YPW: Finding more ways to Enhance Wichita

It is no secret that retaining and attracting the best of millennial workers (those born between 1980 and 2000) is critical to Wichita’s future success. We are fortunate to have strong and well-organized groups of young professionals in our community, including Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW). They are celebrating their tenth anniversary in 2015 and the organization has never been stronger, reporting both record membership and engagement levels.

Last Saturday, YPW completed their annual Enhance project, during which 115 volunteers completed projects (everything from painting to deck construction) on several homes in District 6 near Evergreen Park. Not only did the group paint homes, they also completed an art mural on a wall near the pool at the park, all with the goal of improving the community we call home. A big thank you to the Wagonmasters for cooking up burgers for the volunteers to enjoy. You can watch the story that aired on KWCH here.


YPW Executive Director Suzy Finn and volunteers Laura Bernstorf and Sam Foreman were also the featured guests on 99.7 Lite FM’s weekly Lite is Local program to talk about the organization’s 10th anniversary. They answered questions like:

  • How do you define a “young professional?”
  • What is the best way for young professionals to get involved in YPW?
  • How has the organization changed and evolved over the last decade?
  • To what do you credit the organization’s record numbers of members and event attendance?

YPW RadioThey were excited to share information about YPW’s inaugural YP Week to mark their decade milestone. The week of July 27-31 will be packed with events that celebrate the young professionals in our community. For example, YPs can have breakfast with the Mayor or attend a program fair highlighting the many ways to engage with YPW and other community YP groups. The week will conclude with the 10th Anniversary Founders’ Day Gala and YPW Awards on Friday, July 31 at Venue 332 at the Wichita Scottish Rite. Find these and all of the YP Week events on the YPW website.

If you missed the original airing of the YPW Lite is Local program, you can hear it on the station’s website.

YPW is the key ingredient in the Chamber’s strategic priority to “strengthen the region’s ability to attract, engage and retain young and diverse talent.” They are actively connecting YPs to the community, working to create a more inclusive definition of a YP, and providing opportunities for YPs to grow and lead. We encourage everyone to find a way to celebrate the young professionals in our community, and to help them find more reasons to love and to choose Wichita.

YPs “Bring it Home”

YPs win summit

The Kansas YP Summit will be held in Wichita in 2016 and 2017 thanks to a successful bid by the Young Professionals of Wichita to host the event.

Congratulations to the Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) for winning the bid to host the Kansas YP Summit in Wichita for the next two years. The 2015 Kansas YP Summit was held last week in Salina, where approximately 275 Young Professionals from around the state gathered for leadership and professional development sessions.

YPW was represented at the 2015 Kansas YP Summit by Executive Director Suzy Finn and Program & Marketing Manager Meg Foreman. About twenty other YPs from the Wichita area attended. Some Wichita participants also made presentations or moderated sessions.

Finn said this is the first time Wichita has won the bid for the Summit. She said the volunteers’ goal is to have at least 300 people attend next year. The Summit typically lasts one day with an optional social the evening before the Summit. Finn said, “We’re really looking forward to hosting YPs from around the state to provide them an energizing and inspirational way to retain young talent while also helping them learn about new ways to improve and enrich their own communities. Of course, we’re also excited about showing them all the new things there are to do and see in Wichita!”

This year’s Summit featured Jason Roberts as the keynote speaker. Roberts is the force behind The Better Block program, an interactive way for communities to provide real-time feedback and solutions for areas that need to be revitalized. The idea is to tackle these challenges one block at a time.

Wichita is the fourth city in Kansas to host the YP Summit.  Finn said that YP volunteers will be working with corporate investors and Chamber members to secure sponsorships that will keep the Summit affordable for those who participate. Contact Finn or Foreman at 316-268-1170 for more information.

Young Professionals of Wichita Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Formed in 2005, Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) is celebrating their tenth year of providing innovative ways for young professionals in the Wichita area to socialize, expand their professional horizons, and immerse themselves in the Wichita community. A vital part of attracting and retaining young intellectual capital for Wichita, YPW has grown their membership to a new all-time high of 2,500 individuals. “Record-breaking attendance at events during the first quarter of the year has been a great way to kick off our ten-year celebration,” said YPW Executive Director Suzy Finn.

Earlier this year the YPW Board approved a high-level priority for each of the Board’s four organizational goals. You can read more about their 2015 plans by following this link to the blog posting titled Starting on the next 10 years.

You can help YPW celebrate their accomplishments over the last decade by attending or sponsoring their annual Founders’ Day event at Venue 332 at Wichita Scottish Rite Center on July 31. Contact Meg at 268-1171 for sponsorship and ticket information.

YPW members at the 2014 Founders' Day celebration

                             YPW members at the 2014 Founders’ Day celebration

Do the young professionals in Wichita support the sales tax initiative?

The Chamber’s Board of Directors recently announced their support of the 1 percent sales tax referendum. Wichitans will vote on this issue on November 4. During the next few months Chamber members will utilize the blog to provide commentary and answer questions about the sales tax. Today’s question is answered by Suzy Finn, the Executive Director of the Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW). 

Suzy Finn is the Executive Director of the Young Professionals of Wichita.

Suzy Finn is the Executive Director of the Young Professionals of Wichita.

Yes. The Young Professionals of Wichita Board of Trustees voted this week to support the proposed 1 percent sales tax referendum that City of Wichita residents will vote on during the November 4 general election.

The Board supports this referendum because it believes this sales tax will be a tool to help the organization accomplish its mission to attract, engage, and retain diverse young talent to effect positive change for a brighter future. In particular, the needs for more, diverse job options and a strong public transit system have previously been identified as keys to accomplishing the YPW mission.

“Our Board feels that maintaining the status quo in Wichita is not enough to encourage economic growth and attract the Millennial generation,” said YPW Executive Director Suzy Finn. “Wichita continues to lose young professionals while other vibrant cities in the region are gaining them. The first step in changing that trend is to ensure that we have plentiful and diverse jobs available for a highly educated workforce. A yes vote on this referendum represents a plan to kick-start growth in that area.”

Prior to voting, YPW hosted a Pro/Con Forum about the sales tax referendum that featured speakers from the supporting and opposing sides of the issue to inform the general membership and allow all Board members the opportunity to become educated about the issues prior to taking a vote.

“This is the first time our organization has taken an official position on an issue before the community for a vote,” said Finn. “It was reiterated during our city-to-city trip to Austin that you have to have a strong economic base to fund quality of life issues. We believe that if we support development of the basics needed for economic growth now, continued improvements in the quality of life areas that are important to young professionals will follow.”

Prior to voting on the issue, the YPW Board hosted a Pro/Con Forum about the sales tax referendum that featured speakers from the supporting and opposing sides of the issue.  A recording from this event is available on the YPW website at this link.

YPW sales tax forum

The Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) are hosting a Sales Tax Forum with representatives from both sides of the issue. The Forum will be held Tuesday, September 9, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at the Wichita Marriott (9100 E. Corporate Hills Drive).
Schedule of Events
5:30 p.m. – Networking
6:00 p.m. – Remarks from Jennifer Baysinger, Coalition for a Better Wichita
6:15 p.m. – Remarks from Moji Fanimokun and Jon Rolph, Yes Wichita!
6:30 p.m. – Q&A from the audience
Please register at ypwichita.org. This forum is free and open to the public.

“We believe that it is important for young professionals to express their personal point of view about how to best help Wichita prosper,” said Suzy Finn, Executive Director of YPW. “This event is designed to educate our members, and anyone in the community who cares, so that they can make an informed decision prior to voting in November.”

Housed and staffed by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, YPW’s mission is to attract, engage and retain diverse young talent to effect positive change for a brighter future. With a membership of more than 2,200, YPW’s number one aspiration is brain gain for Wichita by facilitating professional and social connections, encouraging leadership development and building community pride.

YPW Leadership Update

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Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) recently announced some changes to their leadership roles. Ian Worrell of INTRUST Bank is now serving as the 2014 Chair. Originally slated to serve as chair-elect in 2014, he accepted this position change when the original 2014 Chair, Lora Jennings of Martin Pringle, transferred to the firm’s Overland Park office. Worrell joined YPW in 2011 and chaired the Community Relations team in 2012 and 2013.

Laura Bernstorf of Airbus Americas Engineering is serving as the Chair-Elect.  Bernstorf has volunteered for YPW since 2011 and served on the board for a year as Secretary.  Upon Bernstorf’s role change, Katie Gribble of Cornejo & Sons was selected to serve as Secretary for 2014.  Gribble has served on the Leadership Link team since 2011.

The complete list of new 2014 YPW officers is as follows:

  • Ian Worrell, INTRUST Bank, Chair
  • Laura Bernstorf, Airbus Americas Engineering, Chair-Elect
  • Katie Gribble, Cornejo & Sons, Secretary

There is also a change coming to the YPW staff. Jaime Dupy has accepted a position within the Chamber supporting both the Business Services and Government Relations departments. She will move into this newly created position effective May 1.

“Losing a staff member or volunteer leader from YPW is always bittersweet,” said YPW Executive Director Suzy Finn. “Both Lora and Jaime will be missed, but we are proud of the steps they are taking to move forward in their careers. I am confident that the new volunteer leadership team will continue to build on what has happened in the past nine years to contribute toward a better future for Wichita.”

YPW is actively searching for applicants to fill the position that Dupy vacated. A full job description is listed on the YPW website.

Building Your Pipeline Through Internships

Internships. What are they? Why are they important? Why should I create an internship program? How can I make the intern’s experience a positive, educational one? How much do I have to pay them? Where can I find them?

These were the questions that Connie Dietz, Director of the Office of Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning at Wichita State University, sought to answer in the Chamber’s first Taking Care of Business seminar of 2014. Those attending walked away with not only the answers to those questions, but also with a guide for how to create an internship program and a template to help craft a strong job description for an intern.

The basics: a definition of internships

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, an internship is “a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; internships also give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.”

You also may have heard of the term “co-op” or “cooperative education” as a form of work-based learning. For more information on the differences between an internship and a co-op, visit the Wichita State Co-op Office website here. The bottom line is that by providing work-based learning to college students, Chamber members can help build a bridge between the classroom and the real world for the next generation of workers.

The importance of hiring interns

Interns, and a strong internship program, can be a long-term source of talent for individual companies and for the Wichita community in general. According to the 2010 Destination ICT study, almost 50% of internship students accept permanent positions with their internship employers. At WSU, 72% of students who work with the Co-op Office remain in Wichita after graduation.

Those numbers indicate that the more quality internship programs Wichita employers have, the more local graduates we can retain. For companies who hire interns from outside the Wichita area, we can also attract more young people to the city. These are going to be young professionals who already have experience working in an office environment and who have developed some of the skills that they can’t or don’t learn in the classroom.

The benefit to your company

During the presentation, Dietz gave several reasons why you should consider creating an internship program. For example, you can work with an individual for anywhere from sixteen weeks to three years before they graduate from college – that’s one long interview! When you build a quality internship program, you also create ambassadors for your organization. For those smaller businesses out there, that’s a great source of word-of-mouth advertising that helps your business’s name gain recognition on campus.

And according to that 2010 study, the retention of college graduates after five years of employment is 30% greater for internship graduates. That reduces your long-term training and recruitment costs, a potentially significant return on your investment.

Creating a quality program

Of the 15 tips provided for creating a quality internship program, Dietz highlighted a few that are key for all employers regardless of size:

  1. Provide interns with real, collegiate level work assignments
  2. Hold orientations for all involved
  3. Have an intern manager
  4. Encourage team involvement
  5. Offer training and encourage outside classes
  6. Conduct exit interviews

To see more tips, view the full presentation here.

Most important, conduct an organizational audit before getting started. Make sure you have support from the executive level, and that everyone involved knows the goals of the program. Evaluate the human resources you have available to support the intern(s) to ensure they’ll have a positive experience. And ensure there are physical resources available for the student – a desk, computer, phone, and anything else they’ll need to complete the assignments for the duration of the internship.

The big question: how much do I have to pay an intern?

The answer: it depends on a lot of different factors. If you are even considering hiring unpaid interns, be sure you consult with an employment lawyer or university contact first, especially in for-profit companies. Dietz shared the six criteria for an internship to qualify as unpaid during the presentation, and you can also find out more in this Small Business Administration article.

For an example, the average wages for WSU students in the past year were the following: $13.17/hour for business students; $15.09/hour for engineering; and $11.08/hour for liberal arts and sciences. The actual amount will vary depending on the specific major (accounting usually pays more than marketing, for example) and the class status, among other criteria.

Finding the right interns

Now that you’re convinced it’s time to start an internship program, here’s how you can find the students to hire. The local universities usually advertise internships to their students, whether it’s through the formal program at WSU or through faculty/staff contacts at other universities. An internship or career services office is usually the first place to start.

To recruit from outside the local universities, you can also utilize the YPW program Launch Wichita at http://www.launchwichita.com/. Chamber members can post internships for free through this site, which reaches students from across the country. You can also find resources on hiring. Plus, the interns you hire can also use the site to learn more about things to do in Wichita.

During the summer – prime time for most internship programs – YPW also hosts the Intern Return program as a way to connect your interns to the city, to each other, and to YPs currently working in Wichita. The goal of the program is to have them return to Wichita once they graduate, of course! YPW’s corporate investors can participate in the program for free, and other companies can sign their interns up for a fee. You can contact Suzy Finn for more information about this program.

In closing, I’d like to offer another tidbit from the Destination ICT study: By linking earning and learning more closely together – with an economic incentive – the region sends a strong message that there is a partnership among business and education and that both understand their role in developing the region’s next generation workforce.

Suzy Finn
Executive Director
Young Professionals of Wichita

The Chamber Member Impact

Part four of a four-part series on Young Professionals of Wichita

By Suzy Finn

Executive Director Suzy Finn (pictured) joined Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) staff in 2013. As an active member of YPW for several years, Finn served as an Ambassador for the organization and a member of the YPW Board of Directors. She has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Marquette University and master’s degree in business administration from Wichita State University.

Over the past three weeks, I told you about the YPW mission, and how we accomplish each part of it. Now I’ll tell you why we were formed and how you can contribute to the future success of our organization.

The Business Case

When Visioneering Wichita was formed 10 years ago, the Chamber talked with business and community leaders about the challenges facing the Wichita community. The Visioneering group created a 20-year plan to address those needs, and the next year, YPW was formed.

There were two key stats that led to the formation of YPW. The first was that Wichita was losing more young professionals than it was gaining. One of the things that led to that loss was that if employees didn’t establish relationships outside the workplace within the first 3-6 months of moving to the city or entering the workforce, they were much more likely to leave Wichita.

The second stat showed that every young professional who was raised and educated in Wichita but left was a lost investment (of public and private money) of $300,000. For every YP who left! The Destination ICT study five years later showed that, on top of that, each YP who leaves (regardless of whether or not they were raised here) causes a $51,000 economic impact loss. That is why it’s key to retain the young talent we already have and work to attract more young professionals to the city.

How You Can Help

We can only be as good as our volunteers and members inspire us to be. You can help by making sure your YP employees (ages 21-39) know about YPW and are encouraged to attend an event or join the organization. Chamber members’ employees receive a discounted membership rate of $50 per year!

Our volunteers do an amazing job of planning creative, quality programs. But  we are always looking for interesting speakers and events, and the more information our volunteers have to work with, the better ideas they pull together. If you have expertise to share, a venue to suggest, or know of a powerful and inspiring speaker, let me know.

Though we are affiliated with the Chamber, and many of our investors are also members of the Chamber, your membership dues are not spent on our programming or staff. We are sustained by our corporate investors, sponsors, and individual YP membership dues. If you believe that YPW can contribute to the future success of the city, you can help support our operations through corporate investment or sponsorship. If you’re looking for a better way to reach our YPs, whether it’s to offer them jobs or to sell them a product, our sponsorship opportunities can help you with that, too.

Just imagine what our city can look like when we have passionate, young professionals working with established business and community leaders to ensure that Wichita is a destination city.

Suzy Finn
Executive Director
Young Professionals of Wichita

Other posts in YPW series:
Part 1: “Wichita’s Talent Pool – Keeping It Deep”

Part 2: “The Diversity Difference”

Part 3: “For a Brighter Future”

For a Brighter Future


Part three of a four-part series on Young Professionals of Wichita
By Suzy Finn

Executive Director Suzy Finn (pictured) joined Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) staff in 2013. As an active member of YPW for several years, Finn served as an Ambassador for the organization and a member of the YPW Board of Directors. She has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Marquette University and master’s degree in business administration from Wichita State University.

YPW is proud of the fact that we help our members find their place in Wichita. We are even more proud of the difference our members make in the future of Wichita.

“I’m involved with YPW because, through the organization, I don’t just see changes in Wichita, I can be a part of them,” said Amanda Roth, an employee at Emprise Bank and Mosaic Team Chair. “You gain a lot of insight to the city when you speak to other YPs, and you learn where you can best put your talents to use.”

To Effect Positive Change for a Brighter Future

Our original mission statement didn’t say anything about the difference that a group of 2,200 members could make in the community. In 2012, the YPW Board changed that for two reasons. We knew that we were and had to be about more than just connecting people to each other and the community; we had to be part of creating the future community. And we knew that we were already effecting that change through our programs and people.

For example, David Friedberg of Allen, Gibbs & Houlik and the Community Relations Team Chair said, “My team’s goal is to establish YPW’s reputation as a great source for community involvement in Wichita. We want YPW to be recognized as the group local organizations can use as a source to bolster its volunteer base and whose involvement in the community is widespread and significant. Our team is constantly looking for new, engaging ways to make Wichita a better place for all.”

Joslyn Kusiak, an attorney at Klenda Austerman, LLC and Nexus Team Chair, added, “Upon first joining YPW I quickly discovered a world of future friends, colleagues, and professional acquaintances. Additionally, I saw the opportunities to easily learn about, connect to, and get involved with the Wichita community. YPW is full of energy and fresh ideas. I believe it’s a strong organization with even stronger potential to make life great for young professionals and for Wichita. I’m honored and thrilled to be a part of it all!”

Advocating for Change

Each of our action teams makes a difference in the community in some way, whether that is promoting a new business, serving with another nonprofit, or keeping young talent here when they make new social and professional connections. We also know that, with 2,200 members, we can be a voice for change in the city.

The 2010 Destination ICT study gave YPW, and several of our partners, ideas for how to make Wichita a destination for young talent. One of the priorities identified was to create Wichita as a more attractive and sustainable place to live, work, and play. A recommendation within that priority was to ensure that future development across Wichita aligns with the spirit and intent of the downtown plan.

Through the 2012 Priority Project (a collaboration between YPW, Visioneering, and the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation), citizens of all demographic groups identified as a priority increasing the options for entertainment and families in downtown Wichita. At the end of 2013, the YPW Board of Trustees voted to adopt a new initiative in 2014 that supports both of those findings – advocate for continued downtown revitalization.

We’ve already made strides in this area just by making sure our members know about the exciting things happening in the community. After reading the Wichita Business Journal’s year in-review article about downtown activity in 2013, marketing team chair Jessica Williams – an eMarketing specialist at Kwik Shop – shared it via Facebook with the following comment: “Since finding an outlet to be involved in my community, I actually knew of most of these projects and am excited for the future! Thanks Young Professionals of Wichita for allowing me to finally find the excitement and respect for the city I’ve lived in my entire life.”

In November 2013, we worked with the developers of the River Vista project to host a focus group of approximately 60 YPs to give feedback on the project and ensure that downtown development appeals to one of its target audiences.

In 2014, we will continue to find new ways to make sure our members know about the developments in downtown and provide opportunities for them to voice their ideas and opinions about how to make downtown, and therefore Wichita, a destination for young talent.

Other posts in YPW series:
Part 1: “Wichita’s Talent Pool – Keeping It Deep”

Part 2: “The Diversity Difference”

Wichita’s Talent Pool – Keeping It Deep

Part one of a four-part series on Young Professionals of WichitaFinn_web
By Suzy Finn

Executive Director Suzy Finn (pictured) joined Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) staff in 2013. As an active member of YPW for several years, Finn served as an Ambassador for the organization and a member of the YPW Board of Directors. She has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Marquette University and master’s degree in business administration from Wichita State University.

Roughly 20% of young adults in the Wichita metropolitan area leave our community each year, representing an estimated annual lost investment of $595 million, according to data shared during the ACT ICT presentations by the City.

The Young Professionals of Wichita exists to help fight that brain drain from our city, with a mission of attracting, engaging, and retaining diverse young talent to effect positive change for a brighter future. In this series of four posts, I’ll tell you a more about the three major components of our mission statement and then tell you more about how you can impact the future talent pipeline of Wichita.

Attract, Engage, RetainFB thumbnail
Since it was formed as a Chamber initiative in 2005, YPW has worked to attract to and retain in Wichita young professionals (YPs). In 2013, we added the word “engage” to our mission, because we recognize that a large part of retaining YPs is getting them engaged in and connected to the community. Through the 50-75 events our volunteers plan every year, we provide opportunities for our members to do just that. The focus of the events varies from professional development to purely social, with an opportunity for members to network at every event to build both professional and social networks.

YPW also works with our corporate investors to attract YPs to Wichita through a few key initiatives. The first is our Intern Return program, which has a goal of connecting interns to YPs and the city so that when they get that full-time job offer, they won’t hesitate to accept it and return to Wichita for the long term.

The second way we work with investors on attraction is by offering city tours for individuals they are recruiting to the city. This gives the recruits an opportunity to ask questions to YPW staff or volunteers about the city itself. Our volunteers get to share their passion for the city, and the potential employee gets candid answers about why those YPs choose to stay in Wichita.

One of our partners in recruiting said: “Our partnership with Young Professionals of Wichita is invaluable! It is imperative that our vendors be an extension of the service we provide to our clients. YPW representatives are courteous, knowledgeable and customer service-focused and we appreciate the special touch they add in selling Wichita.”

In 2013, YPW launched a third initiative to attract and retain college students to Wichita – the Launch Wichita website. With a focus on posting internship positions from companies in the Wichita metropolitan area, the site’s goal is to foster the internship culture in our community. Both YPW and the Chamber are working toward a goal of increasing the number of companies posting positions on the site from 30 in 2013 to more than 60 in 2014.

This site is open to all college students, and we’ve had individuals from across the country register to find internships in Wichita. Our goal is to market this site to not only our local college students, but also those attending other state schools in Kansas and in the surrounding states.

In my next post, I’ll share more about the importance of diversity and how we address that in YPW.

Suzy Finn
Executive Director
Young Professionals of Wichita

Post #2 – “The Diversity Difference”