Creating a Sustainable Future for the Asset Integrity Industry

How to attract and retain high performing young professionals

By Molly Beckel, Facilities Integrity and Reliability Engineer at TransCanada. April 18, 2019

Young asset integrity management professionals need effective tools to create a sustainable future for the industry.  The Young Pipeliners Association of Canada (YPAC) recently surveyed members and three key needs emerged: effective collaboration, personal and corporate values-alignment, and knowledge transfer in an aging industry.  With rapid technological disruption on the horizon, the emerging professional must be incredibly creative and flexible. Organizations like YPAC seek to prepare them as best as possible to be the stewards of critical infrastructure assets.

YPAC surveyed members to establish a baseline measurement of the effectiveness of their professional development and to evaluate perceived gaps.[1]  Young professionals feel the pull of technological changes, like artificial intelligence and expansive data analytics, and want to ensure that they are prepared to creatively adapt.  Three key needs for pipeliners emerged, which YPAC believes can be generalized to asset integrity management as a whole: collaboration, values-alignment, and knowledge transfer.

There is a continued need to collaborate effectively.  In the survey, supportive networks, managers, and teams were the biggest perceived enablers for success - with personal performance providing the foundation of trust upon which networks could be built.  Looking at the survey results:

  • 80% of respondents had access to senior experts for their questions
  • 63% of respondents had a mentor
  • 88% of respondents felt competent within their role

Young professionals expressed concern about the adaptability and flexibility of the industry.  In some cases, rigorous hierarchies and schedules put up barriers to young people accessing mentorship and supportive networks - poor leadership was seen as a key frustration for 41% of respondents in a separate ABN Resource Ltd survey.[2]      

A successful pipeline professional expects that corporate values and personal values align and throughout the responses, inclusion and diversity was seen a core business competency and expectation.  Young professionals in the pipeline industry generally feel that their work fulfills a value-aligned purpose but they identify that there is a key need to ensure that industry has acceptance in society as a whole.  From the YPAC survey, it was revealed that:

  • 94% felt that their organization’s work positively impacted people’s lives  
  • 100% felt that their organization operates in a socially responsible manner
  • 83% felt that their values and their organization's values aligned

Feeling as though your industry is being scrutinized or is compromising to societal good is demotivating for young professionals and creates a barrier to recruiting top talent - 32% of respondents indicated that public opposition was one of their biggest frustrations in their career (ABN Resource Ltd survey[2]).  The young professional of the future is not content to work “just a job” and will leave organizations where values do not align.

Compounding these challenges, the industry is aging, and knowledge transfer must be rapid.  There is a need to gain experience, but at many companies, encouragement to change jobs or a formal job rotation program is lacking. A lack of work opportunities, experience, and access to advancement are the perceived biggest barriers inhibiting success:   

  • 32% felt that they didn’t have opportunities to broaden their experience and 34% felt that their organization didn’t encourage internal job rotation
  • 33% felt that they weren’t developing financial and business acumen
  • 60% felt that their organization valued experience over education

Reducing access barriers (time/money) is critical - companies can be wary of developing young people due to a variety of factors.   Support from superiors to promote from within, to recognize young talent, and to invest in their training will ensure that young professionals have all of the tools to be successful.

These findings reinforce the need within the asset management industry to ensure that young professionals have access and encouragement to join peer networks.  Emerging and experienced professionals need to recognize the value of effective collaboration, personal and corporate values-alignment, and knowledge transfer in an aging industry.  To ensure that the asset management industry is creative and flexible, the next generation of professionals must have adequate tools to meet the future head-on. Through mentorship, adaptable organizational culture, and groups dedicated to the development of young professionals (like YPAC), the creation of a sustainable and vibrant industry is possible.  





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