KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With many of the East Tennessee college graduations behind us, it’s time to see how many of our local graduates are putting their degrees to use in the Scruffy City.

Below is a statement from Stephanie Kit, the Executive Director of the Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration with the University of Tennessee, about recent graduates.

“Last year, 60% of graduating students accepted jobs in the state of Tennessee and of that, 50% stayed in the Knoxville area indicating that there is a high interest among our students to stay local,” said Kit.

WATE 6 On Your Side spoke with a board member with the Young Professionals of Knoxville (YPK) group to see what their members are looking for when they enter the workforce.

Cate Bolden said in the last year and a half alone YPK has seen a near 100 member increase. Bolden said much of the growth is attributed to young professionals needing socialization in this pandemic and post-pandemic world since many of them started their careers working remotely.

She spoke about what companies can do to foster a community environment, helping keep young talent in Knoxville.

“Finding ways to see people beyond their work personas and getting to know them a little bit, the things that we used talk about around the water cooler that we’re not really doing anymore,” said Bolden. “That’s something that a lot of young professionals are really seeking, that ability to not only make connections, but also to sort of find ourselves within that and how we fit into a company.”

Bolden also said companies can use the downtown area to their advantage. She explained how Knoxville is a medium-sized city that comes without some the hassles and costs often associated with living in a larger city.

She also spoke about keeping young professionals who are born and raised in Knoxville local, saying it’s a large enough area that you don’t have to feel like you’re living at home.

“A lot of these young graduates grew up here, but one of the advantages of Knoxville is that you don’t have to be part of your parent’s community or part of the community you grew up in,” she said. “There’s more than enough diversity in all ways here in Knoxville that you can sort of become who you want to be and create your own community.”

To learn more about the Young Professionals of Knoxville group you can head to their website.