Opinion

YP Groups Have Become a True Resource

Editorial

Several weeks ago in this space, we noted that one thing this region has certainly done well in recent years is establish and then refine programs to groom leaders for the years and decades to come.

Along much these same lines, the creation — and ongoing evolution — of the region’s young professional (YP) groups is another important source of positive energy for the four counties of Western Mass.

As the story on page 6 reveals, these groups — Springfield, Northampton, Amherst, and the Berkshires each boast one — have become true resources and vital connecting points. Indeed, they connect the region’s many young professionals with each other, potential career opportunities, area nonprofits (with the goal of having them become active with one or more of them), somewhat older and wiser business leaders from whom they can learn, experts who can counsel them in matters ranging from stress reduction to effective public speaking, and, most importantly, the communities in which they live and work.

Their collective missions and slates of programming continue to grow and evolve, but the YP groups have already come a long way.

Indeed, in the beginning, these were mostly social, or networking, groups that met monthly at area restaurants and clubs. These ‘Third Thursdays’ were quite successful at bringing people together — so successful that more than a few area employers were starting to dread third Fridays.

But while networking remains a key piece of the mission, the social aspect has in many ways taken a back seat to that real work of making connections, as mentioned earlier, and becoming part of that process of grooming leaders for the future.

The Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, for example, now has a work/life balance committee to help members address the many aspects of that universal challenge. Meanwhile, Northampton Area Young Professionals has been relentless in its efforts to introduce its members to the many nonprofits that populate this region and inspire them to take active roles in helping those groups fulfill their various missions.

And Young Professionals of Amherst, the youngest of the group, is filling a glaring need in that community for an organization that can give voice to an overlooked constituency in a community where having a voice is all-important.

But maybe the most important work these groups are undertaking involves individuals who are not even members — yet. The hope is, they will be.

These are area college juniors and seniors, people who will be hitting the job market soon. And as many prepare to do so, they’re not exactly focusing their sights on the Western Mass. area.

The YPs are working to change that equation, and this is vitally important work. As we’ve noted many times, people from across the country and around the world come to Massachusetts to be educated because it has a large number of quality colleges and universities, public and private, within its borders.

Unfortunately, as we’ve also noted, most of the people who come here to be educated don’t stay here. And one of the many reasons for this is a simple lack of awareness when it comes to the opportunities that exist.

The YP groups are trying to build awareness by connecting (there’s that word again) area college students to young professionals who are making it here, and the employers who are helping them make it.

Only time will tell how successful these efforts will be when it comes to slowing the so-called brain drain in this region. This much we do know: efforts like this certainly can’t hurt, and they may wind up being a tremendous help.

And this is only one of the ways in which the YP groups are becoming a real resource across this region. n

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