Inspirational teaching and a joined-up approach between industry and education can open more young people’s eyes to the wealth of career opportunities available to them in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

In addition to investing in a programme to bring high calibre maths and physics academics into state to help address the critical shortage of teachers, Shell is working with schools and colleges to support STEM education and introduce pupils to the possibility of a career in the energy industry.

Girls in Energy: Inspired to choose STEM 

An example of this is in North East Scotland. Six years ago Shell established ‘Girls in Energy’, a programme set up to increase the number of young women considering a career in STEM.

John Raine, Shell’s Upstream Social Investment Adviser, says: “We went to schools and our conversations with young women highlighted a number of preconceptions about energy being all about getting your hands dirty on oil rigs, in the middle of the North Sea".

Since then, 600 girls aged 14-16 have passed through the year-long course, which delivers weekly lessons, workshops and field visits. The first few girls who were inspired to choose a STEM career are now in final study before employment. They include 19-year-old Abbey Thomson, who recently graduated from the Shell Engineering Scheme and is currently working at the Shell St Fergus Gas Plant in the North East of Scotland as a trainee instrument technician.

Abbey spoke to 100 girls from across Scotland at the recent Girls in Energy Conference in Aberdeen. The girls had spent a day with Shell solving energy challenges as part of the Girls in Energy programme. Before taking the course Abbey thought energy wasn’t for her and was considering a career in hairdressing.

She says she would never have considered a career in energy if she hadn’t been through the Girls in Energy programme, which recently became one of the first courses in Scotland to be awarded a ‘Developing the Young Workforce Certification of School Accreditation’.

Shell and IBM: Collaborating to find solutions to the energy challenge

Abbey was also among the speakers at a joint event between Shell and IBM in London. Fifty 11 to 14-year-olds took part in a stimulating workshop to get them thinking about the role technology can play to create clean and efficient energy solutions. The students then pitched their ideas to a Dragon’s Den-style panel.

The students gained a perspective on ‘a day in the life’ of a Shell and IBM apprentice. They heard from both companies about new energies, the importance of STEM skills in addressing the energy challenge, and the energy and technological solutions that will be developed to meet that challenge.

The winning idea came from a team of students from Paddington Academy. The ‘Fresh Air’ idea outlined a variety of low carbon energy initiatives for an airport of the future.

Dr Ros Rivaz from Your Life also spoke at the event to encourage students to consider STEM careers. Your Life is a three-year campaign sponsored by industry and supported by the Government to ensure the UK has the maths and physics skills needed to succeed in today’s competitive global economy.

STEM Teachers: Providing an insight into science and engineering careers

In order to broaden children’s outlook on careers and raise the standard of STEM teaching, Shell sponsors five teachers (known as ‘chairs’), who are university academics, in a collaborative programme between business and government.

Research shows that only one in four physics teachers have studied the subject beyond A-Level. Against this backdrop it’s perhaps unsurprising that one in five state schools have no pupils studying physics or further maths at A-Level. The Maths and Physics Chair programme aims to recruit, train and place passionate maths and physics researchers, all with PhDs, into state schools, where they can inject their knowledge and enthusiasm into the classroom.

Participants aim to raise STEM aspirations and attainment among the pupils and act as university access champions for STEM subjects. The Shell-sponsored teachers, who are hard at work inspiring young minds in schools across the South East of England, recently visited Shell offices and facilities, including the Exploration and Technology Hub and the Trading and Supply floors, as well as St Fergus gas plant and Aberdeen Harbour.

Gareth Thistleton, Shell’s STEM Education Manager, says: “The aim of visits like this is to help teachers understand how Shell operates, how we apply STEM to solve real world questions and to provide an insight into science and engineering careers.

“They’ll take this information back in the classroom to bring the STEM curriculum to life and inspire students about science and engineering”.

In addition to all these programmes, Shell recently launched “The Bright Ideas Challenge” which encourages young people to use their creativity and STEM skills to come up with innovative ideas to power cities of the future.

Through this multi-pronged approach Shell is helping to inspire more young people to consider a technical career and ensure they have the skills they need to secure well-paid, rewarding jobs in an ever-expanding sector.

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