By Kaitlin Salyer
Advisory Council Chair, YP Highlands
In the two years I’ve been employed by the Highlands Economic Partnership (HEP), I’ve met and worked alongside some very talented people and learned a great deal about what it means to nurture a community so it flourishes, but most importantly, I’ve been part of work that makes a real impact on the lives of others. For those unfamiliar with the HEP, it is a four-county partnership made up of Jackson, Overton, Putnam and White Counties. Together we strive each day to make our communities great places to live, work and explore. We do this through economic, community, workforce, and education development.
As someone who loves to try new things, be creative, innovative and shake things up, it’s been so fun working for an organization that welcomes new ideas and supports great opportunities. The HEP, along with the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, always ask staff, “What’s next?” Most recently, we responded to that question with the vision to start a young professionals’ program. Some may ask why we decided this would be the next piece of the overall puzzle. The answer is really simple. Attracting and retaining young talent is essential to grow our communities. As a young professional, I am excited to know the HEP is investing in us and taking the time to develop valuable employees, strong leaders, and engaged members of the community.
With the research, planning and support in place, the HEP launched the area’s first young professionals’ group, YP Highlands (YPH), earlier this year. YPH is taking a unique approach to engaging young professionals. It is a non-partisan, all-inclusive program for individuals between the ages of 21 and 40, both degree holding or without a degree, from all job and career sectors. We want to celebrate all young talent, their diversity and the contributions they make to their communities. YPH will use three key approaches to accomplish its mission to attract and retain young, diverse professionals to Jackson, Overton, Putnam and White Counties: networking, community outreach, and professional development. Regular social gatherings will be organized to develop personal and professional connections. We will be actively engaged in service opportunities that contribute to the growth and vitality of our communities, and through professional development we will learn from seasoned professionals to develop our leadership, entrepreneurial and mentoring skills.
Since February of this year, over 190 young professionals from the four-county partnership have participated in social networking events and volunteer opportunities. We cannot wait to see how YP Highlands continues to grow and make an impact. For more information on how to join the fun, contact Kaitlin Salyer at 931-526-2211.