What do Bismarck, N.D., Dubai, Hong Kong and Denver have in common? Each city now hosts a chapter of Young Professionals in Energy, a nonprofit group focused on delivering networking opportunities to young members of the global energy industry. Founded in 2005, the group currently consists of 25 chapters worldwide with thousands of members, including 12,000 members in its Houston chapter. The Bismarck chapter is one of the organization's newest branches, but membership is growing quickly and the Bismarck branch may soon be one of several YPE chapters in the booming Bakken, a sign of the region's significance in the global energy industry and the role that young professionals play in supporting that industry.
"I think it is good publicity for the area and shows we are a focus point in the industry," says Adam Landstrom, founder and executive director of the Bismarck chapter. "Not very many of these groups are based in a small metro area."
Landstrom is 27 years old and has worked in the energy industry as a landman since graduating from the University of North Dakota and passing the state bar exam in 2011. He launched the Bismarck chapter in June and quickly began signing on members. The chapter currently has about 50 members representing oil and gas companies, pipeline companies, law firms and other energy-related professions. "It's been a nice variety so far, which I'm very happy with," Landstrom says. "Professionals are professionals. You don't have to wear a suit and tie to work to be a professional."
One of the reasons Landstrom chose to launch the Bismarck YPE was because he recognized the significant age gap among energy industry professionals in the region and the potential for young professionals to take on leadership roles as their predecessors reach retirement age. "I think that creates a lot of opportunities for young people because there is such an age difference right now in the industry, at least in North Dakota," he says. "It's a great time for a group like this to start, because of that."
The Bismarck YPE chapter will hold its first annual meeting in January, where it will elect leaders and set a course of action for the coming year. Landstrom recently relocated to Minot and plans to start a Minot branch next year as well. If enough interest is shown, he may help expand the group to include charters in other Bakken hub cities in the future.
Like other young professionals groups, the major draw for individuals to join YPE is for networking opportunities. Landstrom says networking is immediately recognized as valuable for the under-40 age group because, unlike previous generations, they expect to change jobs frequently throughout their careers. "We know it's very likely that we're not going to be at the same job 10 years from now," he says. In energy, networking can also provide valuable information about a widespread industry that includes many niche areas. "If you work at a drilling company, you may not know what a pipeline company does and how that factors into what you do every day," he says. "In any job, you can get so focused on your specific area and not realize the big picture. Networking allows you to see the big picture. It expands our understanding of the boom."