The Berkshires' chronic population loss is compounded by the fact that the loss is largely coming from a young demographic. That is a trend that can't continue.
Happily, The Berkshire Initiative for Growth (B.I.G.), a subsidiary of 1Berkshire, was formed to address this issue. On Wednesday, the group teamed with Live in the Grey, a New York firm that specializes in workplace cultures, to offer a seminar in how Berkshire companies can attract and retain young workers. (Eagle, April 14).
These workers are members of the millennial generation, which is roughly between the ages of 18 and 33, although those parameters are expanded by some definitions. At any rate, they are a growing percentage of the workforce, and of the consumers that workforce must serve. Any strong economy, local, state or national, must employ them and appeal to them.
While it is difficult if not simplistic to generalize about so large a group, certain conclusions must be reached for government and business to attempt to address their needs. Live in the Grey CEO Brad Linde said at Wednesday's seminar that millennials in general, to their credit, want jobs in which they can make a positive impact on society. A good workplace environment and flexible hours are also important to them, perhaps more so than to the baby boomer generation it has supplanted as the nation's largest.
If the millennials want more from the workplace than just a paycheck that is to their credit. Confronting complex problems, whether in the Berkshires or worldwide, will require idealism. Berkshire companies that can provide an outlet for that idealism will have an advantage. The Berkshires offer outdoor recreational opportunities that appeal to people in their 20s and 30s, but the county's efforts to become more cosmopolitan have met with mixed results. The Berkshires need more cultural attractions for young people and more restaurants that serve beyond 9 p.m.
Keeping and attracting young people is a knotty problem for the Berkshires, but it is encouraging that B.I.G. and 1Berkshire are aggressively addressing it. It is also heartening that Berkshire companies, among them Onyx Specialty Papers, General Dynamics and Winstanley Associates, who participated in the seminar, are pursuing ways to appeal to young employees. The Berkshires must get younger and stop the population drain, and it will require a concerted effort to successfully do so.