How young pipeliners are shaping the future of the energy industry

In previous posts on this blog, we’ve met some of the young professionals in the pipeline industry, and learned about their jobs, their passions and their motivations. This week we’re going to take a broader look at why young people choose to pursue a career in pipelines, and how they are shaping the future of the industry.

Anita Le, YPAC VancouverTo learn more, we spoke with Anita Le, chair of the Vancouver chapter of the Young Pipeliners’ Association of Canada (YPAC), to get her perspective on young professionals in the pipeline industry:

Q: What kinds of careers are there for young people in the pipeline industry?

Anita: The possibilities really are endless. There are the obvious careers such as engineers, environmental advisors, project managers, draftspeople and so forth. Then there are other less obvious careers, such as accounting, IT, legal, communications, graphic design and so much more.

Q: Are young people entering the pipeline industry experiencing any negative reactions toward their choice?

Anita: We do have the perception that there is a lot of negativity surrounding the fossil fuel industry and the pipeline industry. But, in fact, polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of Canadians do support pipelines. Unfortunately, those who are very opposed are extremely vocal.

That perception can discourage young people from entering the industry, but on the other hand, there are lots of millennials (those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) coming in who are interested in the environment, and want to make a difference from within.

Q: Is it hard to reconcile being a young professional in the pipeline industry with a concern for the environment?

Anita: Not at all. We’re the ones who are going to be living in this world, and this climate, for the next 60 years or more. We want to move the industry forward, and protect our quality of life while also protecting the environment. We know that sustainability is a huge part of what needs to happen.

For those of us who are genuinely interested in effecting change within the energy industry, there are really three main ways:

    1. You become engaged within the energy industry, which gives you the opportunity to push forward new technologies and innovations and be the change you want to see.
    2. You become personally engaged with new energy industries, such as wind or solar.
    3. You personally commit to reducing your own energy consumption.

young pipeliners at workQ: How do young pipeliners see the future of the industry?

Anita: We understand, as Canadians, that the fossil fuel industry is something that we need. But we also need to tie in a balance between energy and the environment.

Right now, only about 2.2 per cent of our energy needs come from renewables, and it will be many years before that changes. In the interim we need to make sure that what we’re using gets safer and more sustainable all the time.

Plus, we have the third largest oil reserves in the world, and we should find a reasonable way to bring that to market. Climate change and environmental concerns are a global issue, so whatever happens on the other side of the world affects everyone. If the oil isn’t sourced here responsibly, then it will come from somewhere else, because the demand is still going to be there.

But there are lots of really great, innovative things being done with the industry. Technology is heavily embraced and all the things we need to do to stay relevant are happening. There is a culture of quality that we’re building to foster excellence. For our generation that’s top of mind.

Q: Are there any other particular challenges for the industry, moving forward?

Anita: We’re on the brink of a huge workforce changeover. Within the next three to five years, something like two thirds of the industry’s workforce will become eligible for retirement. We need to take the existing knowledge and funnel it down to young up and comers. There’s a ton of potential and many bright minds ready to step up and take control.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post in which we will explore that need to pass the existing knowledge of long-time pipeline professionals to this generation.

To read about some of the young professionals currently working in the pipeline industry, check out these posts:

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 119,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2015, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.