Cape Cod Young Professionals is tackling the loss of young residents on the Cape & Islands by building a captivating community of vibrant professionals and local businesses.
Thirty, flirty, and thriving isn’t just a famous movie line—it’s an important definition of spirit for a dynamic and picturesque region looking to capture the attention of young residents. It’s no big secret that the vibrant culture of Cape Cod in the summer gives way to unique challenges when the months turn cold and the vacation population begins to dwindle. Year-rounders know that the natural splendor of the region and the effervescent energy of the Cape’s small business environment doesn’t fade when the snowbirds fly home for the winter, but still, the ability to build a stable life along with a thriving career in a summer-driven economy should be considered a superpower. Particularly for Cape Cod’s younger residents (as well as those who choose to call Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket home), making connections is a challenging feat—including those all-important professional connections—in a community where population, influence, and opportunity is very often seasonal. For those younger residents looking to build and maintain strong relationships and careers without having to cross the bridge, Cape Cod Young Professionals (CCYP) is the place to turn.
“Being a part of the Shape Your Cape Summit team was incredibly fulfilling both as a local business professional as well as a long-time Cape Cod resident. Networking events like this, whether virtual or in person, are crucial in helping to build a diverse young workforce here on the Cape. Being involved in the planning and implementation of these CCYP networking events makes me feel that I am personally doing my part to make Cape Cod a great place to work, live, and prosper.” ~ Chris Widegren CCYP Board Member and Senior Specialist – Digital Marketing & Analytics, Cape Cod Healthcare
With a mission to “connect, engage, and advance” the Cape’s young workforce, CCYP understands that the viability for anyone to be able to live and work on the Cape year-round is essential to the future of the region—and it starts with young people. “CCYP has been around for 16 years now, and the problem hasn’t changed,” explains Board President Sara Kohls when asked why the organization is specifically important to Cape Cod. “We work to identify the biggest barriers to advancement for the young workforce here—like affordable housing and childcare—and provide resources to combat those issues.”
CCYP was founded in 2005 by a group of (you guessed it) young professionals passionate about career development, civic engagement, and connecting with the younger population of Cape Cod. Today, as a nonprofit organization, CCYP has a 16-member Board of Directors, 11 unique volunteer committees, and nearly 1,500 members ranging from individuals to nonprofits and businesses of all sizes and fields. The organization provides regular networking events, from smaller, more frequent affairs like morning Coffee Connects to larger events like their annual Back to Business Bash held each fall; offers innovative and successful career development opportunities, like the Career Connect Scholarship, founded in partnership with the Cape Cod Foundation; and contributes to local public policy and resource advocacy. “CCYP helps shape the Cape’s future through innovative programs, partnerships, and initiatives that connect, engage, and advance a community of emerging leaders making a significant positive impact in our region,” says Kristen Vose Clothier, CEO of CCYP.
Launched in 2015 in partnership with The Cape Cod Foundation, CCYP’s Giving Circle is a unique collective giving program that pools charitable donations from a number of annual donors to make a tangible difference in the lives of young professionals on Cape Cod through an annual grant program to Cape-based nonprofits, support for CCYP initiatives, and funds directed towards building CCYP’s endowment.
CCYP works with a number of local businesses who host networking events or provide services. As Cape Cod Children’s Place Executive Director Cindy Horgan puts it, “CCYP provides a platform for advocacy and connection for the business community and especially for young families.”
“People of all ages should support CCYP. Our young generations are the future of the Cape and our older generations have a wealth of knowledge; when we combine the two, we’re exponentially more beneficial in driving the entire Cape population’s success.” ~ Charlotte Green CCYP Board Member and Assistant Vice President, Residential Mortgage Sales Manager, The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod
“It’s a very symbiotic relationship,” explains Kohls. “The businesses on the Cape are invested in making sure that our young workforce is able to thrive here, and we’re so happy to have their support.” After all, being able to maintain a young, talented population of driven individuals is something that affects residents and businesses of all ages, from providing services to their community to filling job openings and taking over the responsibilities of retirees. To that end, the term “young professional” for CCYP refers more to a state of mind than an actual age. “There’s no age restriction,” confirms Kohls about CCYP membership.
In 2014, Northeastern University conducted what is referred to as the ‘Shape the Cape’ report, which showed that young professionals on the Cape are leaving at high rates: “Cape Cod’s economy is commonly perceived to be driven by tourism and services for the elderly, thus contributing to the belief that there are few career paths beyond retail, hospitality, and healthcare and no emerging industries. Without clear career paths, young people are tempted to pursue education and employment opportunities off Cape and once off Cape, they tend not to move back,” the report stated. In addition, the study found that 90% of year-round employees on the Cape and Islands come from within the region. Sarah Nitsch, CCYP board member and Marketing and Events Coordinator, Cape Cod Children’s Place confirms, “This is something that affects the community and local businesses in ways that you wouldn’t even expect. What we want is for our base to be able to fill essential roles and do so here on the Cape. To achieve that, we need everyone on board—not just the younger population.”
“If you’re looking to expand your professional network and meet great people from various parts of the Cape, from a variety of industries, and at different stages in their respective careers, then CCYP is a great organization for you.” ~ Patrick Ehart CCYP Board Member and Chief Operating Officer & Owner, Cape Cod Commercial Linen Service, Inc.
“CCYP is a way for young professionals—all professionals—to connect, share ideas and be able to make friends, collaborate and grow individual networks as well as engage in the community,” Nitsch continues. “As someone in my forties, I’m still growing professionally, and the work we are doing as an organization is in support of positive growth and change for Cape Cod’s workforce of all ages.”
For CCYP, those findings mean providing resources to help members further everything from their education to their social life right here on Cape Cod. “Those who support CCYP recognize that the future vibrancy and sustainability of our region depends on connecting, engaging, and advancing the next generations of Cape leaders,” emphasizes Clothier.
Kohls says, “We take the flavor of what the community wants and needs and use that to shape our offerings accordingly. For instance, we started providing childcare resources based on direct feedback from what our membership tells us they’re facing.”
CCYP also has an annual scholarship program that awards scholarships to adult students to return to school, train in a new profession, or take courses to develop their professional lives on Cape Cod.
Due to COVID-19, CCYP turned to offering virtual events, including their annual Shape Your Cape Summit. Nitsch, who chaired the event, explained that the Summit, now in its fifth year, “provides the Cape’s young workforce community with educational and networking opportunities to thrive, personally and professionally, on Cape Cod by convening local employers, community leaders, and concerned citizens who are passionate about advancing local understanding and action around issues that impact opportunity for young, working-age adults on Cape Cod. With COVID affecting so many of us in different ways our theme this year was Resilience.”
Later in 2021, CCYP hopes to begin offering more in-person events, while, of course, following all the necessary safety regulations. Plans are in the works for late-summer outdoor Connect Events and a modified version of the annual Back to Business Bash in September. “The Back to Business Bash is one of the most essential events in the business community on Cape Cod, in my opinion,” said Craig Orsi, CCYP Vice President and Owner, Orsi & Company, LLC. “With almost 1,000 people in one place, socializing and networking, it truly does help to create a sense of community among those of us who live and work here year-round.” This year, they are offering a creatively modified version of the Bash: instead of one huge event, CCYP is teaming up with breweries and wineries to offer 8-10 mini-Bashes – all on the same evening at outdoor venues across the Cape. The multiple smaller events will add up to one big Cape-wide Bash, connected through social media posts at each of the venues throughout the evening. They will be complimenting the mini-Bashes with the second year of CCYP’s Bash Pass—Passport to the Cape program.
“CCYP’s Summit was incredibly empowering and displayed the resilience of Cape Codders from all different sectors over the last year. It was wonderful to not only connect with folks I had never met but also to share this feeling of community that is unique to living and working on Cape Cod. This is surely one of the most important events of the year and I would encourage everyone and anyone to participate in the future.” ~ Matt Scinto CCYP Volunteer and Music Director, Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra
In the year ahead, Clothier says that CCYP will be expanding their mentoring, professional development, and leadership skill-building initiatives. “We will also be strengthening and expanding partnerships with businesses and nonprofits throughout the region to amplify our collective positive impact and ensure that there are community systems, resources, networks, and programs in place that allow the Cape’s future leaders to live, work, advance, and thrive,” she says.
“This network and community that CCYP has built is really special here on the Cape. That’s what keeps me going because I know what it did for me and it’s exciting seeing what it can do for other people,” says Kohls, who recently opened her own law office with the help of connections she made through CCYP. “Anything I needed when I was opening my practice—from leads to advice—all I had to do was consult my network that I built through CCYP. It’s so amazing to me to see the community that I’ve worked towards building all these years come together and assist me. I want everybody to experience that.”
“CCYP has been an irreplaceable asset to me in my career – connecting me to other local professionals who have helped me launch and grow my own business – and made a positive impact on the community where I live and work.” ~ Sara Kohls CCYP President and Attorney, Law Offices of Sara J. Kohls
CCYP supports all kinds of industries, from lawyers like Kohls to bankers, small business owners, and everything in between. “This community and this place is something that everyone should get to enjoy. We want to be able to help when someone needs it, in whatever shape or form that is,” continues Kohls. “If you call, there’s always someone here for you.”
Keeping the Cape and Islands the vivacious place that it is so famously known to be is a goal that everyone who’s ever walked along the National Seashore or enjoyed a lobster roll at a seaside tavern can commit to; and it’s one that is clearly reliant on the vitality, quality of life, and career and leadership opportunities available to the young population. It is these individuals who take up essential jobs beyond just the busy summer months and who build families and creative businesses that keep the community flourishing. As with anywhere, attracting and retaining residents that are passionate about the area in which they live is key. After all, as Horgan states, “Where would we be without young professionals to care for our grandchildren, teach our children, provide services to maintain and keep our homes, support us with financial advice, and offer all the services we utilize every day.”
“We live in an amazing, naturally beautiful place,” concludes Nitsch, “and we need to keep it a place for young professionals to want to stay and work, for families to raise their kids, and for people to be a part of why I moved back here with my own family…the community.”
For more information and to join and support CCYP, check out capecodyoungprofessionals.org. You can also follow @capecodyoungprofessionals on social media and sign up to receive e-newsletter updates from CCYP.
Allyson Plessner is a contributing writer for Cape Cod Life Publications.