Engaging Youth In Canada’s Energy Sector Requires ‘Perspective Realignment’

By: Carter Haydu

Article originally published by the Daily Oil Bulletin on Nov 17, 2015 and can be found here: http://www.dailyoilbulletin.com/article/2015/11/17/engaging-youth-canadas-energy-sector-requires-pers/ 

Support of the energy sector is often seen as being akin to climate change denial on university campuses, which is why the co-chair of Future of Canada’s Oil Sands (FoCOS) believes there must be a realignment of how young people perceive the oil and gas industry, because it can actually be seen as a climate change solution.
Jamil Jivani told last week’s Economic Club of Canada energy conference that youth want to know how energy companies are working on green energy solutions. “The reality is on university campuses, that is not what people are hearing when we are talking about fossil fuel production.”
Young Canadians are hungry for economic opportunity, noted Jivani, and they are looking for their “first break and first job” in order to demonstrate their capabilities and make contributions to the economy. However, he added, youth are managing that desire for opportunity with various concerns about climate change, considering the social responsibility priorities of the various companies for which they might seek employment.
“A significant number of Canadians feel that in a short period of time — like 10 years — that we might transition away from fossil fuels. That perception has a really big impact on young people and what their careers will look like. If 50 per cent of young people think this is true, then how do you think they are planning their careers in terms of industries they are going to engage in, or where they are going to spend their time and creative energy?”
One of the most beneficial ways industry can engage youth is to convey a long-term, ultimate plan for the sector, Jivani said. Youth, for example, should know how increased production could make it easier to finance a different kind of energy future where young people foresee a more sustainable career. However, Jivani said, young people largely do not hear that perspective.
“Generationally, I think we are seeing it being played out where young people are only exposed to one side, and they feel that is the side they belong on, and that is also the side on which they get to be leaders…. I think [it is] really critical to ensure they don’t perceive a certain type of the environmental side of this debate as dominating where young people see themselves.”
According to Jivani, Alberta could have its own version of Austin, Kitchener-Waterloo, or Silicon Valley — a place where young people see themselves wanting to build a life and career, as well as a place that attracts resources where they can dedicate time, energy, creativity and intelligence to developing new ideas to try and solve problems with which society is wrestling. To this end, he said engagement with post-secondary institutions is imperative.
“I think universities have been designed really well in order to teach us about problems, and how to be critical thinkers and analyze all the things that are not going well, but there is not a lot of emphasis on the skills and practical abilities that are necessary to resolve these [problems].
“I think [it] is really important for the private sector and universities to have a stronger relationship to ensure those things are being taught…. I see the need for practical skill development among my students.”
A public education organization, FoCOS aims to create opportunities and events for young Toronto-area professionals to learn about and engage with innovations and challenges related to Alberta’s energy sector.
For young people, the goal is not just about squeezing more productivity or money out of the current energy sector, Jivani said. Youth are also interested in showing leadership towards completely new ways of making money, and new frontiers in the energy economy not yet embraced, or possibly even conceived.


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