ST. ALBANS — Due to a great deal of interest from the northwestern part of the state, the Vermont Young Professionals (VYP) organization is looking to start a chapter in Franklin County.A Thursday night meeting will be held at Northwestern Medical Center with local community leaders. Also, members of VYP’s leadership team will speak with a small group of young workers interested in stepping up to leadership roles in a Franklin County branch of the organization.
Started in 2009, VYP organizes networking opportunities for college graduates and other young workers and community members, with an aim at getting more people involved in professional and community activities.
Local community organizations are welcoming VYP’s interest in Franklin County with open arms. Kathy Lavoie, of the Franklin Grand Isle Workforce Investment Board (FGIWIB), said the group coming together Thursday at NMC was comprised of a small group that showed strong interest in bringing VYP to northwestern Vermont.
An informal event at Twiggs on July 25 brought out more than 30 people from Franklin County interested in learning more about VYP. Cosponsored by FGIWIB and the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation (FCIDC), the event featured Paul Dame, VYP’s director of professional development, answering question and providing questions about the group.
“We were really encouraged with the turnout for a first-time event,” Dame said. The turnout, along with about 20 people who couldn’t attend but expressed interest, came as a bit of surprise for Dame, who said that first event in Franklin County was mostly due to word of mouth and Lavoie’s contacts. “We were really excited,” he said of the response
Lavoie said she and FCIDC director Tim Smith met Dame at a Vermont Community Development Association event in Montpelier, where they first learned about the VYP organization. She said they instantly recognized a need to start grooming the next generation of community leaders.
When spreading invitations to the July event, Lavoie said she really stressed that “young professionals” isn’t only for white-collar, college-educated young adults. She said in Franklin County especially, it was important to have representation among all industries and businesses, as well as people who are looking to be involved through networking opportunities or are hopeful of finding leads on a new job.
“Paul stressed that this about any young adult who wants to do more,” Lavoie said.
Dame said the VYP wasn’t really proactive in moving throughout the state, but when he met Lavoie and Smith, it seemed like a good opportunity. With the heavy turnout at the July event, he said he had been fortunate in running into some of Franklin County’s community leaders.
“She was really excited about it,” Dame said of Lavoie when she was introduced to the idea of VYP. “It’s just kind of a bit of serendipity.”
Lavoie said both FGIWIB and FCIDC will help sponsor Franklin County’s first event, pledging $300 to $350.
Events sponsored by VYP are primarily for networking purposes, putting an area’s younger workers in touch with each other for professional and social purposes. Dame said at the July event that the VYP primarily relies on sponsorships from area organizations and local businesses to make events possible.
While pledging support and guidance, Dame aims to ensure that a Franklin County chapter won’t be under strict state organization regulations. He said the VYP leadership group will give insight to the new chapter on what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, but he said a local chapter is encouraged to try their own things.
Dame said he was impressed with the small group of four to six people who are interested in forming a Franklin County organization. He said the first meeting tomorrow would help the group to assess its own strengths and skills and use those findings to figure out the best way to bring a VYP chapter to Franklin County.
“These are folks who at least indicated they interested in taking the reins,” Dame said.
As a young state organization – which he said is primarily based in the Burlington area – the VYP is beginning its own transition phase into a more formal organization, Dame said. Like regional and state chambers of commerce, he said VYP is looking at adding membership dues that would come with perks and benefits from area businesses.
Creating a formal membership would be up to the Franklin County Young Professionals, Dame said. For right now, he’s just excited to see a local group push forward with bringing an organization outside of the Burlington area.
“We’re still kind of reviewing this new phase of our organization,” he said. “Franklin County is the first place we’ve really seen traction.”
With more than 500 people on its e-mail list, Dame said the VYP events typically see between 25 and 35 people, often seeing new faces at each additional gathering.
Lavoie said she was greatly encouraged by the July event’s turnout and is optimistic about the future in Franklin County’s community.
“I hope they do something,” she said. “We knew we could gather these people together.”