According to BP’s Energy Outlook 2035, fossil fuels will remain a key component of the energy mix for the next two decades. In fact, the global demand for energy is expected to rise by 37 percent from 2013 to 2035, or by an average of 1.4 percent per year. By the 2030s, the U.S. is likely to become self-sufficient in oil, after importing 60 percent of its total demand as recently as 2005.
Meeting this projected energy production will require cutting-edge innovation and the minds of the brightest scientists and engineers to create it – a long-term goal to keep in mind even in today’s down market. As such, it is vital that the energy industry continues to attract and retain top talent, particularly those with science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) backgrounds.
Almost two-thirds of BP’s current U.S.-based employees work in STEM-related roles, while more than half of all new graduate hires over the next decade will require a STEM degree. Moreover, it is predicted that by 2018, 8 million STEM-related jobs will be available here in the U.S. From engineers and geologists, to computer scientists and offshore drillers, these careers in the energy industry will provide a pathway to prosperity with the average salary exceeding $90,000 per year.
The energy industry as a whole has a great opportunity to prepare today’s students to meet the demands of tomorrow. Beginning in elementary school through high school, and collegiate education, these programs must be robust, engaging and well-funded.
At BP, we invest nearly $50 million per year in STEM programs globally. And right here in the U.S., BP has invested more than $60 million in STEM education in the last three years alone. The company has focused its efforts on teacher training and development; student programs that inspire STEM learning and empowering employees to volunteer as mentors in their communities.
However, it’s important to note that BP understands that it will take the strategic efforts of many to ensure that every student has access to a strong STEM education.
Whether investing in formal programs, such as mentorship or skills education, supporting K-12 and higher education programs, or working with community and nonprofit groups, the energy industry along with other top industries understand that the need for top talent will only increase. Compounded by the current state of the energy industry and lower hiring levels, companies will have need to be strategic and reach the next generation of STEM talent on an earlier and deeper level in order to achieve long-term success.
It will take the collective action of companies, parents, and teachers to enrich a young person’s experience with STEM in a distinctive way that complements rather than replicates the school environment. By inspiring students to pursue STEM both inside and outside the classroom, we are more likely to help address the skills gap in this critical sector.
Mentorship, Internships and Community Partnerships’ Role in Advancing STEM
Despite much progress, a lack of exposure to STEM disciplines risks putting this career opportunity out of reach for too many American children – especially those from economically disadvantaged and minority backgrounds.
At BP, we’re working to support programs such as mentorship, internships/co-ops, and participation with professional and nonprofit organizations and actively engaging our employees to get involved. Children are exponentially more likely to choose a STEM career path if they know and interact with someone in the field.
For BP, providing the means for students to study and succeed in STEM-related fields is of the utmost importance.
BP’s involvement in the Million Women Mentors program is just one example of leading the charge in the area of mentorship. Led by a council of senior executives, our partnership with Million Women Mentors aims to mobilize more than one million mentors to offer guidance and advice to girls and young women on STEM learning and job opportunities. BP’s partnership, building on six decades of support for STEM-related subjects, gives employees the chance to inspire and instill confidence in girls of all backgrounds.9
Additionally, internships are critical when attracting and retaining top STEM talent. A hands-on, immersive and challenging experience stimulates STEM students and graduates while allowing them to develop an even deeper passion for the energy industry. In an average year, hundreds of interns and co-ops join BP in areas across our business segments. Giving students the experience and skills that will launch them into a successful career is critical to securing America’s energy future.10
Finally, working with professional and nonprofit organizations to raise awareness for the critical need for STEM professionals in the energy industry is paramount. Organizations such as the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers, , do great work in relation to the advancement of STEM education, particularly to minorities and economically disadvantaged youth.
Contributions to museums and science centers, like those BP made to the Chicago Museum of Industry and Science and to the Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC), bring the industry to children of all ages, and these exhibits and programs spark critical conversations and shape opinions on careers and possibilities in the energy industry.11
It’s up to everyone in the industry – upstream, midstream and downstream; global giants and independents – to invest in the technologies, people and resources required to make America energy self-sufficient by 2035. The reserves are there – now let’s make sure the professionals required to extract them are as well.
About the Author
Kathleen M. Martinez is senior director of national strategic relationships for BP America. Martinez is based at the company’s headquarters in Houston, and she plays a central role in the development, management and implementation of BP America’s national external affairs efforts. Her responsibilities include oversight of the company’s U.S. community investment policy and leading the national strategic relationships and initiatives platform with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and veteran outreach.
1 BP’s Global Energy Outlook 2035
2 BP’s Global Energy Outlook 2035
3 BP STEM narrative and proof points
5 BP STEM narrative and proof points
8 BP STEM narrative and proof points