WARSAW — In 2007, Young Adult Professionals was formed by Kosciusko County Chamber of Commerce to, as the website states, “Show young people coming into the community what we have to offer in Kosciusko County and provide additional opportunities for them.”
Since then, YAP has done just that. “YAP opened my eyes to what we have in our community,” said Catey Etner, a Grace College grad.
However, these young people have something to offer as well, including some suggestions that could help the county — and Warsaw in particular — attract and maintain a talented workforce as baby boomers retire and low unemployment rates increase competition for skilled professionals around the country.
On the evening of Jan. 16, 10 YAP “members” — membership is informal — met at Oak and Alley in Warsaw for a networking event. Among them was Madison Cowman, a Grace College grad who recently returned to the area after spending a year in Seattle working on a fellowship. It was her first YAP event.
At work, she explained, “Sometimes you can feel like the only young person.” Cowman, who is also working toward a master’s degree at Grace, said Warsaw could benefit from having more establishments like Oak and Alley she can unwind with like-minded people, “Reminding us we’re not alone,” she said.
Cowman was introduced to YAP by her friend, Megan Keysor, another Grace grad who is originally from Ohio and works at GetFit24, a new gym in Warsaw. She stressed the importance of venues where “all generations” can feel comfortable, citing The Garden in Winona Lake as another millennial-friendly environment where young professionals like herself can find friends.
“It’s difficult to find people of the same age group,” agreed Thayne White, co-owner of Getfit24.
Lyle Schrock, YAP co-chairman and owner of The Lab, said there is very little for younger people to do after 9 p.m. in Warsaw, barring fast food. “You can’t even get food … there are few options to do something after dark.”
And while he agrees housing is an issue, job retention, “creating things for people our age,” is getting overlooked.
YAP is about much more than simply hanging out, however. This coming March, for example, is YAP’s annual clothing drive, which helps collect more expensive, professional-style clothing for those who may not be able to readily afford it. The drive is held in conjunction with Combined Community Services.
YAP also holds speed networking events, where attendees are able to meet community leaders. Another regular event, YAP Talks, features a community professional who speaks on an important topic. Recently Dr. David Hoffert, superintendent of Warsaw Community Schools, spoke about generational differences in the workplace. YAP also holds a “Lunch and Learn” every quarter.
“A number of young folks are starting to get involved,” said Travis McConnell, a lawyer and regular YAP attendee. He believes older community leaders need to be more open to the opinions of younger people. All too often, he observed, “Change is perceived as loss, so people fight it.”
In matters of public art, for example, McConnell, believes younger community members need to be a part of the decision-making process. “We’re the ones who have to live with it 30 years from now.”
For more information, visit YAP on Facebook, or go to www.kchamber.com/get-involved/yap-young-adult-professionals.