Too often we hear about the need for more people to enter the energy industry as older workers retire, taking experience and talent with them. Filling the pipeline with future workers will call for attracting younger generations. And steering them into the desired direction will take a hands-on approach. By exposing students to the industry, serving as role models and teaching business and leadership skills among others, the industry may be able to win the hearts and minds of young people. This can be accomplished by establishing programs that connect students with energy employees. BP is among the companies that appear to have mastered this concept. The company’s Schools Link program brings BP staff into schools where they meet with students, lead activities, and become mentors. Employees armed with educational resources target students between the ages of 5 and 19. Their focus is on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as well as business, leadership, and employability skills, according to BP’s website. The program, which is one of several that aims to inspire young people, isn’t new. It’s been around since 1968, according to the company’s website. But the program’s content is kept fresh. It’ll take years, or decades in some instances, to determine whether the efforts successfully develop talent. A video featuring the program highlighted one employee’s involvement with the program. Brian McLeon, operations manager for North Sea operations, returned to his alma mater in Aberdeen to work with students there. Based on the video, which is on BP’s website, students appear well receptive to the field and at least one student is sold on the idea of a career in energy. “I’d like to do his job,” a teen said in the video, referring to McLeon’s work overseeing three fields. Others doing their part to encourage young people include ExxonMobil, the founding sponsor of the National Math and Science Initiative that strives to better prepare not only students but also teachers in STEM areas. Educational resources on Anadarko’s website feature the adventures of Energenie, an animated character who teaches kids about oil and gas and offers science experiments, and a resource guide to energy education and careers. These are just two examples. Many companies are working to educate young people, especially in the STEM areas. For those that don’t have such programs, it’s time – actually past time – to jump aboard. For smaller companies with smaller budgets, efforts don’t have to be massive with hundreds of employees volunteering time with multiple school districts. The task could involve a handful, or so, of employees, more if there is interest, volunteering at the school nearest to their workplace, participating in a school’s career day, or taking part in a national organization that focuses on workforce readiness. If everyone took this approach, there would be no doubt about whether industry is reaching younger generations. That stated, it still will be up to them to take what is being offered and use that knowledge when choosing a career. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at email@example.com.
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