Timeline: The Evolution of the Young Professionals Group

For nearly 20 years, the organization has been helping recent grads make the transition to the workplace

22 December 2017

In celebration of The Institute’s 40th anniversary year, we’re presenting a series of timelines highlighting topics and technologies that have moved forward significantly during the past four decades.

The roots of the IEEE Young Professionals program can be traced back to the early 1990s, when recent grads began leaving IEEE in droves because it wasn’t offering services or programs to help them transition to the workplace. Four years after graduation only 17 percent of student members had become full members.

IEEE also had a reputation of being an organization for more senior and experienced professionals because its courses, conferences, and publications weren’t oriented to the needs of young engineers.

It represented a large opportunity for growth of the membership base and was evidence of a void in serving members, Life Senior Member David J. Kemp wrote in “IEEE Recent Graduate Program: ‘GOLD.’” His article was published in the IEEE-USA 1996 Professional Activities Committees for Engineers Conference and Workshop Proceedings. The article details the then-pilot program, IEEE Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD), which was created to address the challenges. At the time, Kemp was vice chair of the IEEE membership development committee.

The article describes how in June 1995, the membership committee formed an ad hoc committee to develop strategies to improve the retention rate and make IEEE more relevant to younger members. The ad hoc committee was named Graduates of the Last Decade because its programs would be geared to IEEE members who graduated from university within the previous 10 years.

The ad hoc committee decided GOLD should be a distinct IEEE affinity group with a few differences. Like other such groups, it would be a local unit of an IEEE organizational unit or standing committee, but it would be based in a section. It would have similar characteristics to society chapters, but instead of being focused on a technology, a GOLD chapter would concern itself with career-related issues. Most importantly, the groups would be run by recent graduates, not seasoned members.

Pilot programs were approved in March 1996 for seven sections including ones in Alabama, Montreal, and Singapore. They held job fairs, social events, networking opportunities, industrial-facility tours, and meetings where members discussed how to enhance soft skills.

In a status report about its GOLD pilot program, the Singapore Section wrote, “We have decided to adopt the approach that the GOLD program is the responsibility of all IEEE members, young and old alike.”

That philosophy continues today. The efforts of the current business plan are expected to benefit all members.

Scroll through the timeline below to learn about significant milestones during the program’s two decades.

This article was written with assistance from the IEEE History Center, which is partially funded by donations to the IEEE Foundation.

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