The UK energy industry faces two pressing problems: not enough young people are gaining the necessary science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills and qualifications to secure a job within the sector, and there is an endemic gender imbalance. Shell is looking to address both of these issues through a high school programme called Girls in Energy.
Girls in Energy is an experiential programme aimed at girls aged between 14-16, which runs in conjunction with the academic year and provides participants real-life experience of working in the energy industry. The programme aims to break down common pre-conceived ideas of what working in the oil and gas industry is like, and ultimately inspire these young women to consider a career as a scientist or an engineer.
Five years of positive change
Five years after its launch, the programme is flourishing; 120 girls graduated from last year’s group and this year’s programme is even bigger with 150 girls from four schools local to Shell’s plant in Fife taking part.
Girls in Energy provides these young women an opportunity to experience a diverse range of activities across a variety of working environments. Candidates are interviewed to assess their enthusiasm, attitude and aptitude, and the course includes classroom-based projects, practical activities and visits to Shell sites.
The course culminates in a two-week placement at Shell’s Aberdeen offices and gives the girls hands-on experience. During the two weeks they spend time visiting different departments and sub-contractors so they can ask questions and learn about the various career paths available within Shell and the wider energy industry.
Highlights from last year’s placement included visits to:
- The St Fergus Gas Plant, where they learned how gas is delivered from offshore fields into people’s homes
- CHC Helicopters, where they met engineers and pilots and enjoyed a tour of the flying operations servicing the offshore industry
- A subsea remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations base, which houses one of the world’s largest and most advanced fleets of ROVs
- Survivex, which delivers the most realistic survival and industrial skills training in Europe
Not just boiler suits and hard hats
Abbey Thomson and Grace Brown are two young women whose lives have been changed by taking part in Girls in Energy. Before participating in the course they thought the oil and gas industry was synonymous with men in boiler suits working offshore, which deterred them from considering a career in the area. Following the programme they have an entirely new perspective, and they have both been inspired to undertake further training in electrical and mechanical engineering.
“I always enjoyed science and maths but I hadn’t considered a career in that area,” Abbey explains. “Taking part in Girls in Energy made me realise that there’s a place for me in the world of engineering.”
Recent graduate Taylor Erridge is just as passionate about the programme: “Girls in Energy has been great because it’s practical and has given me skills and experience that employers are looking for. Seeing all the women who work at Shell was inspiring and I’m going to continue studying and work towards a career in the energy industry.”
Paul Goodfellow, Vice President for Shell UK & Ireland, says: “Each year, we’re impressed by the calibre of the young women we meet during their time at Shell. It’s a pleasure and an honour to help create a new understanding of the energy industry, and show that there is not only a place but also a need for bright female minds in this sector.”