Offshore Europe 2015 kicked off in Aberdeen Tuesday with a plenary session that asked the question: “How to Inspire the Next Generation?”
Expro CEO Charles Woodburn, who chaired a panel of industry figures who presented and then took part in a Q&A discussion, noted that the plunge in the oil price in recent months made the theme of the session especially relevant.
“This is because when things get tough it is even more important that we lift our heads up and look ahead. Of course we need to sort out the short term challenges, but we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture,” Woodburn told the packed auditorium at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC).
“More than ever we need to be asking questions about the shape of our industry, about how we are going to evolve to meet changing demands, and about how we are going to innovate in order to shape the future and not be shaped by the future.”
“The answer to those questions is in a large part down to this very simple concept: we will only thrive as an industry over the next two or three or four decades if we have the very best minds on our side. We need as an industry to do a better job of engaging with the younger generation, so that when they make decisions about their futures they are aware of how fascinating the oil and gas business is and how, for someone who is ambitious, up for a challenge and keen to make a difference, our industry really has so much to offer.
“Right now, though, as an industry I think it is fair to say that we’re not setting our own agenda. Others are doing it for us, and sometimes in a way that leads to misunderstanding and misrepresentation. Put simply, we’re paying a price for not being vocal enough. It is our responsibility as an industry to get our story out there, to start conversations that mean we’re better understood and to engage with a much-younger audience so that they are better equipped and more motivated to come and join us.”
Also speaking in the plenary session was Professor Brian Cox – a physicist who is well-known to TV viewers in the UK. Cox made the point that the oil and gas industry and other technology industries that rely on engineers and scientists need to engage with the poorest children, including girls, and turn them onto science if these sectors want to maximize the pool of talent available to them.
Cox used the example of a school that he is a patron of as an example of how young people can become engaged with science and technology. The school, based in the poor London borough of Tower Hamlets, has built strong relationships with the financial sector in the nearby City of London and, consequently, has been successful in getting young people onto degree courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.
“It doesn’t matter what the industry is. The fact that it’s in schools and universities means the students can see a path, they become interested in the tiniest thing you speak about. They can see the route [to a career].
“Most of these students will come from families who have never been to university. They will know no one who has been to university, so they don’t understand or can’t conceive a pathway into a profession such as ours. It’s about information as well as inspiration.”