Time to stop Miami’s brain drain: Bring our children home

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By James S. Cassel
Special to the Miami Herald
March 15, 2015


While it is great that many of our children are attending prestigious out-of-state colleges and universities and starting their careers elsewhere, it is a real problem that many aren’t coming back to work in Miami after they have graduated or gained useful work experience. Putting the brakes on this “brain drain” is critical for Miami’s future — especially in light of our ongoing efforts to position the city as a global business hub. We need a stronger local talent pool to support our city’s continued growth and to create new business opportunities, and our youth are one of our best assets.

Our business community must take a proactive approach to address this issue. How?

For starters, we should actively connect Miami’s youth with potential employers, referral sources and other key contacts. A quick email introduction or phone call from a trusted contact can go a long way toward motivating a business owner or a hiring manager to move certain résumés to the top of the stack and consider the candidates or at least forward their résumés to others who may be interested. I have made it a habit of connecting people in this way. I tell candidates I cannot guarantee them the job but I can generally get their résumés noticed. My matchmaking has greatly benefited the candidates and employers alike.

When facilitating these introductions, keep in mind that a major selling point helping these highly qualified candidates stand out is that they are from the local community. Employers recognize that they are better off hiring candidates with local connections and who are comfortable living here, as these candidates are more likely to stay and succeed. Greatly coveted are graduates with a few years of training and experience working at top companies in New York, Boston, California, etc. Candidates like these are music to a potential employer’s ears because they have the top-notch education and experience as well as commitment to Miami as “home.”

About a year ago, one of my daughter’s friends from Miami working at a New York private equity firm called me for advice. We decided she should talk to Baptist Health, among others, and I connected her to one of my contacts who helped her navigate Baptist. The result: She received a job offer and returned to Miami, which is great for her, for Baptist, and for Miami.

Similarly, our youth will be much more likely to return to Miami if they believe they can access quality introductions and opportunities to pursue their careers with leading companies in industries they’re interested in such as private equity, wealth management, healthcare, technology, etc. For our biggest players in some of these industries such as H.I.G. Capital, Trivest Partners, Rialto Capital Management, Baptist, Ryder and the cruise lines, to name a few, qualified candidates like these are worth their weight in gold. Considering our growing startup scene, we can also encourage candidates to return to Miami to start businesses and help them navigate the local environment.

Personal introductions and referrals are highly beneficial for all parties involved. Vehicles like job-posting websites aren’t the most effective tools for either applicants or employers. In a saturated ecosystem like ours where résumés abound, recruitment processes can often feel like crapshoots for both parties.

Based on my experience, I know there is significant opportunity in networking to help bring quality talent and employers together. Miami offers many networking opportunities for business leaders and candidates, including professional organizations, local meetups and other events, and social networking websites like LinkedIn, which, unlike the aforementioned and quite transactional job-posting websites, facilitate discussions among like-minded individuals in similar and adjacent verticals, fostering meaningful and organic connections. Networking can also connect candidates with companies that may not be seeking to fill immediate vacancies but may be looking for good talent who can provide distinct value to organizations. A classifieds website cannot help anyone forge such deep connections.

Without a doubt, rather than applying their knowledge, skills and talents to grow other regions, our youth should be focused on investing those valuable assets here and supporting our city’s ongoing growth. They will be much more motivated to do this if they know they will have the platform and access they need to succeed here. Recognizing this, now is a good time for us to ask ourselves how we can contribute, and, most importantly, take decisive action to help. We must bring our children home.

James Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC, an investment-banking firm with headquarters in Miami that works with middle-market companies. www.casselsalpeter.com