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Student Perspectives and a Welcoming Community

Last Friday, the Cape Chamber hosted a panel of students at or near the end of their academic careers here at SEMO and Mineral Area College. The goal of the conversation was to learn more about what attracted them to the area, how they were engaged, and what strategies would help to keep more students here in Southeast Missouri. The students had great insights and thoughts, but the comment encouraging businesses to be welcoming and open to a more diverse audience was an important note to hear.

We often hear in discussions about workforce needs in the region that we must continue to find ways to help recruit and retain more students from our regional higher education institutions. Understanding the changing demographics of that student population and how we can better engage with those students is a critical piece of the puzzle.

As the overall number of traditional college-age students declines, the diversity in our student population has changed with growth in non-traditional, international, and broader representation of racial and ethnic backgrounds. As one of the panelists noted, it becomes even more important now more than ever that the community works to be “open to giving students an opportunity” and work to make them feel welcome here in the region so that they can consider staying here.

For businesses, working to get connected to a broader and more diverse student audience can reap rewards by expanding your client base, your employment pool, and the overall quality and size of your business audience. It’s one thing to say that we want more students to stay in the region when they graduate, but we must make sure they know they are welcome and wanted by being proactive in our efforts.