Southern Vermont Young Professionals at the Emerging Leaders Award Ceremony (Photo: Lorianna Weathers Photography)
Vermont Business Magazine The Shires Young Professionals (SYP), a sub group under the Bennington Regional Chamber of Commerce, recently conducted a survey to inquire about the wants and needs of young professionals in the region. The mission of the Shires Young Professional group is to help young professionals and families create deep roots in Southwestern Vermont communities.
In 2018 the regional Chamber of Commerce adopted the former Bennington Young Professionals group and realigned it to represent the region, an ongoing mission for the chamber. Matt Harrington who is also the executive director of the chamber chairs the Advisory Board of the Young Professionals group. Eight other volunteer young professionals serve on the Advisory Board which coordinates efforts with Chamber staff and the Chamber Board of Directors. The Shires Young Professionals hold monthly social events, educational programs and advocacy-based gatherings, which are open to all SYP members, but tend to focus on 21 to 40-years old age range.
The inaugural survey was sent out in early December 2019 to the membership of the Shires Young Professionals, which is currently based on email sign ups.
The respondents of the survey represented a wide range of careers and industries including attractions, lodging, dining, shopping, services, manufacturing, non-profits, start-ups and professionals that work from home. Thirty five percent of survey respondents were new to the SYP group this year, while 40% had joined between 1 and 3 years ago. Twenty three percent were single or casually dating, while 72% were married, almost married or in a long-term relationship. Five percent suggested that their relationship status was “complicated.”
Forty percent of respondents had children, while 60% did not currently have children, although some were planning to in the future.
When considering if they were a “Vermont native,” 25% indicated that they had been born in Vermont, while 10% have lived here most of their lives and 65% moved here recently. Of those that have moved to Vermont more recently, 8% were new this year, 22% moved to Vermont within the last 3 years, 7% within the last 6 years, and 13% within the last 10 years.
Fifty percent have lived here for more than 10 years.
Top Benefits of Living in Vermont
When asked why they live here or moved here, respondents indicated that employment (30%), lifestyle (27%), and to be near friends and family (23%) were their top choices.
When asked what were the top three benefits about living and working in Vermont, respondents indicated recreation as their top choice at 69%, small town feel while close to urban centers as their second choice at 56%, and community and friends at 43% as their third choice. Some respondents in the comment section added items like, “farm fresh foods,” “being outside in nature,” nationally recognized beverage industry,” “employers care about employee quality of life,” and “quirkness” as other benefits to living and working in Vermont.
Concerns and Challenges of Living in Vermont
Salary & wages at 48%, upward mobility within current job or ability to move to another job locally at 46% and lack of community and/or friends at 37% were the top 3 concerns for young professionals while living and working in Vermont according to the survey. Also mentioned were lack of events (35%), housing availability and cost (33%), limited cell/WiFi services (22%), finding romance and taxes tied at 19% each, and daycare costs (17%). In the comment section participants also mentioned, “Nonprofit board burnout and getting community involved in causes is a challenge,” “access to culture,” and a “lack of diversity” as additional concerns.
As the regional chamber has played a leadership and supportive role in the growth of the Shires Young Professional group, the survey also asked participants what areas of development would they like to see the SYP and chamber pursue in the future? Seventy percent of participants responded that their top request would be the expansion of events like festivals, performances and community events. Fifty percent wanted the continuation of regionalism from the Chamber and SYP especially in an effort to connect young professionals across Southwestern Vermont. Forty five percent wanted more personal development opportunities ranging from “how to buy a house,” “financial management education,” and “career development.” Others mentioned in the comment section a focus on creative arts, meeting in different settings, and representation of young families in local and regional planning and development.
“According to many sources, this demographic of people, currently 21-40 years old, will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. That’s now only 5 years away!” says Harrington, chair of the SYP. “When any culture – work, community, politics - sees that large of a cohort wanting and needing new things, the environment naturally changes. The region’s young professionals are some of the smartest, most thoughtful and caring group of people I’ve ever met. They’re young nurses, teachers, architects, managers, entrepreneurs, and stay at home parents. They want to know how to improve the region and they want to roll up their sleeves and help. That’s exciting!”
Harrington continued, “I think this survey is encouraging because it shows us what the next generation sees in Vermont’s future and what they love about Vermont now. Not all millennials (born between 1980-2001) are moving to urban centers. Some want that white picket fence and house, room for family to grow, a manageable commute to work, a boutique career that has many responsibilities, and good beer and community to boot!
Two young professionals will be named Young Professional of the Year at the Chamber’s annual membership meeting on Friday, January 31st at Bennington College. Last year’s recipients include Kayla Davis, Co-Executive Director of Battenkill Valley Health Center in Arlington and Matt Willey, owner of Ramuntos, The Buckstop, and The Avacado Pit in Bennington.
For more information on the Shires Young Professionals visit: www.ShiresYP.com
Michelle Marrocco (left) Advisory Board member of the Shires Young Professionals (Lorianna Weathers Photography)