State determined to lure back grads
By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer
By Beverly Creamer
At least two state departments are launching a joint project to track Hawai'i's public and private high school graduates through college and into advanced training and careers, with an eye to attracting them back to jobs in Hawai'i, plus getting feedback that could bring change to the state's public education system.
The Department of Education and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism see the project as an important link in matching Hawai'i students to future jobs in the state, attracting Hawai'i students back home, and doing advanced planning for economic growth in the state.
The project, nicknamed "Kama'aina Come Home," will be centered around the alumni associations of each high school. Graduating seniors will be encouraged to register online with their high school's alumni association. What will follow will be postings on the Web site with job offerings that can match up graduates looking for employment with Hawai'i employers who want to hire local-born students who have gone to the Mainland or abroad for education.
"Every year, thousands of graduates leave the state to attend college on the Mainland," said Rick Manayan, DBEDT information director and special assistant to the director. "Some will return. Some won't. During the 1990s, we lost a lot of very talented graduates to the Mainland job market because of a lack of opportunities here, so we specifically wanted to target our people with Hawai'i roots and attract them back with jobs that pay a higher median salary."
While alumni Web sites have been launched with a handful of schools that were the first to sign up, state schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said it may be too late to offer this tracking to most of this year's graduating class. However, she hopes the project will be in place so that next year's entire class can register online if they want to be part of this effort.
"DBEDT wants to know where our graduates go and what they do and we're committed to work with them," said Hamamoto. "It's about bringing them back — for jobs, for the future.
"And I need feedback so we can improve what we do. I need to know where they are, what they're doing, what kinds of jobs they've taken, if they finish school."
The DOE does "exit surveys" now, asking graduates about their plans for the future. But once they walk out the door, there's no other tracking, said Hamamoto.
"So you've got to ask the kids (to sign up) before they leave school."
The project will use a software built for alumni systems called People Bridge designed by University of Hawai'i graduate Dave Kozuki, who worked in California's Silicon Valley for many years and came back home a year ago. He is providing the technology to DBEDT and DOE and hopes the site will eventually be self-supporting through business sponsorships.
CAMPUSES ON BOARD
The Web sites already have been launched on a limited basis, and graduating students can go online and register with the handful of schools that are already participating. They include Castle, Kahuku and Moanalua high schools, Sacred Hearts Academy and Saint Louis School.
McKinley and Roosevelt are among the schools that also have signed up, and Farrington will be on board shortly, said Kozuki. Their alumni sites will be up soon.
"Hopefully by the end of the summer we'll have all the public schools, each with their own alumni site," he said.
Kozuki said the site will include a free listing for employers.
"And we want to build hooks into it as we track new businesses and jobs that are looking for people," he said.
Kozuki said information that the site will offer DOE is important.
"The DOE would like to know how to best serve their students," said Kozuki. "If they can understand how students have done once they've left high school, they can track needs, what's going right and what can be improved."
Reach Beverly Creamer at email@example.com.