WPC Canada's Future Leaders Initiative Shaping Tomorrow’s Energy Professionals

Board of directors of WPC Canada Future Leaders – Back Row: Cody Parrish, Lukas Albrecht; Front Row: Lauren Rooney, Maddy Swalm, Jennifer Winter (Absent: Jodie Scott)

The world’s energy future is in obvious flux.

Indeed, “energy transition” is now more or less officially part of the oil and gas industry’s lexicon.

And as the decades-long transition rolls out, and gains momentum, it will require next-generation leadership and innovation to power its progress.

That’s why programs like the World Petroleum Council’s (WPC) Canada Future Leaders initiative are an important dimension of how the industry navigates the demographics of energy transition.

With “Energy Transition – the Path to Net Zero” as the theme anchoring Calgary’s hosting of the 24th World Petroleum Congress in 2023, there’s an important opportunity to focus on how to creatively and innovatively bring future leadership into the spotlight — especially as the dialogue associated with the theme will shape energy conversation for years to come.

That process begins with the 23rd tri-annual Congress in Houston in December.     

A dozen young Canadian energy professionals who are part of the Future Leaders program will travel there as part of Team Canada. In Houston, they will participate in both the full Congress program, but also connect with young leaders from dozens of countries. But the real prize comes at the hand-off in Houston to Calgary for the next Congress, on which much preparatory work has already started.

The Calgary Congress represents an important pivot for the WPC, with its declared energy transition theme, noted WPC Canada Future Leaders board chair Cody Parrish. That Calgary and Canada have been selected as the host for a “Net Zero” conference underscores the respect Canada has as a global energy player.

Moreover, the voices of the men and women who will be dealing with change over the next three decades will be an important element of the dialogue, he said.

“We think it’s vital to have youth represented at the Congresses,” he said, adding it’s an opportunity for younger professionals to share their experiences and perspectives.

But in a Future Leaders context, sharing is a two-way process, noted Parrish. It is as much about listening as it is offering ideas and insights, he said.

“It’s all about balancing viewpoints — ideas of how things should get done [during the energy transition]. We need to create opportunities for both young leaders and those more experienced to be part of the dialogue. Transition will be all about balance: understanding what the most feasible ways are of doing things as we articulate the challenges association with transition processes.”

The Future Leaders programs runs a variety of events each year, designed to engage young professionals in ways that explore the industry’s many layers. The events often prove to be effective recruiting opportunities, noted Parrish. With planning for the Calgary Congress already well underway, Parrish expects a significant recruiting drive in 2022 to attract professionals under 35 to bolster those who have already shown interest. That includes a push to deeply diversify the Future Leaders board and executive committee, he noted.

The next event, to be held Nov. 25, is the group’s 8th annual Ignite Talks, which will feature presentations by key industry leaders who reflect on the opportunities and challenges associated with Net Zero.

Speakers include: Wes Jickling (Chief Executive, COSIA), Rhona DelFrari (Chief Sustainability Officer and SVP Stakeholder Engagement, Cenovus), Pam McIntyre (SVP, Safety, Risk Management, and Innovation, CNRL), Grant Strem (Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Proton Technologies Canada Inc.), Dr. Ian Gates (Professor, Director Global Research Initiative Energy, University of Calgary), and Simon Paradis (Canada Energy Transition Program Manager, Shell).

WPC is considered the pre-eminent global oil and gas conference; since 1933 it assembles leaders from government, industry and other stakeholders. The Canadian Future Leaders program integrates into the global organization’s broader approach to youth involvement and engagement. WPC represents 65 countries accounting for more than 95 per cent of the world’s oil and gas production and consumption.

Canadian organizers are excited about the Calgary Congress theme, as it will help define the WPC’s overall strategic direction, noted Denis Painchaud, president of the Canadian organizing committee.

“Conversations will help define realistic, workable paths to a net-zero future and help elevate the Canadian energy sector for the next 25 years and beyond, helping ensure that jobs and investment stay in Canada.”

The Calgary Congress will highlight best practice from all areas of the industry and will include program content and participation opportunities for the upstream, downstream, midstream, and transportation sectors.

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