Attracting and Retaining Knowledge Workers: The Impact of Quality of Place in the Case of Montreal

Attracting and Retaining Knowledge Workers: The Impact of Quality of Place in the Case of Montreal

Sébastien Darchen (York University, Canada) and Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay (Télé-Université (UQÀM), Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-721-3.ch003
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Abstract

A concentration of knowledge workers, including scientists and engineers, has been identified by recent works as an element fostering economic growth in metropolitan areas. The authors’ aim in this chapter is to study the factors influencing the mobility of graduate students in science and technology. The creative class thesis has emphasized the fact that criteria related to the quality of place have a positive impact on the attraction of talents and on economic development. This thesis was the basis for the authors’ research. In this paper, they assimilate the workforce in science and technology to the concept of knowledge workers. The authors compared the influence of criteria related to the quality of place on the mobility of students with other criteria related to career opportunities and to the social network. They collected the data through an on-line questionnaire and they also proceeded to interviews with students in science and technology. The authors present in this chapter the results of their research for Montreal. With a quantitative analysis, they show that while Montreal is often considered as a very attractive place, the criteria related to the quality of place play a secondary role in the attraction and retention of the population studied, while those related to the career opportunities dominate. This leads to nuance the theories that highlight the importance of place versus job opportunities, and shows that while the quality of place may have an influence on the mobility patterns of knowledge workers, job opportunities have more impact on the attraction/retention of this professional category.
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Background

Research in urban economics has demonstrated that a concentration of human capital has a positive impact on economic growth (Shapiro, 2003; Simon, 1998) and that the level of human capital (in terms of the population’s level of education) constitutes a competitive advantage (Glaeser & Saiz, 2003; Glaeser, Sheinkmen & Sheifer, 1995; Shapiro, 2005). Therefore, the capacity of cities to attract a qualified and high-skilled workforce such as engineers and scientists is an asset regarding economic growth and urban competitiveness. Students in science and technology are supposed, once they graduate, to be part of the creative class and also according to recent research, the workforce in science and technology as a professional occupation is supposed to have a major impact on regional development (Beckstead and Brown, 2006). This workforce can also be assimilated to the concept of knowledge workers, which refers to a workforce with a high level of education and which can be defined according to their professional activity; this includes engineers but also professionals in the financial domain, amongst others. Peter Drucker (1994) coined this term and refers to knowledge workers as professionals with a high education background who apply their knowledge to the development of new products and services; this type of workforce is considered as a key component of success in the present economic context.

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