You are currently viewing Baton Rouge has STEM jobs.  Why do university graduates leave?

Baton Rouge has STEM jobs. Why do university graduates leave?

(TNS) — When Rural Sourcing goes looking for a new office, one of its top priorities is finding a city with a nearby college talent pool.

So it makes sense that the Atlanta-based information technology company chose in November to open a 150-person branch in Baton Rouge: LSU and Southern University both have computer science programs.

“For us, our mission is to create tech jobs where they may not have existed before,” said Robin Stenzel, director of human resources for Rural Sourcing. “We certainly saw Louisiana as an opportunity to be able to really help us in our mission.”

Rural Sourcing’s decision reflects a push by Baton Rouge officials to seek more in-demand jobs in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — to keep college graduates.

Amid the national war to produce and retain STEM talent, Baton Rouge’s two major universities appear to be holding their own. Among LSU’s STEM graduates since 2001, 60% retained their Louisiana roots five years after graduating, according to data from the US Census Bureau. Southern has a similar figure at 58%. For comparison, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has an impressive retention rate of 71%.

But those numbers lag behind those of competitors in states like Texas, where STEM retention rates exceed 80%.

Many STEM jobs are available here, according to Baton Rouge area chamber officials. The challenge is to convince university graduates to stay here for the long term.

Tackling the problem, Baton Rouge officials say, is easy in theory but complex in practice: exposing students to STEM education early and connecting them with opportunities before their eyes wander elsewhere.

“We currently have 55,000 children in higher education in the Capital Region,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, BRAC’s senior vice president of business intelligence. “We have enough people there to fill those positions. We just don’t retain enough.”


To be clear, the definition of a STEM concentration can vary from university to university. For example, computer science may fall under an engineering school at one university or be its own department at another, Fitzgerald said.

The advocate used the following concentrations to define STEM graduates: engineering and engineering-related technologies; biological and biomedical sciences; agricultural, animal, plant and veterinary sciences; architecture and associated services; health professions and related programs; computer and information science and support services; natural resources and conservation; physical science; and mathematics and statistics.

Counsel reviewed the data in the above concentrations, where applicable. For example, the University of Alabama does not have agriculture or veterinary medicine programs, unlike LSU.

The picture of retention is also incomplete. Seventeen states provide data on post-secondary retention to the US Census Bureau. But it does provide a window into how the Louisiana competition is faring.

The University of Alabama and the University of Missouri, two Southeastern Conference schools with similar enrollments to LSU, have retention rates of 62% and 61%, respectively. The University of Michigan and the University of Virginia, considered “public” schools, retain 39% and 45% of STEM graduates in their respective states.

But those numbers pale in comparison to the juggernaut to the west: Texas. About 74% of University of Texas at Austin graduates remain in the Lone Star State for five years after graduation. Texas A&M University, another SEC rival, boasts a whopping 85% retention rate in the state.

A notable portion of LSU’s STEM graduates head west. About 19% of them end up in Texas, Oklahoma or Arkansas, according to census data. Fitzgerald said it was a “safe inference” that most of them are bound for Texas.

STEM jobs are here, according to BRAC. Capital Region employers posted around 2,800 job openings in STEM occupations in December, according to the latest available data. This represented 9.7% of all assignments in the region.

Fitzgerald noted that every state competes with Texas for talent, in part because of lower tax burdens and even more job opportunities there, especially in technology and digital media in Austin. .

And while the cost of living is higher in major Texas metros than in Baton Rouge, it’s still lower than the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, which still makes Texas an attractive destination overall. .

“It’s tough, and it’s not a Louisiana thing. It’s a national thing,” Fitzgerald said. “California, Illinois and New York are losing people to Florida and Texas at an incredible rate.”


The way to increase retention is to develop and maintain relationships with students starting in elementary school, said Frank Neubrander, executive director of LSU’s Gordon A. Cain Center for STEM Literacy and a member of Louisiana’s LaSTEM Advisory Board. Board of Regents.

“The biggest issue now is that we need to increase access to these types of opportunities to many more students in Louisiana than we are currently,” Neubrander said. “Almost every high school student in Louisiana should have the chance to experience computing, computing, robotics, digital media, etc.”

For its part, LSU has established programs like STEM Pathways, which offers introductory courses for K-12 students and teacher training sessions.

Enrollment in STEM Pathways has grown from 200 students in 2017 to 7,000 this year, and is expected to hit the 10,000 mark soon, Neubrander said.

“We’re doing things to increase Louisiana students’ exposure to STEM,” he said. “Now that’s the easy part.”

The challenge for educators, Neubrander said, is balancing student opportunities with local needs. Should schools push students toward government jobs, or should they provide an education strong enough to maximize students’ opportunities after graduation?

“The only way to balance is to look at labor needs in Louisiana, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Neubrander said.

LSU and Southern also use Handshake, a nationwide platform that connects students to local internships and entry-level positions. Handshake’s goal is to keep students away from their campus bubble, Fitzgerald said.

“Campus life is so strong that kids don’t tend to get off campus as much,” Fitzgerald said. “What we’ve heard anecdotally from some of the internship programs they’ve had before is that students didn’t realize the amenities that were necessarily available, and there’s just a perception that there there’s not much to do in Baton Rouge.”

For its part, Rural Sourcing said it met with students from LSU and Southern to build its local pipeline. The company has hired nine local graduates for its junior associate developer program and has six more on the line for next year’s program, said Stenzel, director of Rural Sourcing.

“Our hope is that there is a fit for them and for us and we are able to retain them to continue and work on client projects,” she said.

©2022 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Leave a Reply