Greenville, S.C., Targets Millennials

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Posted At: October 2, 2013 2:49 p.m.
by Sarah de Jong

Cities are increasingly trying to recruit college graduates to their area workforce. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that during the 2013-2014 school year, colleges are expected to award 943,000 associate’s degrees, 1.8 million bachelor’s degrees, 778,000 master’s degrees and 177,000 doctoral degrees. With the expanding amount of students graduating, chambers of commerce around the country are scrambling to find ways to draw young professionals to their cities to begin careers. Greenville, S.C., has come up with a recruitment program to draw these young adults to live and work in its town.greenville

The Greenville Chamber of Commerce implemented a leadership organization, Professionals United for Leadership and Social Enrichment (PULSE), in 2005 for young professionals to network and grow together through social events and development programs. PULSE is currently one of the largest young professionals groups in the Southeast. Its members host social events, leadership luncheons, present administrative opportunities, participate in community service and compete in league sports teams.

“PULSE is in its eighth year, and has grown from a group of young talent with little identity to one of the largest young professionals’ organizations in South Carolina. The amount of diversity in both members and programs connects Greenville’s young professionals with opportunities to grow and serve,” said Tami Miller, LEAD coordinator.

In 2012, PULSE created the Talent program under the LEAD Initiative of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. The initiative includes five programs geared toward increasing the workforce in the city.

Miller explained, “The Greenville Chamber is very strategic in all of its programs, as well as in the events offered through those programs. The most important consideration is that stakeholders find value, both personally and professionally, through the time and financial resources that they invest. A positive public relations connection is a residual benefit that validates the importance of providing a voice for young professionals. The PULSE Talent program was created as a way to contribute to the efforts of attracting and retaining high-caliber talent to the Greenville area.”

Intern recruitment

PULSE Talent, sponsored by ScanSource, is designed specifically for undergraduate and graduate students who are interning around the city during the summer. The program requires a one-time cost of $35 and hosts at least one event per week between May and August.

The events comprise a Greenville Drive baseball game, a kitchen tour provided by the Table 301 Restaurant Group, a CEO roundtable discussion, area home tours on the Greenville Trolley, a downtown walking tour with the mayor, and a PULSE social and leadership luncheon.

According to Joe Poore, the Talent chair of PULSE, the city is good at providing numerous opportunities for young professionals and for the initiative. In fact, local businesses proposed so many opportunities for events to the Talent Initiative that Poore was able to be very selective with the ones he chose.

“When businesses bring in interns for the summer, a significant amount of time, energy and money is spent on creating internship programs. Companies create great internship experiences within the corporate environment, but often fail to emphasize why Greenville is a great place to call home. At a very low cost, our program rounds out the intern programming for local business by adding an experiential element that showcases all that Greenville has to offer,” said Poore.

The interns in the program have the opportunity to gain many rewarding experiences and to network with other students and professionals in Greenville. They are able to meet one on one with CEOs and managers of companies for which many would like to work one day.

“The best thing I took away from the program was experience developing professional relationships both in and out of the office. I think that office relations are key to success; however, if you can build professional relationships outside the office, you can build a community,” said Lauren Wendel, a member of PULSE Talent in 2013.

Satisfying a need

According to the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, the need for the PULSE Talent program was backed by a Greenville Forward survey conducted in 2012. It found that only 27 percent of college students in the Greenville area planned to stay in the city after graduation and 33 percent of students said they wanted to move out of South Carolina completely. The city decided it needed to make a change in order for Greenville to continue to grow.

I was a member of PULSE Talent last summer, and it certainly changed my thoughts of the city and its professional culture. Going into the program, I was very uncertain if I would like Greenville or want to begin my career in the city once I graduate. Through the Talent program, I was able to participate in events that many locals don’t even have the chance to experience. For example, the walking tour with Mayor Knox White and a behind-the-scenes look of Table 301 with owner Carl Sobocinski were rewarding experiences only offered through Talent. The program changed my idea of the city, and I now would be happy to live in such a thriving town.

Wendel agreed, noting that she “thought the PULSE Talent program was an excellent stepping off point for any young professional. The program provided a link between the business community and aspiring leaders that facilitated communication and interaction between the two. It is that cultivation of new talent that makes good ideas better and innovation possible.”

Finding talent

Other cities should take note of Greenville’s success. Forbes recently ranked Greenville as one of the best cities for young professionals, and the city is continuing to receive recognition for its focus on young professionals. Miller said that since the Greenville Chamber is only in the second year of the program, its staff members have not been able to collect enough data to show if the program is successful in recruiting graduates to move to the city or not. But from my experience in the program, I believe it will be a successful initiative. Once you graduate from the Talent program and move to Greenville, you can then become a part of the PULSE program and continue to be involved.

“By engaging interns early, before the demands of life crowd out community, we have a much better chance of seeing interns become involved as young and middle-aged professionals. Additionally, interns know the answer to the big question we have. Our greatest need in the Greenville business community is talent. Who better to ask than young people how we can get more young people to come!” said Poore.

It is important for cities to continue to recruit young adults to their workforce. Public relations strategies by local governments, such as PULSE, should be implemented in more cities. Through my research, I could not find another city with both a young professional program and an intern program. If more cities would implement such programs, there would be so many more young adults moving to similar cities to begin their careers. The programs not only increase the young demographics but improve the economy, as well. Hopefully, other cities will see what Greenville is doing and follow suit.

“Any business leader will tell you the biggest obstacle to growth is lack of talent. By funding and supporting the Talent program, the Greenville Chamber leadership is putting money directly into addressing the specific talent need through broadcasting the great story of Greenville past and the opportunity that young professionals have to be major players in Greenville’s future,” said Poore.

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