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August 28, 2014

Study: Worcester must work to keep college grads


Worcester is undeniably a college town. In the 2013-2014 school year, more than 7,500 students graduated from the 12 colleges in and around the city. But many of them may not stay here, and that could spell a lack of local talent as the city works to boost its economy, according to a study released Wednesday.

While 40 percent of Worcester’s young professional-age (25 to 34) residents have bachelor’s degrees or higher, many who earn them locally don’t plan to stay in the city, according to the Worcester Regional Research Bureau report, Central Massachusetts Talent Retention Project: A Survey of the Class of 2014.

In fact, according to the report, less than one in five respondents intends to stay in Worcester, with many of the 56 percent staying in the state looking to settle closer to Boston (23 percent) and only 18 percent in Worcester.

The survey indicated that career opportunities are the biggest drivers of location decisions. Other factors – family, friends, local “feel,” and affordability – play an important role, but most graduates look for locales with existing job openings and future career opportunities, the report said.

“Worcester is home to an enviable source of economic potential. With more than 7,500 local college graduates each year, Worcester has an opportunity to capitalize on an endless brain trust to bring innovation and new economic activity into the city,” said Timothy J. McGourthy, executive director of the bureau. “The public and private sectors must work with the colleges and universities to engage students in the life of the city as soon as each student steps on campus.”

The report made a number of recommendations to help keep local talent in Worcester, including expanded internship opportunities, a centralized career services function connecting local colleges and universities with job opportunities, improvement of a college-focused transportation network, and increased downtown retail and housing aimed at college students.

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