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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, May 16, 2002

Hawai'i must plug brain drain

By Erin Davis
Hawai'i resident and a junior at Duke University

In the next few weeks, college students from around the country will don their caps and gowns to embark on their future. Yet few will return to Hawai'i.

As a junior at Duke University, I will be starting my job hunt in less than a year. I do not know where I want to end up; I am not even sure what I want to do. But I do know that there is little chance I will be able to do it in Hawai'i.

The truth is that my classmates and I have no idea what opportunities exist in Hawai'i. Hawai'i companies do not recruit at Duke or at many of the major colleges on the East Coast.

Students from Hawai'i enrolled on the Mainland attend numerous career fairs all over the East Coast. Duke alone participates in five career fairs a year. Several of these are held in collaboration with other schools in the region. They aggressively market their companies, and as a result, many students from Hawai'i are given employment opportunities they are unable to pass up.

Mainland companies that recruit on campus do an excellent job of sweeping wide-eyed college students off their feet with visions of high salaries and company perks. I am not suggesting that Hawai'i companies should or even could compete with Mainland companies. However, Hawai'i does not market itself to college students as anything other than a spring-break destination.

Although many students are driven by salary, there are a number of my jobless peers who put a heavier emphasis on their quality of life. They care about location and lifestyle. Hawai'i companies lose talented students because they do not recruit young people who would love to share in Hawai'i's unique and attractive lifestyle.

Sept. 11 shook us all up economically and emotionally. More than ever, Hawai'i students who go to school on the Mainland would like the chance to avoid large cities and be closer to their families.

Last summer I interned for a nonprofit in New York City. I was planning on returning to New York this summer but the events of Sept. 11 changed my plans. I searched a database of internships created for my major for an alternative location. I only found one internship listed in Hawai'i.

Hawai'i has the potential to plug its much-discussed brain drain. There are a lot of students from Hawai'i on the Mainland who would likely come home. They just don't realize it is possible.