Perspectives: Our Youth, Our Future

“The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of the young people.” — Kailash Satyarthi

I was inordinately pleased when, recently, my younger daughter brought home a permission slip for a school field trip. This seems like a commonplace incident for a parent of school-age children, but it was remarkable in that this was a trip where only certain middle-school students were chosen to participate based on their interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). For this particular field trip, students visited the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium.

If you knew how long I have been trying to get my two girls more interested in the sciences in general, along with math… After all, their mother has a bachelor of science degree in zoology, along with a minor in chemistry (and a minor in journalism). I was an editor on veterinary magazines for more than seven years. Surely just a bit of that scientific bent of mind got passed down to them. I suppose it just requires the right nurturing.

I love the quote above, from Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi. And I would say his description of youth extends all the way to young adults starting out in their respective career fields. For hydropower globally, the “young people” can bring their power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage to what has been called a mature industry for decades. And one where the majority of the workforce is undoubtedly past its youth.

Promising signs abound of the vigor and enthusiasm of youth, and the benefits to hydro.

For example, a group of students at Hunan University in China have invented a system to increase electricity generation from small and medium-sized hydropower plants during the dry season. The system is based on a variable-speed, constant frequency motor designed by a doctoral team.

The researchers estimate that if the new system was applied to all of the more than 45,000 hydropower stations located in rural areas in China, which have a total installed capacity of more than 65 GW, total installed capacity would increase by 19.5 GW. “Improving generating capacity is expected to reduce the number of hydropower plants needed in the future, therefore lessening their effect on the environment,” says news agency Xinhuanet.

And in the U.S., the Republican Policy Committee’s Millennial Task Force held a hearing in late 2017 on the challenges and opportunities for millennials in the hydropower industry. The goal of the hearing was to assess the opportunities and challenges the hydro industry has in recruiting millennial workers. Why hydropower?

“Just last year [in 2016] the renewable energy reached its highest ever production levels with hydropower accounting for 25 percent, more than solar and wind combined,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, chair of the task force. “What makes these totals even more promising is the potential for massive growth within the hydropower sector. To make this expansion a reality the hydropower industry needs a robust workforce. In fact some reports indicate there could be over one million jobs in the [U.S.] hydropower sector if the industry meets its domestic potential. Unfortunately the hydropower industry is facing an aging workforce and has not been able to attract as many millennials as solar and wind sectors have.”

We understand this challenge and are working to help industry deal with it. A couple of examples of this work will be featured at HydroVision International this June in Charlotte, North Carolina in the U.S. Being the world’s largest hydroelectric industry event, with more than 3,000 attendees expected from more than 50 countries, HydroVision International offers the ideal opportunity to nurture and encourage the interest of youth in hydropower.

A couple of examples are here:

PennWell’s Hydro Group is offering a special Young Professionals registration package to give pre- and post-graduates the opportunity to be a part of the hydropower industry. A special pricing package offers full-time students an All Access Pass to the conference sessions, the exhibit hall and all networking activities, as well as the opportunity to participate in the Hiring for Hydro career fair on Thursday, June 28.

In addition, to aid those who are new to the hydro industry, HydroVision International features the Waterpower Hydro Basics Course, a co-located event. This course features faculty representing consulting companies, utilities and regulatory agencies presenting lectures on the breadth of the hydropower industry, including turbine and electrical system basics, hydro in a power system, day-to-day operations and much more.

I encourage you, if you are attending HydroVision International, to reach out to this “next generation” of hydropower industry professionals to offer them your wisdom and guidance. They are poised to do great things.

Elizabeth Ingram

Managing Editor

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