Plugging the Leaky Talent Pipeline

By Carla Riddell, Co-Chairwoman of the Energy Network and Asset Integration Manager, Centrica

For any oil and gas company, the first and foremost priority must be making sure that those resources stay safely in the pipeline. Ensuring there are no leaks so that oil and gas isn’t lost and giving us confidence in the security of our assets is really important to all of us.

As well as focusing on the integrity of our assets, however, we are also thinking about another pipeline which carries valuable resources for the industry – our next generation of engineers, technical experts and specialists who are the future of this sector.

Right now, that pipeline is leaking. I studied geology at university, and of my fellow graduates less than half went into a career relevant to their degree, so I know that attracting young people to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects – and later STEM careers – is a big challenge for our industry. And with current commodity prices and a maturing North Sea, it would be easy to think this isn’t a priority at the moment.

That’s why we in the Energy Network, a diversity and inclusion group set up within Centrica’s Exploration and Production business, are thinking about how we can inspire the next generation of engineers. We’re aiming our work particularly at young women, who are traditionally more likely to be turned away from STEM careers. Just this month we welcomed girls from two local schools to our Aberdeen office, to meet us and some of the women working in this industry to help open their eyes to the great opportunities that will be available for their future careers.

While I hope we inspired them, they certainly inspired us – the girls spoke about how much they enjoyed studying science but initially assumed any jobs involved in their favourite subjects were just for boys. We were more than happy to prove them wrong!

This industry is resilient and is showing it can face-up to its challenges. That makes it even more important to attract a new generation to the oil and gas industry, to help us find the solutions we’ll need and get the most from the remaining resources the North Sea has to offer. Now more than ever, we can’t afford to turn our backs on half of the potential talent pool which will guarantee the best future for this industry.