It’s such a simple step one has to wonder why it wasn’t done long ago.
For quite a few years now, New Hampshire businesses have lamented a lack of workers with the skills to succeed as employees. At the same time, many of the state’s high school graduates are heading elsewhere for college and those exiting college here are leaving shortly thereafter.
There are myriad reasons young adults might choose to live elsewhere. High among them is pay, especially given the high debt load New Hampshire college students graduate with, and higher salaries available in Boston and other major cities. New graduates may simply have a hard time finding work in their field. And if they do find work, the high cost of housing in the Granite State makes it difficult to live here on an entry-level salary.
Whatever the reason, the dynamic is a damaging one for the state. A graying workforce, combined with more retirees and others needing health care and other services, does not seem a recipe for a healthy economy.
The past several election cycles have brought many promises to address the situation; to make it more tenable for young adults to settle in the state.
One such effort this year is in the form of Senate Bill 12. Put forth by Sen. Jay Kahn of Keene and others, it would offer new college graduates an annual incentive payment of at least $1,000 per year for four years if they take a job with an in-state employer that’s part of the partnership. In exchange for agreeing to make the payments, employers would get a push on the state Business and Economic Affairs’ website. They’d also get, ostensibly, a qualified worker.
Kahn put the same bill forward in 2017, but it was tabled in the Senate. This year, with a new Senate, it passed that body 23-0. The House labor panel will discuss it Wednesday.
The idea that an extra $4,000 over four years will sway a lot of graduating students might seem far-fetched. But the N.H. College Graduate Retention Incentive Partnership is an important step for more than the number of students who take advantage of it.
It would create a tangible partnership between the state Department of Business and Economic Affairs, the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, the N.H. College and University Council, the N.H. Higher Education Assistance Fund, the N.H. Coalition for Business and Education, and Stay, Work, Play NH. Employers who sign on would have a leg up in attracting recent graduates whose skills fit their needs.
There’s been a concerted push to better prepare the state’s high school and college students for workforce entry in recent years. That includes Gov. Chris Sununu adding funds to nursing and STEM programs at both the community college and university system levels.
Beyond that, however, there haven’t been many concrete moves aimed at retaining graduates. Sununu created a “Millennial Advisory Council” in 2017, but neither he nor the Legislature have enacted policies or laws that would help young adults financially.
Kahn’s program may be limited in scope, but it’s action in the right direction.