As we neared the seventh iteration of YPWeek after six years of constant and all-consuming expansion, I questioned why we were barreling forward with this initiative. How much bigger can it get? At what point is this growth unsustainable? Where are we going with the momentum mounting behind us?

What began as a (albeit busy but) simple showcase of Milwaukee’s offerings for young professionals eager to establish their lives in the city, has since ballooned to include almost 30 communities, hundreds of events and a platform for Wisconsin to shine as a beacon of possibility for young and old alike internationally recognized as an economic development best practice in human capital. The program is a cornerstone for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Think-Make-Happen initiative as an on the ground attraction and retention strategy. Through the collaboration of dozens of partners from across the state, we have created the nation’s largest and strongest statewide network of young professionals.

This last bit is the most awe inspiring for me. We are a small and nimble team, but we have moved mountains. That is due to the dozens of volunteers from across the state devoting time, sweat, and in some cases, their own personal resources to bring YPWeek Wisconsin to life. This unbridled passion sets the original goal of creating a statewide conference apart from any other initiative like it. It is the epitome of NEWaukee’s mission of changing the way people connect and it is the proof that place-based engagement strategies are the antidote to the talent shortage that plagues every industry in Wisconsin.

We asked a few of our partners to describe what YPWeek means to them and why they think it matters. Their answers soothed all of my doubts and emboldened us to push forward, resulting in the biggest and best year yet. Check out their testimonies below.

As we look towards what is next for YPWeek and this collaborative network of young leaders, we are curious about how to best leverage this unique resource for the betterment of our local communities. If you would like to join in this exploration with us, let us know. We stand ready and united for whatever is next – will you join us?

Earlier this winter, Laura from Wausau described why she has invested in YPWeek again and again. “YPWeek is a big reason I’m still in Wisconsin. When I moved here nearly two years ago, I didn’t know anyone and had almost no connection to Wausau other than my job. I spent the first months of my time here at home, watching Netflix and planning my move out of Wisconsin. But thankfully, a friend encouraged me to get involved with YPWeek, and more broadly with the community, and here I still am.

I’m still involved with YPWeek, and all the work it entails, because I truly believe that it’s accomplishing something in Wisconsin. It’s giving young professionals a sense of Wisconsin as a place, connecting them to their communities, to a larger statewide network and to friends, which, let’s face it, are pretty important to being happy.

Young people are the next generation of workers, taking leadership roles and making decisions. It’s pretty cool to see an investment in those people, a chance to make their voices heard and their creativity seen.”

Watching the different communities adopt and adapt YPWeek to their own community’s needs has been an exhilarating experience. Brandi from Y-Link in Kenosha explains, “Imagine having the ability to lift all of your favorite people and places up in front of a crowd of thousands to give them the recognition they deserve. That is what YPWeek means to me – a week-long celebration of who and what makes my community vibrant, innovative, and successful. Being able to spotlight local small business next to international companies and artists next to corporate leaders shines a light on why Kenosha is the right choice for young talent. YPWeek continues to be a celebration of the evolving identity of my community and a chance for young professionals to engage with each other in impactful ways.

The network we have built together showcases what is fantastic about being young in Wisconsin while also providing the momentum for moving in the direction we need to to make our communities even more desirable for the next generation to live and work. Having the opportunity to work with a statewide network of leaders with similar passions, experiences, and goals not only inspires me to do greater things in my community but encourages me to rethink how I look at our state as a whole. Instead of traveling across the state line for vacations or entertainment I find myself seeking opportunities in Fond du Lac, Milwaukee, or Viroqua – opportunities I may have overlooked previously. Learning from my peers about how they create platforms for positive change and growth pushes me to make a more significant impact in my community. Using this network as a resource for training, guidance, and feedback continues to be one of the most significant assets of participating in YPWeek.”

According to Nick from Eau Claire, YPWeek has accomplished a goal that pretty much every state, city, business, organization is trying to achieve – sustained engagement of empowered talent. “Wisconsin has the incredible opportunity to be home to the country’s most connected and empowered network of talent that drives the future of the state. That in itself is an asset that distinguishes Wisconsin from any other state in the country when it comes to marketability to talent. Simply put, talented individuals long for connectivity with other talented individuals, and YPWeek has done that better than any other talent initiative.

As a transplant to the state, the network of peers that YPWeek introduced me to in 2015 is without a doubt the primary reason I’ve fallen in love with Wisconsin. Not only has YPWeek experience played the biggest factor in my decision to stay in Wisconsin, but more importantly, it’s been the sole driver of my motivation to contribute to my community and to many other statewide efforts.
Through my experience with YPWeek, I’ve learned that people are the driving asset behind any kind of attachment, and YPWeek has connected me to the right people better than any other form of engagement could have. I’m proud as hell to be part of a state that has figured out the right vehicle for talent engagement.”

By: Angela Damiani

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