‘Working in energy sector today is a thrill’
Mutual understanding for the added value of young and old is an essential precondition for better cooperation. There is no doubting the truth of this statement. Nonetheless, in today’s society, it still remains far from self-evident for different generations to actually spontaneously interact. IRO and Young IRO are an excellent example of the added value of cooperation. Together they have developed the compassion for working towards a CO2-free future, in the close-knit energy community.
Within the IRO, too, in the past, like-minded senior members often ganged together like an exclusive old boys’ network, while the younger generation, with their dreams of the future and modern thinking, sought solace together elsewhere. In 2017, representatives of the younger generation employed at the time with one of the IRO members decided to adopt an entirely independent profile. Young IRO saw the light of day. Not out of a sense of frustration but with the professional aim of rendering the offshore industry future-proof, reconsidering the conventional and reinforcing the young generation.
Today, in 2021, Young IRO is an integral part of the IRO. Since the organisation’s foundation, the number of under 35s has grown considerably. In the third quarter of 2021, Young IRO consisted of 415 members, employed at a total of 143 unique businesses. The IRO, this year celebrating its anniversary, currently comprises 381 affiliate companies. Han Heilig spoke to Young IRO Board Members Paul Schoenmakers, project designer and business developer at TWD and Ruben de Nie, portfolio manager at Damen.
Both young energy professionals confirm that since its establishment, Young IRO has achieved a great deal. The voice of the younger generation has become more balanced. “Cooperation between young and old has become increasingly smooth. Our voice is actually listened to and that is a marvellous thing to experience. We have succeeded in establishing an identity that reflects the identity of all the younger members, and that is respected by the CEOs of the normal IRO members,” suggested Ruben. “Moreover, we are constantly organising a whole raft of inspiring events that help to disseminate more broadly our ambitious ideas on the energy transition, among the people who have a clear idea of the nature of that transition. Our ideas may be sporadic and somewhat overly utopian, but by combining a healthy dose of naivety and drive, with experienced and skilled people, the destination you arrive at is a better one than you would have reached by following the well-trodden paths. By adopting that profile, we will eventually succeed in changing the goals of the entire sector.”
In other words, Young IRO focuses on the one hand on offering a counterpoint to the old guard within IRO and on the other on attracting potential newcomers from the universities, as ambassadors for the sector. Where once there was a time when the younger generation barely dared to announce in public that they were employed in an offshore-related business, they are now proud to proclaim that they work in a fabulous sector, and are involved in bringing about an acceptable energy future. Paul added: “We have created a community where like-minded thinkers can congregate. We have also been able to make a real difference in terms of cohesion and the willingness to recognise that you can look beyond the boundaries of your own work bubble, to see how other people do things differently. And that means learning from each other, acquiring new insights, and as a result enjoying new inspirations. Young IRO has shown the courage to set aside its blinkers. We are willing to look around us and to learn from other sectors, even if at first glance, the similarities appear limited. We refer to it as out cross-corporate approach: acquiring an overall picture of the actual impact of your own everyday operations. Let us be honest; there is still a long way to go. We will have to face up to a number of complex challenges. But undeniably, we have already taken a number of important steps forward.”
Although the keys to the climate transition lie with the government, science and the commercial players, when it comes to the role of the supplies to the energy sector, the board of Young IRO clearly holds the opinion that they too are in a position to make a welcome contribution to accelerating the energy transition. The good will of businesses is clearly present, but progress is only being achieved slowly. The Dutch offshore sector has a key role in the energy transition, and it would be a good thing if that role were to be actively picked up and carried forward, as was the case 50 years go, with oil and gas. The Young IRO’s bucket list therefore still includes plenty of ideas on improving sustainability. And that in turn calls for actively dealing with the difficult issues for the future rather than trying to avoid them. The board of Young IRO consists of eight people. All of them volunteers who, with the full approval of their employers, perform their task alongside holding down their normal job. “When it comes to organising events that does mean we sometimes come up against the limits of our capacity,” confirmed Ruben. “Our aim is to offer the broadest possible palette of activities, but that is only possible thanks to assistance from outside. For that reason, we recently attracted a group of conscientious ambassadors, who are also willing to make an enthusiastic contribution to Young IRO. They will become more closely involved in the further growth and development of Young IRO. And in order to ensure a broad scope of activities, they too are invited to submit their own ideas and initiatives.”
The characteristics of Young IRO, held in great esteem by all the members, are the willingness to check out what the neighbours are doing, and above all fostering cooperation. If we as a sector hope to actually achieve the intended sustainable energy transition, and if we as the Netherlands wish to remain frontrunners on the world stage, then cooperation is unavoidable. Talking together about the common denominators. Launching innovative projects in collaboration. Ruben continued: “We do not present ourselves as some sort of oracle that the older generation has to sit down and listen to. The opposite is in fact very much the case. The central thrust of the work of Young IRO is to challenge ourselves and the older generation, by offering a refreshing and critical vision. Naturally based on the underlying principle that everything we do must be done in collaboration. Only by young and old joining forces can we achieve the energy transition. And that means listening attentively to one another’s ideas, and remaining open to the idea of sharing lessons learned.”
Would it not be a good idea to have an official delegate from the Young IRO on the board of the IRO itself? The suggestion is met with a brief silence. Serious thought is obviously being given to the idea. Paul replied: “I understand the suggestion, but do not believe it is necessary at this particular juncture. Koos-Jan van Brouwershaven, CEO of Heerema Marine Contractors is already performing sterling work on our behalf, as Young IRO supervisor, and Charlotte Roodenburg of Huisman is the first woman to hold a seat on the IRO board. She is an excellent sparring partner for us.”
When asked about the celebration of the 50th anniversary of IRO, both gentlemen expressed pleasure at the fact that on Friday 26 November, both the older and younger generation will be enjoying the anniversary, together. The Young IRO Award for best mentor, for example, is due to be presented during the anniversary celebrations. “If we successfully bring about an energy transition together, in 2067 Young IRO will also be able to celebrate its 50th anniversary. We are and remain a platform where young people can establish a solid network and tap into the knowledge of experienced senior players inside and outside the energy sector. We have already seen the huge added value these aspects are able to generate. In that light, it is beyond any shadow of doubt that there will always be a need for this type of cooperation. And for Young IRO.”
Source: Ocean Energy Resources