Yesterday – November 10, 2007 – I spent the day with an energetic, excited, engaged and highly educated group of young professionals who are members of the American Nuclear Society Young Members Group, the North American Young Generation in Nuclear or both. They spent the day talking about topics interesting to them – I am paraphrasing here:
“Will there be a nuclear renaissance?”
Answer – they are pretty sure that there is something new going on, that there will be a number of new nuclear power plants constructed in the next 10-20 years, but they are not sure just how long it is going to take to get the first of that new generation of plants up and operating. They recognize that there are numerous challenges that must be addressed and overcome. They are certain that there are no short cuts available and no quick answer to the energy supply challenges that face North America and the world.
“Even if there is not a renaissance, we are pretty sure that the industry needs us to learn really fast so that we are ready to move up rapidly in our organization.”
These young people – most were between 21 and 35 – have extensive formal educations in a number of different technical disciplines. When they joined the work force, they often found themselves in organizations where they are surrounded by people in their fifties and sixties without a whole lot of people in the middle. One of the leaders of the group who works at a national laboratory and lives within blocks of Wriggly Field told the group that the average age in his organization when he arrived was in the mid to late sixties. Imagine the challenge of being a newly minted PhD in a place where most of your co-workers could be your grandparents!
There is a lot of interest in learning how to network, how to manage people, how to speak to a crowd, how to listen, and how to effectively share their technical skills while learning as much as they can from the people who have a lot of corporate or tribal knowledge. I lost count of how many times I heard the phrases “knowledge management” and “knowledge transfer”.
“How can we get together and have some fun with our peers and colleagues when we work in a demanding field with lots of opportunity for excessive hours and a huge tendency to implement time consuming procedures?” (Remember – I am paraphrasing and inserting a little humor between the lines.)
Answer – the young professional organizations are getting together for fun activities like volleyball, white water rafting, and happy hours. They are meeting in regional groups and banding together for international conferences. According to Amy Buu, the current president of NA-YGN, the organization has grown from a core group of 8 founders in 2000 to a current membership in excess of 3100 (three thousand, one hundred and eighty nine as of the end of Octobert, according to Ms. Buu.)
The organization has 43 chapters, some are associated with national labs, some with power plants, some with companies, and some in various local areas. If you are interested in finding the chapter nearest you, you can find the list with points of contact at http://www.na-ygn.org/localchapter2/docs/localchapters.pdf
“How can we communicate more effectively about our industry to the general public, to young people in school, and to our own parents.”
The people in the room seemed to really love what they do, but they know that it is sometimes difficult to communicate that excitement to others. Most – but certainly not all – of the members of the group have extensive technical educations and feel strongly that they need to work on their people skills. Many feel a personal calling to try to help people understand nuclear technologies, and they were interested in hearing about new ideas to help them tell their stories in language accessible to people with different kinds of educations and backgrounds.
I will put up some more information about the congress later, I think. Now I have to go back to editing the audio files that I gathered while at the meeting. My intention is to have them available sometime in the next day or so. As any of you who have ever worked with audio, you will understand my challenge – I have about 6 hours worth of material to process.