The New Kids on the Block
We hear the title a lot, “Young Professional” or “YPs”, and it comes with a variety of stigmas or pretenses. However, we are proving in Spartanburg County that a Young Professional means something different. It is someone who brings energy, ideals, creative thought, and commitment to make their community a better place for themselves and others. This is something that Spartanburg Young Professionals embraces and even rewards. They launched The YPs in 2018 which recognizes individuals (21-40 years old) from a variety of fields for being leaders and positive contributors in Spartanburg County. The winners of the 2019 YP Awards will be announced soon, so be on the lookout!
What do YPs bring to the table?
I recently interviewed Brian Brady, Director of the GreenHouse Business Incubator and Instructor at the Johnson College of Business and Economics, who had many wonderful things to say about what he is seeing in students as they are gearing up for their careers. When asked about what traits separate a Young Professional fresh out of college vs. someone who is more advanced in their career, he said:
“At USC Upstate Johnson College of Business and Economics, some traits that I see in our graduating students that prepare them for success when starting their careers are critical thinking, the ability to analyze and interpret business data and soft skills. Providing students with real-world experiential learning opportunities either through internships or team-based course projects also give students an edge when entering the workforce.”
Our age group (Millennials/Gen Y/Gen Z/Whichever nickname you prefer) grew up with technology in our hands early on. This is starting to manifest in our job abilities and interests. Even Blue-Collar jobs are effected by this. They now have equipment that syncs with apps on your phone or driving mechanisms in large machinery that work similarly to video game controllers. Although technology use can be an isolating activity, YPs still thrive in group settings.
I also believe that the idea of needing an internship really hits home with us. This is something that the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the College Town Consortium fully understands and places a high value on. They have recently created a program that helps Spartanburg County businesses develop more internship opportunities and connects them with a pipeline of talent coming from our seven local colleges. This benefits not only the local college students, but allows Spartanburg to nurture our talent.
Craig Haydamack, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Milliken & Company, had similar sentiments.
“Professionals who are beginning their career bring a vibrant energy to Milliken. These associates are our up-and-coming leaders – growing and developing their professional skillsets while advancing our commitment to solving everyday challenges with meaningful innovations. Their fresh perspective and eagerness to learn add an important point of view to the company’s success. By investing in this next generation of leadership, we can ensure that Milliken’s future is bright.”
On the Rise in Spartanburg
I also spoke with Allen Smith, President and CEO of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce who had some eye-popping statistics to share.
“From 2004 to 2014, young people were leaving Spartanburg. This was widely noted in the OneSpartanburg plan and many efforts (both intentional and unintentional) were launched to reverse the trend. To say the trend has been reversed would be an understatement as Spartanburg was recently recognized as having the 8th fastest growing millennial population (17.8% from 2012-2017) in the country for a community our size. Young Professionals are choosing Spartanburg for a variety of reasons. They are staying once they graduate from one of our seven colleges. They are enjoying what seems to be the addition of a new restaurant or entertainment/cultural arts/quality of life amenity almost weekly. They are finding that in some communities the first hour off of work is spent on I-85 while here in Spartanburg, the first hour off of work is spent with friends or family. They know that if they choose downtown, a car is rarely needed. They also have found, regardless of age, you can be a meaningful leader in Spartanburg. All of this bodes well not only for our workforce today but for our workforce for tomorrow which is incredibly important as the talent winners and losers will also be the economic development winners and losers. “
All of those numbers are noteworthy and it validates what you can already feel by walking our streets and talking with residents. I am also part of the statistics that Allen mentioned. I am from Spartanburg but attended college in Georgia near Savannah and then lived outside Atlanta and in Indianapolis. Seeing these other cities before boomeranging back to Spartanburg allowed me to see my hometown through a different filter. It also gave me an urge to show my support to local businesses and events that best matched up with what I loved about those other places. That’s what Spartanburg can become with the help of Young Professionals, a melting pot of ideas and cultures with a twist of southern charm. So, go forward knowing that you can make a difference whether it’s with your business, the places you choose to spend your hard-earned money, or the culture that you try to create. Being a Young Professional in this town means something, but what that means is 100% up to you. Keep up the great work!