When I am not writing political columns, in a far more consequential guise I co-run a start-up called Darogan Talent, Wales’ graduate hub.

I set it up with my friend, Owain James, as we dreamt among the spires at Oxford. The central issue we found ourselves asking – when we weren’t pretending to be very clever – was this: why are we not hearing from Welsh business?

The Deloittes, Morgan Stanleys and JP Morgans of London were cunning poachers outside the college gates, eager to lead bright-eyed second-or-third-year undergraduates down the garden path to the Big Smoke.

It’s a similar experience for students across British universities. And, after all, it makes sense: the UK economy has for many decades been so centralised in the south-east of England and its largest city has been where you have to go ‘if you want to get on.’

Our solution was Darogan (the ‘Talent’ bit came later). It’s retained a core focus of being a networking platform where businesses large and small advertise their jobs and graduates apply for them. Simples.

We have a specific focus on Welsh graduate roles; and believe me, there are plenty. Wages may be a barrier for people to stay or come here, as some experts (and graduates) have pointed out, but there are already fantastic opportunities to take advantage of.

I can’t pretend that we’ll solve all the problems, but at the very least we can change the mindset about the world of work here. The first minister signalled in an interview this weekend that he wants to do the same.

There is nothing wrong with leaving, Mark Drakeford commented, but as long as young people feel that they are able to come back and make their lives in Wales.


And for those who currently study here, they must also enter a job market which they believe helps them thrive, not one which catalyses their departure across Offa’s Dyke.

Drakeford told BBC Wales yesterday that solving the ‘brain drain’, as this epidemic has come to be known, is a key pillar of his work in government.

Solving the brain drain? That would be quite a legacy, first minister. And no easy one, either. It is an issue that cuts across various factors and policy areas: housing, geography, inward investment, migration patterns, and, as already mentioned, wages.

If the first minister is serious about taking on the challenge, he would need to deploy the full machinery of government to have any chance of success.

The good thing is that he isn’t starting from scratch, at least. Leigh Hughes chairs the Cardiff Capital Region Skills Partnership, and thinks the issue is getting better: people with degrees from outside of Wales are coming here. Our start-up community is also impressive, as the nominees for the Wales Startup Awards illustrate.

We also have big international businesses dotted around Wales, Welsh ones too. Penderyn Whiskey’s new distillery in Llandudno is probably one of the best examples of how global brands with a distinctively Welsh identity contribute not only to our international presence but also to the local job market.

There is a lot on the first minister’s plate. For starters, there’s a pandemic. Then there’s climate change, second homes, a new school curriculum, constitutional crises, and the matter of rebuilding the NHS. You get the picture.

All of these are consequential for the future of Wales, and will form part of the three-year-max Mark Drakeford project.

However, we are nothing without a future. Wales needs to retain and attract its best talent. We want no ‘fortress Wales’, of course, but we do need a government that is prepared to front up to the brain drain once and for all. The work, I hope, has already started.

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