Brain drain battle

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By Graduate Consultant, Stuart Roberts

As a young, recently graduated Tasmanian, choosing whether to stick around, or succumb to the temptation of mainland employment was a decision I, and almost every one of my peers has had to contend with at some point.

Personally, I know this is where I want to be, and I take pride in my position as a young Tasmanian making real contributions to an economy that quite frankly, needs it.

However, since turning 18, every year I have been forced to say goodbye to another healthy troop of talented, intelligent individuals en route to mainland employment and education prosperity.

This phenomenon known as ‘brain drain’ continues to strike fear in the eyes of our leaders, particularly with our need for youth in the face of an ageing population.

So, why do our talented young minds continue to leave?

Is it purely job and education opportunities, or is there something else encouraging our youth to jump the Bass Strait?

Despite the attraction of quality education and employment, in my experience the decision to leave for the crucial 18-22 age bracket often comes down to one major factor, fun.

In what may come as a shock to some of the older generation, young people often make decisions purely based on fun, with little to no regard for the long term economic consequences of their decisions.

It’s important to remember, traditional Australian ideals such as home ownership are becoming further and further out of reach for our youth.

If saving up to buy a property is simply unachievable, then what’s to stop them from spending all of their money on pursuing the activities that give them pleasure?

Unfortunately for many, it’s not always possible to pursue these activities in Tasmania.

They might be seeking access to better night life, shopping, or live sport – any number of interests could motivate someone to make the interstate jump.

This is where Australia’s major centres have a significant advantage, with their sheer size allowing them to offer just about anything to anyone at any time.

So how can Tasmania compete with Sydney or Melbourne in providing fun and fulfilling activities to suit the varying interests of our youth population?

Well in short, we can’t, but there may be an alternative.

No business succeeds by providing a range of activities to an average standard.

Businesses specialise in order to effectively service a certain area of the market.

Like any successful business, perhaps it’s time Tasmania focused on a specific area of youth interest to develop an economy supported by bright, young brains.

We should look to play on our uniqueness and exploit our existing advantages.

With the success of Mona and related arts initiatives in Hobart, Tasmania could truly specialise in the arts, investing heavily in marketing, programs, university scholarships, residency opportunities and major events to cement Tasmania’s position as an international arts hub.

Alternatively, we could build on the success of Derby, and develop Tasmania into an international mountain bike hot spot, with major competitions, free access and world class tracks.

Although specialising may not allow us to fight off the annual Melbourne exodus, by offering unmatched opportunities in specific fields, we can potentially supplement our losses with interstate and international arrivals.

As a small, ageing economy, brain drain will continue to cause headaches for Tasmania into the future.

It might be time to move past the stagnant narrative of more jobs means more young people, and begin to consider more creative solutions.

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