Giving Tuesday: Empowering the next generation of young professionals

Local News
Courtesy: Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Program

Courtesy: Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Program

HONOLULU (KHON2) — After the turkey is eaten and the shopping is done comes Giving Tuesday, a day when people are encouraged to do good deeds and give back to their local communities. And while extending a helping hand is always a good idea, amid the pandemic, it has become the lifeline many need to make it in Hawaii.

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For nearly ten years, The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii Young Professionals (YP) program has been connecting young people, ages 21 through 39, with local business leaders across a variety of fields. 

“We’re pretty broad in terms of the industry and fields our members come from,” said YP Communications Chair Jessica Yuhara.  

The local nonprofit says their way of giving back to the community is by connecting and empowering the next generation of leaders in Hawaii. 

“With every program we do, the goal is to help the next generation of young professionals and we hope that creates a kind of ripple effect, whether that’s building a better business community for the future of Hawaii or helping them (members) get more involved with local organizations,” Yuhara explained. 

For the estimated 300 members currently with the YP program, this means monthly professional development events, interactive networking opportunities with Hawaii’s top executive leaders and community connect events that help members get more involved with local organizations. 

“We hold about 45 events per year, typically. We have weekly emails that go out to keep our members connected with each other and monthly emails that alert what events are coming up and what’s happening with the program and ways to get involved,” Yuhara said.

The program even offers a four month mentorship program, which allows members to directly connect with senior business executives in a one-on-one setting based on their professional and personal goals. 

But, founder and immediate past chair Kyle Okamura says it’s more than just helping millennials enter the workforce.

“Back in 2006, I was on staff with the Chamber and I was the event coordinator at the time and in doing that I kind of noticed ‘hey, there’s no one here my age.’” Okamura shared. “And so that’s when the idea of the Young Professionals program started.” 

“The Chamber has all these experienced executives, so we wanted to do things that were directly feeding into this young generation of business professionals that are entering the workforce,” he explained. 

KHON2 asked YP how the program has shifted to combat job loss amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We made a pivot right away and made almost everything we were already doing virtual,” said First vice president of American Savings Bank and YP Chair Kyle Shelly. 

The program launched the Synergy Symposium in March. The half day event hosted an array of YP’s signature programs that focused on giving back through professional development engagements and discussions of the issues facing young professionals in Hawaii. 

One of those main issues being the Hawaii brain drain, in which individuals entering the workforce feel a lack of opportunity in Hawaii to gain employment in their desired field. 

“We want to help keep jobs in Hawaii and to help them know that there are opportunities here,” Yuhara said.

The symposium had a significant impact on one of the program’s newest members, J.P. Snyder. Snyder, who attended the event, felt inspired to join YP as he navigated his transition from the United States Marine Corps into a life in the private sector.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to get more connected,” he said.

Snyder said that upon joining YP, he was able to connect with a few of the organization’s mentors and find employment in a field he describes as “a meaningful line of work.” 

The young professional now works for a company known as Zeroeyes, which strives to decrease senseless gun violence in communities and schools while working to support security professionals. 

Snyder says he continues to be actively involved in the efforts of YP to help other members like him.

“We started this military affairs committee to help people who are getting out of the military or are in the military and want to be involved in the community.” 

The committee focuses on alleviating hardships that come with transitioning from military service to Hawaii’s workforce. 

“I think you get involved and you just want to help the people that join after you or are in a similar situation,” Snyder explained. 

“What’s so great is that if someone has an idea and our membership can benefit from it, then there’s opportunity to kind of create new things,” Yuhara said. 

Along with giving back, the organization is actively onboarding new members and encourages those interested to join.

For information about getting involved with the Young Professionals program, visit their website

To become a YP member, click here.

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