Recruiting tomorrow’s leaders – today

May 14, 2024 By     0 Comments
Stephanie Hennen of Lakes Gas with Nick Virchow of Anova, left, and Austin Wicker of NPGA. (Photo by LP Gas staff)

Stephanie Hennen of Lakes Gas with Nick Virchow of Anova, left, and Austin Wicker of NPGA. (Photo by LP Gas staff)

“Foster and sustain personal and professional relationships among all members of the propane industry.”

Since its founding in 1959, the Young Gassers has strived to achieve these goals, which are part of its mission statement.

Young Gassers is a 100 percent member-supported professional networking, social and service organization that also financially supports young professionals via thousands of dollars in scholarships. And now, as the organization celebrates its 13th anniversary as a 501(c)(6) business league – under the leadership of Anova’s Nick Virchow, who has served as president since 2022 – it’s looking to the future.

Young Gassers is dedicated to highlighting the propane industry’s strengths for up-and-coming and potential propane professionals. Mentorship and networking are a focus too, as Virchow prepares to further increase opportunities for members.

“Since some of the propane industry’s most influential and knowledgeable leaders are Young Gassers members, continuous increases in mentorship and networking opportunities are no-brainers,” Virchow says. “We also want to highlight young talent through regional associations and expos across the United States so that everyone can network.”

New council for young talent

Virchow is also committed to supporting the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) Young Professionals Council (YPC). Stephanie Hennen, marketing manager at Lakes Gas, founded the YPC in February as an official business council for individuals 40 and under working for an NPGA-member company.

Officially established that month and fully launched during the 2024 Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo, the council will provide young propane professionals a “chance to utilize it as a stepping stone to start getting involved and get their feet wet,” according to Hennen.

“The idea came to me last summer, so I had a conversation with some people at the National Propane Gas Association, put a concept together and presented it to the NPGA Executive Committee last September,” she explains. “This January, I presented it to the committee again, prior to presenting it to the NPGA’s board of directors, who approved it in February.”

Hennen and the YPC have received considerable support from young professionals who are interested in becoming involved, as well as senior leaders who have mentioned that they “wish something like it was around when they first joined the industry.”

“We want to create a community of individuals who know they have support from one another and want to help each other grow personally and professionally,” she says.

The Young Gassers holds a reception annually in conjunction with the Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo. (Photo by Damon Carasco)

The Young Gassers holds a reception annually in conjunction with the Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo. (Photo by Damon Carasco)

As a result of Hennen’s plans for a close-knit group of professionals, she believes new people will be drawn to join the propane industry. Not to mention, individuals from small, family-owned companies, who may not have had an opportunity to invest in their young employees, will finally be able to do so through the new council.

“It will allow employees from all walks of life to really grow and develop so that they can ultimately reach their full potentials,” Hennen says.

NPGA says the YPC will align with its Women in Propane Council, which offers its Knowledge Exchange mentoring network and other programming for industry members, as well as with the Young Gassers.

Preparing the next generation

Inspired by the YPC, Young Gassers is focused on enhancing its recruitment capabilities so that it can connect with the next generation of propane professionals. Virchow and his team have begun to create campaigns and surveys for recruitment purposes and are open to additional ideas.

“Recruiting is a primary goal of ours, and we have some ideas to do so,” he says. “We always welcome fresh perspectives though.”

Young Gassers strives to offer young professionals a diverse, dynamic infrastructure that will enable them to learn from – and network with – professionals in the industry. The organization enables folks of all backgrounds to be members, leading to a wide array of experiences and, in turn, advice and other opportunities.

To help young professionals prepare for the future, it’s vital for them to learn from the past, as well. Therefore, Young Gassers preserves documents, historical data and photos for the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Additionally, it uses its well-versed members’ experiences and knowledge.

“We get to use our members’ wisdom in order to start shaping the propane industry’s future,” Virchow says. “To utilize this wisdom fully, Young Gassers is preparing to mentor more often down the road, in order to pair more young professionals with veterans and remove any hurdles they may have otherwise encountered.”

Challenging the status quo

As Hennen looks to the future, she believes the YPC will have a “huge impact” on the propane industry, as it will “change it for the better.”

In particular, she thinks young professionals outside the propane industry will be drawn to it even more – a result of the council’s dedication to up-and-coming professionals. Furthermore, she predicts that young professionals will be interested in YPC’s determination to positively change the industry.

“Millennials and Generation Z professionals like to challenge the status quo, as they aren’t afraid of change. In fact, they embrace it,” she says. “The propane industry can’t remain stagnant and expect positive results, so continuous evolutions will lead to positive impacts.”

Aside from being open to change, millennials and Generation Z professionals are interested in helping the environment. Hennen believes young professionals will be attracted to propane’s role in a clean energy future.

“The propane industry can pull in so many young professionals because of this,” she adds. “Its ability to positively impact the environment will not only potentially recruit thousands of young professionals in the future but retain them, as well.”

Of equal importance, young professionals can work in an industry that’s composed of kind people who aren’t “cut-throat,” as is the case in some other industries, according to Virchow. He stresses that young professionals will be drawn to the industry’s kindness.

“The propane industry is highly advanced and has an incredible influence on the world stage while also still believing in the power of handshakes and kindness,” he says. “Everyone comes together to help one another, which is more rare these days than it should be. It’s an old-school industry with new-school technology.”

Virchow and Hennen are seeking to ensure that young professionals know they’re surrounded by people who care about one another and their careers, successes and futures.

“If young professionals want to love what they do, be proud of the impact their industry has and work with genuine people, they should give propane a shot,” Virchow says. “I’m positive they’ll find a home in the propane industry.”

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