More than 400 nuclear industry young professionals came together in Scottsdale, Ariz., from May 19-21 for the annual North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) Professional Development Conference. Among these more than 400 individuals representing utilities, suppliers, and government agencies were 23 of AREVA Inc.’s finest young professionals from six different U.S. locations.
The level of ambition shown by the conference participants was astounding. These professionals under the age of 35 are passionate about supporting the growth of the nuclear industry worldwide, and hungry for opportunities that allow them to develop their leadership skills and relationships. These individuals may become the managers, chief nuclear officers, and chief executive officers of energy industry companies in the near future. That’s forward-looking energy.
Conference attendees developed their leadership skills and networked with colleagues from around the North America region during a variety of sessions, including a hearty welcome to the Grand Canyon State from Arizona Public Services Executive VP & Chief Nuclear Officer Randy Edington; a keynote address from Dr. Roberta Ness, author of “Innovation Generation;” breakout sessions designed to enhance soft skills such as communication, innovative outreach, and setting career goals; breakout sessions to provide updates on hot industry topics (small modular reactors, long-term operation, change management); and open sessions designed to foster innovation and brainstorming among diverse groups.
AREVA leaders Tom Franch, senior vice president of Reactors & Services North America, and Scott Baumgartner, director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, served as panelists in two breakout sessions. In addition, four ideas from the open sessions were pitched to industry executives during an Innovation Competition, in which AREVA TN’s Matthew Bowen was a finalist for his STEM education ideas.
Some key conference takeaways from AREVA NAYGN attendees:
- Sam Moore, Chair, AREVA TN Chapter: “It was inspiring to see young, ambitious professionals from across an entire industry coming together to shape the country’s energy future. Everyone in attendance was eager to form relationships, to work together, to learn from each other, and to stay in touch as they went back to their respective companies.”
- Duriem Calderin, Co-Chair, AREVA Richland Chapter: “I got a lot of motivation to keep pushing forward and try to solve complex challenges by approaching them with ‘out of the box thinking’.”
- Ryan Nash, Professional Development Chair, AREVA Charlotte Chapter: “The energy given off from this conference was that of youthfulness and excitement to meet new people, see old friends, and to try new things. The biggest takeaway about the main theme, Innovation, was the power of this generation to come up with some wild, crazy, out-of-the-box ideas that will help the industry perform safer, communicate clearer, and operate longer.”
- Matt Cagnetta, Communications Chair, AREVA Charlotte Chapter: “The opportunity to meet face-to-face with our counterparts in the industry, to discuss industry-wide issues and promote nuclear energy was invaluable. The degree of attendance at the event should bolster the confidence of executives and individual contributors alike in the determination of the nuclear industry to provide clean, inexpensive, reliable energy for the long term.”
At the end of the conference, AREVA NAYGN members Adam Howell (Charlotte) and Abbey Donahue (AREVA TN) were honored as Excellence Award winners for work done on behalf of NAYGN in 2014. Abbey also began her two-year term as professional development chair for the NAYGN Core leadership team.
I returned from the conference with a renewed passion for the industry I’ve worked in for nearly nine years. Though the market has changed significantly over the past few years, the cleanest, most reliable form of base load power generation – nuclear energy – remains an important piece of the energy puzzle in North America.
The future of the nuclear industry is in the hands of more than ten thousand young professionals, who are dedicated to using innovation and best practices to ensure the continued safe operation of the North America nuclear power fleet. Thirty percent of AREVA’s North American workforce is eligible to retire today – but that doesn’t mean a pending leadership gap. NAYGN members are taking advantage of opportunities, such as the NAYGN Professional Development Conference, to ensure they are ready to lead the industry into the future.