Towards tailored policy measures to attract and retain highly educated workers. Pushing the right button / BUTTON


In times where innovation and knowledge are the heart of economic development and prosperity, human capital in form of highly educated and creative workers is an essential resource. Many European regions face the difficult challenge of attracting and retaining highly educated workers, notably in non-core places where this group is often scarce. If nothing is done, especially these regions risk a negative spiral of loosing highly educated people and the support basis for local provisions, negatively affecting attractiveness and competitiveness, which in turn leads to more difficulties in retaining highly educated workers. These problems bear upon areas far from large conurbations (e.g. Eastern Norway, Navarra), as well as socalled ‘edge cities’ or areas close to conurbations (Eastern Netherlands, peripheral areas of NRW). They even apply to certain ‘problem’ areas within conurbations. The concept of attractiveness is complicated. In general terms, metropolitan areas are more attractive for young professionals, not only because of study and job opportunities, but also because of the vibrant image as opposed to many smaller cities and regions with a more dominant rural character. However, there are many reasons for which certain members of this group might be interested in moving to, staying in, or coming back to these regions. In addition to work opportunities, these can be social ties (family and friends), child care, outdoor activities, other amenities, the presence of a certain (e.g. less hectic) business environment or just simply the cultural identity of the person involved. At the same time, this interest might be frustrated by certain difficulties, such as a lack of possibilities for the partner to find a decent job, or an absence of certain segments in the housing market, accessibility and service provision, or (especially in cross-border situation) institutional barriers.
This sub-project as part of the INTERREG IV C ‘Brain Flow’ Mini-Programme which is funded by the 'European Regional Development Fund' (ERDF) focuses on delivering tailor made regional policy options based on a profound understanding of attraction and retention versus outmigration of highly educated people, and an evaluation of policy approaches developed and used so far, as well as policy options under consideration. The German research region is EastWestphaliaLippe (OWL). 
The project is basically twofold. It will

  1. zoom into the specific conditions and circumstances of the project’s member regions, and produce tailored assessments and policy prescriptions for each area, and
  2. provide a platform for exchanging ideas, methods of analysis (both on labour development and policy), policy learning and tools.


Following this ambition, the project will contain four steps. The first step is acquiring detailed knowledge about trends and processes affecting mobility and retention of highly educated workers. The second step refers to acquiring and exchanging knowledge about policy options and mechanisms targeting the attraction and retention of highly educated workers in the region. The third raises tailoring regional policies and tools to the specific circumstances and ambitions of participating regions. The fourth step aims at developing a policy toolbox on the web for use by the participating regions as well as other regions providing a hands-on guide for policy-makers on how to select, customise and implement policy measures fitting their regional needs. Policy makers and regional stakeholders are involved in the project from the start, in various roles (strategic, policy reflection, policy development, policy implementation, mainstreaming).