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Editorial: Too many young professionals don't see a future here

The results of a survey of young professionals in this region aren’t catastrophic – 76 percent of them see opportunity for career growth here – but there’s reason for concern in the significant falloff between that number and the 97 percent who would recommend Buffalo Niagara to others. What accounts for that?

That’s the concern about the study of young professionals recently released by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. In fact, the results documented a third, intermediate, instance of erosion in confidence. While nearly all the respondents said they would recommend the region, 88 percent said they could see themselves remaining in Buffalo 10 years from now and just three-quarters saw opportunity for career growth.

Again, none of that should produce panic, but together, the figures represent a flashing yellow light that demands attention. Who is represented in that loss of 21 percentage points? Are they young people with the most ambition or the highest goals?
Business leaders in Western New York need to work at retaining such leaders in the making.

The problem becomes especially troublesome among racial minorities. For example, while only 7 percent of respondents were non-white, 60 percent of them said they see opportunity for advancement here. By contrast, 83 percent of white respondents said they felt their careers could flourish here.

Yes, opportunities exist elsewhere. This isn’t New York City or Dallas or Chicago. Not everyone will stay. But we need to be able to compete better than that 21 percent seems to think we can. That’s the challenge posed by the survey of 326 people ages 25 to 34, many of whom are members of BN360, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s program for young professionals.

On the bright side, it is reassuring that 88 percent of the respondents said they could see themselves still in the region a decade from now. Young people’s attraction to Buffalo has been a critical part of the city’s resurgence and they are essential to its continuation. The region is making significant progress when so large a number sees that Western New York is a great place to grow roots.

Nevertheless, the area is projected to lose about 1 percent of its young professionals in the next five years, while other areas are expected to see an increase of 0.4 percent. There is work to do.

The partnership already has some ideas on how to respond to the survey results. They include better communicating the jobs that are available and laying out clear paths for advancement. Employers can also do better at understanding the goals of young professionals and helping them to foster those aims.

No one can say we haven’t been told.

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