Northern Virginia Must Aggressively Tout Private-Sector Jobs to Lure the College-Educated

Yahoo Contributor Network

A Brookings Institution study shows the gap is widening between metro areas that boast a large number of college-educated residents and those that increasingly have fewer. Yahoo! News asked contributors from cities around the nation to propose solutions on how their cities can attract and keep college graduates -- and what they're doing well.

NORTHERN VIRGINIA

To bulk up its attractiveness a hub for skilled college grads, Northern Virginia must continue to look beyond the public sector and further focus on private-sector growth. According to a George Mason University paper in 2011, over the past 30 years, Northern Virginia has transformed into a region spurred on by private-sector growth. This needs to continue.

I'm a resident of Northern Virginia, a metropolitan region nationally recognized for its high-salary earning, highly educated population. Located just outside of Washington, D.C., we're home to the state's largest public, four-year higher education institution, George Mason, and its largest community college campus, Northern Virginia Community College.

Traditionally, the suburban region's college graduates have found entry-level positions (with upward mobility) within federal government agencies located inside Washington and its suburbs.

Students with complete private-sector employment aspirations, however, have not been so fortunate. In Northern Virginia, government contracting agencies comprise the majority of private-sector businesses , and such companies fall prey to economic ups and downs. The problem leaves some college graduates, who remain in the area, competing alongside unskilled labor for low-paying, dead-end jobs. Others simply relocate.

To keep and attract a college-educated workforce, Northern Virginia should look at the records of innovative companies like Oracle and America Online; the region already has a track record of growing successful private-sector businesses. The current slump in the area's commercial real estate market presents an exceptional opportunity for companies interested in relocating to cut operational costs, and gain access to educated workers, to grow and compete on a global scale.

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