Survey reveals need to attract young professionals

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - As more baby boomers retire, Richmond faces a challenge: competing with other cities to attract and keep young professionals to fill the jobs left vacant.

A new survey found many Richmond area college students plan to leave the area a year or two after graduation, because they don't think there will be enough jobs here.

Baby boomers are now retiring at a national rate of 10,000 a day.

Said Rachel Burgess, Vice President with the Southeastern Institute of Research, "The demographic of those age 55+ is going to grow by 25 million. Whereas the demographic 24 to 54 is only going to grow by 12 million. So that's not a lot of people coming in to fill that gap."

In SIR's study, commissioned by think tank Richmond's Future and featured at a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch forum, Burgess found 41 percent of college students in Richmond plan to leave after graduation, mostly due to a perceived lack of jobs.

"They don't understand the jobs that are here. They don't understand that we have Fortune 500 jobs," said Burgess.

She and local business recruiters say the problem is perception, not reality, pointing out that Virginia has repeatedly been ranked by Forbes as the top state for business, and has lower than average unemployment. Burgess says businesses and colleges need to work together to make sure students know their local opportunities.

Said Burgess, "Having companies come into the schools more, inviting college students into their companies to see what they have, so they can see what's out there."

Greater Richmond Partnership President and CEO Greg Wingfield, a business recruiter, says its website currently features 300 entry level positions, and expects job growth in "advanced manufacturing, supply chain, health and life science, creative and professional services, food processing."

The challenge he says is making sure students are being trained to meet the needs of local companies, and making students aware of jobs that will be available.

"We're trying to get a handle on how we can do a better job of matching up the job availability with the skill set and college curriculum. We're not there yet, but we recognize there's a challenge," said Wingfield.

Job seekers can find entry level jobs listed on This month, the site features advice for recent college graduates on how to launch their careers.