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by CHOA Editorial Committee

CHOA successfully hosted its inaugural Future Innovators Forum on March 29, 2023, serving as a bridge between academia, business leaders, human resources professionals, and numerous students aspiring to make an impact interested in innovation, energy transition, and our industry’s future. The event’s overarching theme was “Our Joint Future,” which aimed to establish connections between the heavy oil and oil sands industry, students considering careers in our industry and the academic institutions they attend. Distinguished leaders, technical experts, and human resources professionals from the industry were in attendance. 

The forum featured a thought-provoking keynote presentation by Dr. Brad Hayes, Outreach Director for the Canadian Society for Evolving Energy at the University of Alberta. Titled “The 21st Century Energy Transition: The Global Challenge of Our Time.” He emphasized that energy is a cornerstone of modern life, with over 80% of our current consumption relying on fossil fuels. As the world’s population continues to grow, finding sustainable ways to meet energy demands without compromising future generations’ needs will become paramount.

Dr. Hayes explained that previous attempts at transitioning to renewable energy have only added new sources without effectively replacing existing ones. He detailed the complexity of energy supply chains and infrastructure, which cannot be quickly changed while maintaining essential energy delivery. Furthermore, he noted that critical supply chains for new energy and storage technology are not yet in place. Dr. Hayes stressed that focusing solely on emissions reduction is not a comprehensive energy transition plan, as it fails to address energy availability, security, and affordability issues. He concluded by highlighting that it will take decades to replace our current systems and infrastructure, casting doubt on the achievability of a Net Zero society within the proposed timeframe.

Throughout the presentation, Dr. Hayes fostered a sense of optimism by highlighting the pivotal role collaboration between industry, the education system, and students can play in addressing the challenges posed by the energy transition. He recognized that students have the potential to be catalysts for change, leveraging their boundless creativity, knowledge, and passion to contribute significantly to the solution. By forging partnerships between academia and industry, we can empower students with the resources, guidance, and real-world experiences needed to spearhead innovation and advancement in energy transition. 

By fostering connections and facilitating meaningful discussions between industry professionals and future innovators, CHOA’s Future Innovators Forum served as a catalyst for collaboration, knowledge exchange, and the cultivation of a promising future for our industry and its talented individuals.

The forum also included an industry panel discussion moderated by Katie Smith-Parent from Young Women In Energy (YWE). Panelists Valerie Stewart (Scovan), James Agate (Canadian Natural), Patricia Bailey (Pathways Alliance), Omar Khattab (Avatar Innovations), and Steve McCaffrey (MEG Energy) shared insights into their unique career paths in the industry. They shared many of the exciting initiatives for young people to start their careers in the energy industry for a variety of backgrounds. There is a space for everyone, from human resources to accounting and safety. They drew parallels between their experiences and the current environment for new professionals, expressing optimism about future prospects. The panelists emphasized that the industry’s success has been driven by talented individuals, innovation, and an entrepreneurial spirit, which will continue to shape its future.

The event’s success was made possible by the support of Title Sponsor CNRL and Event Sponsors Bantrel, GLJ, Halliburton, Scovan, Suncor, and Wood. CHOA extends its gratitude to these organizations for their commitment to Future Innovators. Our academic partners, including the University of Calgary, SAIT, Mount Royal University, and the University of Alberta, played a vital role in ensuring the forum’s success. We sincerely thank them for their participation.

Originally published in Scovan’s IGNITE Vol. 6