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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

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May 20, 2004
 Feature Story

 


Choice locations for graduates

By Aimee Sheppard
When top graduates move away to follow career opportunities, some feel the province is losing some of its brightest minds. But according to Dr. Jim Barnes, a professor at the Faculty of Business Administration, where graduates are living is not nearly as important as what they are doing.

“It makes me feel quite proud that our graduates can compete with the best from other universities and be employed by some excellent national and international companies.”

– Jim Barnes
Jim Barnes

“It makes me feel quite proud that our graduates can compete with the best from other universities and be employed by some excellent national and international companies,” said Dr. Barnes. “It simply reinforces what most of us have long known, that our program, with its co-op and international components, equips our graduates to work anywhere.”

The Faculty of Business Administration’s top priorities includes preparing students for the global marketplace along with contributing to the economic development of the provincial economy. Those may seem like competing objectives; however, ultimately these priorities translate into choice as business students are able to follow their career aspirations to wherever they may lead.

Rob Crosbie

“I am more concerned about the long term impact that their moving away will have.”

– Rob Crosbie

Last fall, 16 people from the business classes of ‘03 received the James Barnes Award in Business Administration for achieving Dean’s List standing in each academic term throughout the bachelor of commerce (co-operative) degree. Prof. Tom Clift, business’s associate dean academic, believes these talented graduates have a lot to offer. “Those students achieved consistently high academic excellence and the benefits to local firms associated with hiring such skilled and highly motivated individuals should be almost immediate and long lasting.”

Jeffrey Young, one of last year’s commerce graduates and a recipient of the James Barnes Award, is delighted with his current position as an accountant at the Marine Institute in St. John’s. “The experience I am gaining here is great. I have a job that I am enjoying, I’m building new skills, and I’m working on a professional accounting designation; for me this is a perfect fit.”

Since last May, more than half of those top graduates who received the James Barnes Award have left the province. While some left to explore and work in other parts of Canada and around the world, others left to find employment. “There are many opportunities here to do certain things, and other cities afford opportunities to do other things and one is not necessarily better,” added Dr. Barnes. “ All we are doing by perpetuating the wringing of hands over people leaving is further reinforcing the psychology of isolationism. We can’t all stay and whether some believe it or not, not everybody wants to.”

Laura Wellon, another James Barnes Award recipient, was eager to leave the province after graduation to pursue an opportunity at a public relations firm in Calgary, AB. “I plan to return in the future, especially if I have a family to raise. However, with the future so open to us as new graduates, I want to experience another part of this great country. Memorial’s business program allowed me to taste different places on work terms and made my choice of Calgary a really easy one for me.

“It’s actually very positive for Newfoundland to have a portion of its graduates living elsewhere,” said Ms. Wellon. “As ambassadors, we are spreading knowledge and respect for Newfoundland and Labrador. In the future, we may even influence the Newfoundland economy from afar and those of us who return, will bring back experiences, knowledge and relationships, both personal and business, that can help the province grow.”

“What's important to keep in mind is that this province represents a small market,” said Dr. Barnes. “Its total population is only a half million or so, and we are at the edge of the country. It is a typical pattern for graduates from small markets to gravitate to larger markets to work for various organizations. We would see the same thing in Saskatoon, Sudbury, or Trois Rivieres.”

But that argument does not satisfy local businessman and alumnus Rob Crosbie. He believes the faculty has a crucial role to play in preparing young people for the new industries that are taking hold in the province.

“I agree that graduates who travel to gain experience and exposure to other business environments are building their skills and the province’s reputation at the same time,” said Mr. Crosbie. “However, I am more concerned about the long term impact that their moving away will have.

“This province needs to grow the economy so these bright young people have a solid reason to return, if they choose to do so. The two levels of government need to find ways to get going on large scale projects that will contribute to the growth of the economy so that the stories in the paper are not about the potential of the province but about what a great place Newfoundland and Labrador is to raise a family, grow a business, and generate wealth now. We need to ensure there are reasons for people whether they are returning graduates or other investors to be here now and in the future.”

Fellow alumnus Vic Young agrees. “Retaining our educated youth has become one of the biggest challenges facing our province today and it is not an easy situation to overcome. It’s true that many young graduates want to seek opportunities elsewhere and they’re going to leave anyway.”

“But many want to stay and find that the opportunities simply do not exist; or that the opportunities are not competitive from a salary and/or career advancement perspective,” said Mr. Young. “Others with large student debt seek out opportunities in provinces like Alberta and Ontario where salaries are higher and taxes are lower. Youth out-migration is not a short-term problem that can be fixed overnight. Creating a modern and competitive society for the long term is the only solution. It is as simple as it is complex. More jobs and less taxes are essential to keeping our youth at home.”

In a presentation to Senate May 11, Memorial President Axel Meisen pointed out that 73 per cent of 2001 graduates were living in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 


 


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