At a time when companies are announcing lay-offs, it may seem weird to contemplate the Great Crew Change. But recession doesn’t prevent people from aging, and at best it can only delay retirements. If energy companies are to remain vital, they will continually need to attract and retain key talent from all age demographics.

So I find it interesting that the World Petroleum Council (WPC) is planning its second WPC Youth Forum, to be held Nov. 18-20 in Paris. What, you might ask, is the WPC Youth Forum? I was unaware of it as well. But it turns out that the WPC has been committed to supporting younger industry professionals for several years, recognizing that this age group will be of key importance going forward and that younger professionals have several choices other than energy when they pursue their careers.

“To compete effectively in this race for talent, the energy sector needs to promote its image and the broad range of opportunities open to young people across its many sectors: oil, gas, biomass, new energies, [and] oil-related industries,” the WPC website states.

The first WPC Youth Forum was held in Beijing in 2004 and was considered a success. This year’s forum is titled “Energise Your Future” and has been organized by the very young professionals the WPC hopes to reach. “It will be a highly participative forum relying on state-of-the-art communications tools to allow young people from across the world to debate the major issues facing the energy industry in the coming years with their peers but also with representatives of the academic world, industry experts, and current leaders,” the Web site states.

More than 1,000 people are expected to participate in the event, which will feature three levels of discussion: keynote plenary sessions for strategic thinking, workshops for more in-depth analysis of the overall themes, and networking and sharing areas called “Knowledge Cafes” to facilitate break-out sessions and one-on-one discussions with industry experts.

The audience will comprise four segments: young professionals under age 35, final-year students from universities, academics, and high-level guest speakers providing valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the energy sector. Sponsors include Total, Schlumberger, GDF Suez, CGGVeritas, Maersk Oil, and IFP.

The program will begin with an opening plenary session titled “Is a sustainable future within our grasp?” and feature speakers from Total, Schlumberger Reservoir Characterization, GDF Suez, and WPC as well as Wail Mousa, president of the WPC Youth Committee, and younger representatives from some of the sponsoring companies.

The event continues all day Nov. 19 and 20, with plenary topics that cover the energy picture in the future, an ethical and sustainable energy industry, tomorrow’s leadership, and a roadmap toward sustainability. Numerous workshops and knowledge cafes will also be offered.

For more information, visit