Developing the Future: Tom Dunn Energy Leadership Academy

by Dennis Xander

Educating the future workforce of West Virginia is crucial to the state’s well-being. As the energy industry expands here in our backyard, there will be an increasing need for an educated, skilled workforce. In anticipation of that need, the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia (IOGAWV) is committed to informing students in West Virginia of the vast and varied opportunities offered by the energy industry. In pursuit of that objective, IOGAWV established the Tom Dunn Energy Leadership Academy in 2012 in memory of one of its pioneer members, Thomas B. Dunn. The academy provides its participants with a broad overview of the industry and a detailed description of specific career opportunities. Educational requirements for all careers, both professional and vocational, are outlined and discussed, and institutions with energy curriculums are identified.

The Tom Dunn Energy Leadership Academy is a three-day educational camp designed to give high school students an in-depth look at West Virginia’s energy industry. The camp is held during the summer at West Virginia Wesleyan College (WVWC) in Buckhannon, WV, and is offered at no cost to participating students. Tuition, lodging and meals are all paid for by IOGAWV, and students are housed on the WVWC campus. This year’s camp will take place July 11-13.

“The experience and knowledge students gain at the Tom Dunn Energy Leadership Academy is invaluable,” says IOGAWV Executive Director Charlie Burd. “They are immersed in the industry and are able to observe what a career in the energy sector is like in the real world.”

During the three days at WVWC, students participate in classroom activities, take field trips and interact and network with educators and industry professionals.

“This camp really is all about helping high school students understand career opportunities in our industry while making meaningful connections for the future,” says Burd. “We’re also incredibly happy we are able to offer this program at no charge to participants. These types of summer programs can be quite costly, and we are glad we are able to eliminate any financial burden for students who want to be involved. The only cost they and their families incur is transportation to and from West Virginia Wesleyan College.”

To participate, students must fill out the application. Applications will be accepted through May 15, and students will be notified if selected.

“The academy’s namesake, Tom Dunn, would be extremely proud to know this camp is being held in his honor,” says Burd. “Tom employed hundreds of West Virginians, and he understood the importance of a skilled workforce to the energy industry. We are looking forward to another successful year at the academy and encourage all high school students in West Virginia to apply.”

For more information, visit and follow the academy on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Author

Dennis Xander is the president of Denex Petroleum, a member of IOGAWV and a member of the Tom Dunn Energy Leadership Academy’s board of directors. Xander has worked in the oil and natural gas industry for more than 40 years and was a key player in the founding of the Tom Dunn Energy Leadership Academy in 2012. He and his wife, Linda, reside in Buckhannon, WV.

This article appeared as an Executive Exclusive on the West Virginia Executive Magazine website. Click here to view the article on the publication's website.