Young professionals group offers networking, training, fun

03/01/2014 11:32 AM

03/02/2014 8:03 AM

It takes more than good jobs to attract and keep young professionals in Wichita. That’s the thinking behind the Young Professionals of Wichita, a group that offers opportunities for professional networking and training.

About 2,200 people are on the organization’s rolls.

“That’s the most we’ve ever had in the history of YPW,” said Suzy Finn, the group’s executive director. “We’re pretty excited about it.”

YPW was started by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce as a result of feedback from the business community, which was having trouble finding qualified professionals to replace those reaching retirement age.

The program aims to attract young professionals to Wichita, and to hang on to those who grew up here or who moved to the area for jobs or education.

“Those people new to a city, if they don’t establish relationships outside of their immediate work relationships with the first three to six months, they’re much more likely to move away,” Finn said.

YPW is geared toward people aged 21 to 39 years old. “We don’t card on the upper end, but our programming is aimed at that demographic,” Finn said.

The organization has 26 corporate investors whose employees can join for free. Otherwise, memberships cost $50 for Chamber members and $150 for non-members.

A core group of about 75 YPW members plan the group’s events with the help of Finn and YPW manager Jaime Dupy.

Some get-togethers are purely social, such as February’s outing at the Wichita Ice Center and March’s Mingle Madness at Joe’s Old Town Bar. There are “lunch-and-learns,” where participants can pick the brains of industry leaders, and a six-week leadership academy that 25 members go through each year.

There’s also an annual community project. Last year, for instance, about 200 volunteers spent a weekend painting and making other improvements to homes near Wichita State University.

New YPW chair Ian Worrell, who’s 31 years old and a small business lender at Intrust Bank, said he saw the organization as a way “to get involved outside the bank.”

“What YPW allowed was me to meeting young professionals across a wide variety of industries,” said the Wichita native. “Getting to meet with other individuals at the same point in their careers and to learn about the different things they are doing was a big benefit.”

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