terms of staying, working, and playing here.
SWP NH was incorporated by the heads of five prominent statewide organizations – USNH, the NH College and University Council, the Business and Industry Association of NH, the NH High Technology Council, and the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development. It is governed by a Board of Directors that includes representation from the five incorporating organizations, several of the state’s young professionals’ networks, and the task force.
The primary focus for the organization for 2010 is the development and launch of the Stay Work Play web site at www.stayworkplay.org. Designed as a destination site for the 20-30 year old market, this website will include robust content around the three major themes, links to employment tools and opportunities, and social marketing tools and services.
Other efforts that will be led by SWP NH include managing and promoting a new corporate incentive to encourage companies to hire new and recent grads in the state. The “Stay Work Play Incentive Program” will promote companies through the web site that agree to hire new or recent grads and pay off up to $8,000 of student debt if they stay with the organization for a certain period.
Stay Work Play NH Mission Statement:
“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.” – approved, April 9, 2009
Background: The 55% Initiative was announced in January 2007 by the University System of New Hampshire Chancellor Stephen Reno as an effort to develop creative ways to promote New Hampshire to future college graduates, encouraging more to “stay, work, and play” here. The initiative focused on researching why graduating students stay or leave the state, on giving the issue greater visibility among employers, young professionals’ organizations, the media, and the general public, and building support for a marketing effort that could help shift perceptions about New Hampshire that may be outdated or inaccurate to help encourage 55% or more new graduates to remain in state.
The need for such an effort was clear. The state’s population is the fourth oldest nationally and many baby boomers are close to retirement. Employers traditionally have trouble finding skilled workers, half of the graduating high school students attend college outside of the state, and college graduates are leaving the state at too high a rate to meet projected employment needs, especially for skilled workers.
Research conducted by USNH determined that if the percentage of graduates that remain in New Hampshire could be increased from 50% to 55%, 323 additional graduates that planned to leave would need to stay. The positive economic impact of this change to the state would be $19 million a year. Over five years, the cumulative impact or retaining at least 55% of new graduates would be over $290 million.
In just two years, hundreds of businesses, organizations, young professionals and individuals demonstrated their support for advancing the 55% Initiative. The issue has received significant attention in the media and among leaders across the state, including Governor Lynch.