Our energy future is one of the biggest challenges facing governments today. To secure a safe and sustainable economy, a key factor is the future supply of engineering skills to the energy industry. A project by the UK's Energy Institute aims to raise the profile of energy and explain how an engineering career in this sector can be rewarding
Earlier this year the UK’s Energy Institute (EI) was awarded a grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenious programme to support a project to raise the profile of energy in the minds of young people, providing ideas for integrating energy into the school curriculum. The project is jointly run with CREATE, an organisation which has a long history of working with schools on energy-related projects.
Sarah Beacock, EI’s professional affairs director, is leading the project and says: “The overall objective of the project is to build a lasting and valuable link between teachers, young people and engineers; to raise awareness of the issues surrounding energy and sustainability and how engineering provides solutions to our energy needs. The energy industry needs talented people to solve society’s future energy requirements. The profile of engineering needs to be raised in all industry sectors and energy is a field that particularly offers a varied and exciting range of careers to the young engineers of the future.”
The key objectives of the project are to provide teachers with quality resources on energy with practical examples of how energy can be included in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) teaching and real life examples of young energy professionals; to provide advice to those advising young people about a career in energy engineering; and to illustrate the variety of careers available and the value of STEM subjects in preparing for such a career.
The EI and CREATE will be holding a series of workshops up and down the country to show teachers why the supply and use of energy is so key to a sustainable future and how an understanding of these issues can help give a boost to producing the next generation of engineers. The sessions will raise awareness of the challenges facing the energy industry, helping teachers to gain commitment in their school for energy projects and to engage pupils wanting to pursue a career in energy.
The workshops are designed particularly with science teachers and schools careers advisers in mind. The sessions will show the applications of energy engineering and explore how existing forms of energy are becoming cleaner and more efficient, and how this fits into the science curriculum. The workshops will contain activities on current and future energy sources – looking at the current energy mix and how clean energies will become increasingly important in the future plus information on local industry that can be used to foster school-industry links. e.g. visitor centres at local power stations etc.
The EI recognises that not only is training and development an integral part in resolving energy engineering problems, today and tomorrow, but also that how you deliver your training is as important as the training itself. The EI’s aim is to create training environments and materials that are tailored to the preferences and constraints of the teachers and careers advisors so that they are relevant to the curriculum and in a format that is useful and should meet the real-world needs of teachers.
Cliff Porter is supporting this work by leading the workshop sessions. Having previously taught science in secondary schools and colleges for thirteen years, he became a freelance producer of educational materials and provider of teacher professional development. Since 2001, he has produced a range of educational resources, including websites on the subject of climate change and sustainable development.
This work forms part of a wider project that the EI has embarked on which is its educational web portal, Energyzone, aimed at providing information on energy to the wider public.
With a huge national and international interest in energy combined with a shortage of scientific, engineering and technical skills, the energy industry needs to find the brightest and best talent in order to solve the world’s future energy problems and compete with other industries for scarce talent. In response to this challenge, Energyzone will provide a new interactive, web-based online service that will serve the energy industry at large and especially young people seeking future careers in this exciting field.
Total Holdings UK became the first principal sponsor of this new EI project shortly followed by Shell. Sarah Beacock says: “Energyzone is an exciting new initiative for the Energy Institute and we are very pleased that Total and Shell are the first sponsors from the energy industry to support it. This will be the first site of its kind that brings together all sectors of the energy industry and shows what a career in energy is all about.
“We know it’s an exciting industry to be in and I hope many more organisations will support this project to demonstrate that to future generations,” she adds.
Energyzone, formally launched this year, will be dedicated to energy of all types – from oil and gas exploration to innovation in the development of alternative energy sources. Offering an insight into its breadth and scope of potential economic, scientific, political and technical careers, this service will also provide information to schools wanting to know more about energy, along with details of how to advance your career in the energy industry.
Promoting the industry
In support of this, the EI is calling for its members to pull together and promote the industry and the careers it can offer to future employees. Like many of its members, Iain Percival is doing exactly that.
Percival has spent over 30 years working for Shell as a geologist and petroleum engineer all over the world. He retired from Shell in 2006 as the company’s chief petroleum engineer but wanted to continue his involvement with young people. Throughout his working life he had enjoyed mentoring young professionals in the first few years of their careers with Shell, spending time with students and faculties from the two universities in Aberdeen and visiting schools in his home area of the north of Scotland.
Percival regularly talks about the opportunities offered by the energy industry to those who decide to study the physical sciences, engineering or geology at university and how individuals can make a real contribution to delivering energy solutions to the UK in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way. This is a ‘hard sell’ and the young audience usually needs convincing but there is a good story to be told. There is nothing more rewarding than being approached after a talk or to receive an email asking for more information or for advice on where on the web to look.
Percival is often asked why he bothers to do what he does. His answer is simple – it is so much more rewarding to spend time working with the future than to sit about reliving the past. The EI has taken this on board and has begun building a database of volunteer members interested in mentoring or going into schools/colleges and talking to young people about potential careers in the energy industry and what a useful contribution they can make to society.
For more information on the project and further details on how to get involved with any of this work, please contact: Sarah Beacock, EI’s professional affairs director.