The STEM movement is alive in this country as many organizations are making moves to improve the STEM capabilities of our current and future workforce. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and the movement is driven by our country’s need to stay competitive with the rest of the world technically and the fact that there are too many STEM job openings that can’t be filled due to the lack of workers with adequate STEM skills.
Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil recently elaborated on the issue in his article “How to Stop the Drop in American Education” in The Wall Street Journal,
“American employers do not have enough applicants with adequate skills, especially in science, technology, engineering and math. The ‘STEM-related’ positions that U.S. industry needs to fill are not just for biochemists, biophysicists and engineers. More and more jobs are applying cutting-edge technologies and now demand deeper knowledge of math and science in positions that most people don’t think of as STEM-related, including machinists, electricians, auto techs, medical technicians, plumbers and pipefitters.”
Addressing this Issue
It is encouraging to see many organizations, including oil companies, addressing this issue with STEM programs that help to better educate our future workforce on STEM skills.
I remember my favorite teacher from high school was my physics teacher, Mr. Lash. He was a great teacher, was very qualified, and made physics problems interesting. His passionate approach empowered you to confidently see the usefulness of physics and to get the right answers. He was part of the reason why I became a mechanical engineer, and what I learned from him helped me greatly in college and had lasting benefits.
Science and math education is truly important as there’s simply no substitute for a workforce that has learned what it takes to solve problems and make advancements, and it must be well prepared to be effective.
The following are just some of the STEM education programs pertaining to the oil & gas industry.
NEED is the National Energy Education Development Project, and its mission is to “promote an energy conscious and educated society by creating effective networks of students, educators, business, government and community leaders to design and deliver objective, multi-sided energy education programs. NEED works with energy companies, agencies and organizations to bring balanced energy programs to the nation’s schools with a focus on strong teacher professional development, timely and balanced curriculum materials, signature program capabilities and turn-key program management.”
NEED curriculum covers a wide variety of energy related topics from science of energy and sources of energy to efficiency and conservation. You should check out their catalog to see the challenging activities they provide that promote students’ critical thinking while helping them to learn from each other. For example, one activity challenges students “to develop an energy plan to provide more electricity for a growing country. Students consider the advantages and disadvantages of the energy sources available for them to use so that they can increase electricity production while maintaining environmental quality and quality of life.”
Ocean Star Offshore Energy Center
The Offshore Energy Center’s Education Outreach Program educates “the public about the industry, including its history and its safety and environmental record.”
“The purpose of the outreach program is to enhance science and technology curriculums for school children, from kindergarten through grade 12, utilizing teacher workshops, field trips and overnight and summer camps. The Center works with schools, Boy and Girl Scouts and teachers to promote the importance (past, present and future) of the offshore energy industry and its contributions to our quality of life. The program is also designed to ensure awareness of the industry’s contribution to and continued improvement of our environment.”
One of the ways the Offshore Energy Center is helping teachers is by conducting “Expanding Energy Education Workshops” at the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum in Galveston, TX.
IPAA Education Center
The Independent Petroleum Association of America Education Center’s goal is “to secure successful careers within the petroleum industry and become the NEXT GENERATION of talented energy professionals who will drive this industry forward.” Their mission is “to provide students a multidisciplinary advanced academic learning experience in science, mathematics and the emerging technology concepts they need to pursue degrees in engineering, geology, geophysics and global energy management.”
As an example, IPAA has Petroleum Academies in Houston and Ft. Worth that help prepare dedicated high school students to lead the energy industry in the future. I had the opportunity to help students in Milby High School’s Academy of Petroleum Exploration & Production Technology with science & technology presentations they were making for a high school competition. It was very encouraging to see how high quality their presentations were. I was extremely impressed with the valuable information they provided and how clearly they expressed their messages. Their dedication is paying off and will definitely help them to make great contributions in the energy industry.
The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Gulf Coast Section has a Magic Suitcase Program with the mission “to enable and encourage SPE members to speak to groups of students and adults about the oil business, thereby increasing public understanding of the science and engineering involved in our industry. The Magic Suitcase was developed to be a useful tool for speakers at career days, scouting events, National Engineers Week, civic clubs, etc.”
A Magic Suitcase has experiment and presentation materials to “educate the community about the petroleum industry.” Some of the materials highlight basic concepts and depending upon the audience, may be structured with more detailed explanations, while some materials are for more advanced presentations. Magic Suitcases can be checked out at many locations in the Houston area.
The Energy Institute High School
The Energy Institute High School is a pioneering school that just began its very first year. Principal Lori Lambropoulos explains on their website that it is “the first high school devoted to preparing students for careers in the energy field.” She further pointed out, “Our school’s vision will be to focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics while breaking the barriers of the traditional classroom.”
I encourage you to check out the school’s “Topics of Research and Study”. Based on my experience as an engineer and training manager in this industry, I was very happy to see this list of topics. I know those subjects are critical to making advances and maintaining quality in the oil & gas industry. It will be exciting to see the results The Energy Institute High School produces. I believe it will set a great example that other schools can learn from.
Good for Our Future
It is great to see productive STEM education programs in the oil & gas industry and elsewhere, and these are just some of the programs I’ve come across. Prepared transfer of knowledge will always be important, so we should all appreciate how STEM education can help shape the future for the better.
Related Article: Upstream vs. Downstream
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