We talk about the brain drain as though we’re concerned but we don’t actually try to solve it!

Jonny McCormick is the Director of Rosseau Ltd and runs a podcast called Spoke.

In the true nature of a soapbox post, this is a ‘one perspective’ rant – but I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I’m saying so please do let me know what you think in the comments!

We constantly hear about the brain drain in Northern Ireland. How our talented young people (and increasingly people of all ages) are leaving to find work and opportunities further afield. It’s easy to find reasons for this:

– The political context – I don’t need to go into a lot of detail here I’m sure but the current political impasse and genuine lack of will to solve it is completely exhausting. Aside from disengaging and ignoring it entirely, it’s hard to see how politicians are going to improve things for people choosing to make a life here

– Lack of comparable opportunities – this may be a slightly more controversial one and I’m sure lots of people will disagree given that there is lots of inward investment in job creation, etc. But, when these jobs are compared to comparable jobs in places like Dublin, Bristol or London the salaries and opportunities are not commensurate. By way of example, a solicitor could earn somewhere between 3 and 5 times as much in London or the South of England and whilst the cost of living is higher it’s certainly not comparably higher

– Discriminating social progress – again there will be many who disagree but a restrictive and, I would argue, regressive approach to social progress is a major draw for people to pursue additional freedoms elsewhere

But what I want to talk about is actually much more foundational and personal. My brother and his girlfriend are currently in the process of moving from living in Australia to Northern Ireland. Going against the direction of the usual exodus they’re starting to look for houses, jobs and other things needed to settle and build an enjoyable life.

My brother’s girlfriend is a teacher and is understandably wanting to continue in that career when she returns so she’s applying for teaching posts. Having secured half a dozen job interviews she’s gone back to request an initial interview via Skype given she’s currently 10,000 miles away. Each request has been summarily dismissed, almost as if the interviewing panels are frustrated at being asked to make this accommodation in the 21st century. Aside from the fact that she managed to secure her current teaching position in Australia via a Skype interview, it seems bizarre to me to narrow your talent pool because you don’t want to talk to them on a computer instead of in person.

This is indicative of what I mean by complaining about the problem of brain drain but not actually doing anything to try and stop or reverse it. It may be one example, but I’d wager that there are many more stories just like it out there. If we genuinely want to secure a prosperous, peaceful, diverse Northern Ireland we need to do better.

What do you think? Are we doing enough to stop our most talented young people leaving? Are we creating an attractive Northern Ireland to lure them back if they do leave? What incentives do people have to stay?