March 2018, Vol. 245, No. 3


AGA’s Young Professionals Program: Developing a New Generation of Global Industry Leaders

Lori Traweek is in her 25th year at the American Gas Association (AGA), where she now serves as senior vice president and chief operating officer. Among her vast responsibilities in this role, she’s responsible for making sure the association is ready and able to meet the needs of its more than 200 member companies.

As AGA’s liaison for the Center for Energy Workforce Development, she’s been directly involved in addressing one of the natural gas industry’s top objectives: attracting and training young talent to assume the mission-critical jobs of its retiring workforce.

Traweek talked to P&GJ about AGA’s Young Professionals Program and its role in developing future industry leaders at the upcoming World Gas Conference.

P&GJ: What should we know about the World Gas Conference and the significance of hosting it in the United States this year?

Traweek: The International Gas Union represents 97% of the global natural gas industry, and the World Gas Conference essentially brings it all together in one place. Industry leaders and policy experts are coming from every corner of the world to share knowledge and look ahead. We expect more than 10,000 people will attend the conference or the 430,000-square-foot exhibition that is associated with it.

This conference is only held every three years and it can only be hosted by the country serving as president of the IGU. The last time it was held in the United States was 1988, when Ronald Reagan provided the opening remarks. So it’s a once-in-a-generation type of event for people working in the U.S. energy industry to attend this conference here, because it probably will not be held here again for decades to come. That’s why the Young Professionals Program is such a priority for AGA at this conference.

P&GJ: How does the Young Professionals Program fit into the World Gas Conference?

Traweek: Our goal has always been to acknowledge, develop and support the industry’s future leaders by providing them with a package of educational and networking opportunities unique to their needs. It started on a smaller scale during the Kuala Lampur conference in 2012 and has continued to evolve and grow since it was held in Paris in 2015.

We hold the program in conjunction with the World Gas Conference because this enables us to reach out to the senior executives and policy makers who are coming from all over the world and invite these industry leaders to come engage with these young professionals in a much smaller forum. The program is limited to only the first 200 registrants.

A lot of thought was put into developing program topics of specific interest and value to future leaders, and the speakers who have agreed to participate are a who’s who of the global industry. We have experts like Daniel Yergin of IHS Markit and senior executives of such companies as ConocoPhillips, Enbridge and Total.

P&GJ: How were you able to attract such an impressive lineup of speakers? 

Traweek: It’s surprisingly easy, because they actually want to do it.  One of the shared traits of these leaders is their passion for the industry and concern commitment to its future.  The challenge is that they’re exceptionally busy people. That’s the benefit of associating the Young Professionals Program with the World Gas Conference.  It gives us the ability to attract high-caliber speakers who wouldn’t be available if this program were a standalone event.

P&GJ: How has the industry’s approach to workforce development changed over the past 10-20 years?

Traweek: It’s gotten increased attention in the last decade or so, as we have seen the number of people in the industry approaching retirement age. And I would say we have broadened our focus beyond recruitment and core skills training to retention and leadership development. This conference is a good example. We not only focus on leadership training for young professionals. We are reaching out to area schools and inviting teachers and others to the exhibition to learn more about the industry and its career opportunities.

Because even though energy has become a more prominent topic in recent years, it is an area that so many do not think of when they are considering career options. So we are exposing those outside the industry to some of the reasons they should consider a career in energy. But we also want to make sure that those younger professionals who have great promise inside our industry know there is a bright future ahead and feel excited and motivated to advance as our next generation of leaders. P&GJ

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