Duluth YPros finds success with Gen Xers
It's good to see your baby grow. They start out small and before you know it they're engaging young professionals left and right. Maybe that's just Jen Wiczek-Bertsch's baby. Its name is the Duluth Young Professionals organization, and the two-ye...
It's good to see your baby grow. They start out small and before you know it they're engaging young professionals left and right.
Maybe that's just Jen Wiczek-Bertsch's baby. Its name is the Duluth Young Professionals organization, and the two-year-old is growing in leaps and bounds.
The Duluth Young Professionals is part of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. It was thought up by Wiczek-Bertsch, director of Business Retention and Member Resources at the Chamber.
"It's grown like crazy," Wiczek-Bertsch said. "It's really had steady growth over the last year and a half."
About 100 people attended the first event in January 2004; now the Duluth Young Professionals has an e-mail list of 800 people aged roughly from 20-40. About 80 people attend the monthly events.
Wiczek-Bertsch saw that the population of Duluth is aging and there needed to be a way to bridge the gap between the baby boomer generation and the generation Xers, she said.
Duluth had an environment that made young people feel like they were at the wrong party. That is happening everywhere, and cities across the nation have been setting up these young professional organizations, Wiczek-Bertsch said.
The organization, which is know as the Duluth YPros, is a way for the Chamber to help attract young people to the area.
"A community influenced by young people will attract young people," Wiczek-Bertsch said.
Duluth YPros goal for the first year was to hold monthly events to inform and connect young professionals. That accomplished, the goal last year was to start a young professional award. The second Young Professional of the Year award was awarded in October at the Chamber's annual meeting.
The goal for this year was to start a leadership council for the organization. For 2007, Duluth YPros is looking at instituting a Employer of the Year Award and a civics leadership training program.
In 2007, Duluth YPros will also establish a small fee for membership in the group, which has grown beyond Wiczek-Bertsch and requires extra employees.
The fee will be minimal, and Duluth YPros will seek corporate sponsorship also, Wiczek-Bertsch said.
Since Duluth YPros has been successful in reaching young people in the business community, it is now attempting to expand its services.
This winter, Duluth YPros is testing a mentoring program between young professionals and local college students through a program called Campus Connection.
Mentors will meet with students from the University of Minnesota Duluth and both will give feedback, so Campus Connection can be fine-tuned to be launched in February.
The February program will be short, with the main kickoff happening in fall, Wiczek-Bertsch said.
The program will be open to any college student who is considering staying in Duluth after graduation. It would connect students from local campuses with a mentor in the business community, who would be an example to them of how to be successful in the city.
The first Campus Connection event was held Wednesday at UMD. Students and professionals came together to speed-network and begin the search for a mentor match.
Forty-six area professionals have already expressed interest in the program, Wiczek-Bertsch said. In fact, more professionals than students signed up for the speed-networking on Wednesday.
Jerry Katchuba from the Duluth Area Family YMCA came to Wednesday's event to help the business community and the students.
Working with mentoring at the YMCA, he sees the program as a good way for students to make connections in the community.
"That's definitely one of my goals -- to see some of the college students we have staying in town," Katchuba said. "The business community has lots of opportunities. It's just a matter of marketing them to the students."
Students often don't view Duluth as an option because there aren't as many opportunities as there are in a big city. But making connections in an area can help students find the opportunities and stay in the area, he said.
Junior Stacy Jorgenson said she came to the event to start learning about careers from people actually working in the field.
Jorgenson said she'd never considered staying in Duluth after graduation.
"After talking with people today and seeing what's out there, I am thinking about it," she said. "That's definitely something I'm interested in."
To learn more about Duluth YPros, visit the Chamber's Web site at www.duluthchamber.com .