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Shining a light on South Florida’s tech talent: The role of universities

By Joseph Sawyer

Joe_Sawyer_02The greatest technology hubs draw on local universities for their strength and vitality.  In some cases, institutions become synonymous with their ecosystems.  That’s the case with MIT and Harvard in Boston, or Stanford in the Bay Area. 

What makes the difference?  Students graduate – then stay to build their careers. 

When enough students put down roots, wonderful things happen.  It can start when a talented professor inspires a student to harness technology to change the world.  The student joins a local company to learn and grow, then strikes out on her own – hiring more classmates to meet demand.  Those who are successful incubate another “generation” of entrepreneurs, executives, venture capitalists … and professors.  The more often students decide to stay, the more powerful the network effect becomes.  Check out what became of the Stanford grads who dominated the “mafia” once at the heart of PayPal.

Can this happen in South Florida?

Keeping Students In The Region

At CareCloud, we care a lot about ensuring the answer is “yes”.  We believe that keeping talent in the region is essential to the community’s competitiveness … not to mention ours. 

That’s why we were proud to collaborate with the University of Miami School of Business Administration on a program we called “CareCloud Scholars”.  The Scholars were 100 hand-selected students representing a range of UM graduate programs, including medicine, engineering, and business. 

In order to help these students engage with Miami’s healthcare ecosystem, we sponsored their attendance at a recent event held on the UM campus, “The Business of Healthcare: Bending The Cost Curve”.  It was a who’s who of national healthcare policy and delivery, providing the students with an opportunity to interact directly with some of the brightest minds in healthcare today.

Along the way, we asked the UM students to answer a few questions about their desire to stay in South Florida and build their careers.  Two in particular stood out:

1)     On a scale from 1 to 5, how interested are you in remaining in South Florida after graduation?

2)     On a scale from 1 to 5, how likely are you to remain in South Florida after graduation?

Would-be technology hubs typically face two struggles with local talent.  One is convincing their best and brightest to stay after graduation, resisting the gravitational pull of centers like California, Boston, and New York.  The other is providing the right kinds of opportunities, so those students can stay without compromising their ambitions.

How did South Florida fare?  Impressively well.  Across graduate programs, the Scholars rated their interest in remaining in the region at a 4.4 out of 5.  We were pleasantly surprised with the optimism of the group about finding suitable opportunities, too.  The same students rated their likelihood of building a career here at a 4.1 out of 5.

A couple of students explained the reasons for the disparity between wanting to remain and expecting to remain – and the work that we have to do to retain our top talent:

“I’m very interested in staying in South Florida.  Unfortunately, the position I want is not available here and the salaries are not at all competitive” (School of Business)

“Most of the career opportunities in my field are in California or the Northeast.  I would strongly consider opportunities in South Florida, but I need to go with the best positions available.” (School of Engineering)

How To Fight The Brain Drain

According to the Federal Reserve, the top factors influencing retention of college graduates in a region are employment, housing, and presence of family.  As a community, there’s not much we can do about the third factor – and the second, our housing cost, remains favorable compared to many other regions.  Instead, we need to redouble efforts to connect the talent coming out of local institutions such as UM and FIU into public and private institutions of all shapes and sizes.  Not only when students are ready to graduate, but in the months and years before.

If your organization doesn’t have a direct relationship with South Florida’s universities, it’s time to establish one.  Programs such as the University of Miami School of Business’s Center for Health Sector Management and Policy serve as valuable resources for enterprises in the healthcare industry, for example.  And then there are the students, of course.  Today’s intern, or entry-level recruit – or sponsored healthcare conference attendee – may one day be at the center of Miami’s own PayPal mafia.  CareCloud is counting on it.

Joe Sawyer is the vice president of marketing for CareCloud.

Um students