Energy and utility companies are having a hard time attracting bright and young minds to join their workforce and modernise the industry. A big reason for that may boil down to the fact that the industry may not seem so fascinating and appealing to young graduates.
Whether this is because the industry does not market itself enough as an exciting place for young employees or because other, more tempting technology sectors tend to gain more attention, issues such as skills availability and how to attract talent rank high in the concerns of utility industry executives.
Innovations in a STEM curriculum for energy talent
Engaging with students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas from a young age could, however, prove to be a valuable tool in shifting this scenario for the utility sector. This is a core premise for the Energy Institute High School in Houston, Texas.
“It’s a lot different from a traditional high school,” says Eddie Martinee, a pupil at the school. “Since it is a STEM school, our core classes are based on engineering, and right now we’re taking environmental sciences as well.” Martinee mentions that the students at the school also take English and History classes, though always with a bigger focus on engineering.
Real-life application to the energy sector
Having such a unique curriculum and teaching method that focuses on the application of STEM subjects to the energy sector, the school also attempts to give its pupils a realistic perspective of the industry itself, from professional opportunities to real-life application of their studies.
Kiana Carrillo, another student at the Energy Institute, highlights the crucial role of having exposure to the point of view of industry insiders from a young age: “We get to be exposed to professors, engineers, scientists; it opens us to more ideas of what the real world is.”
The pupils also have ideas about how utility companies can engage more deeply and directly with young talent in order to attract them to the sector. Companies have the option to be involved in the education of students who already show an interest in the relevant fields from early stages and provide them with opportunities to have a first-hand experience.
“I would say hands-on learning. Just trying to be exposed to what’s actually going on so we can experience it for ourselves”, says Carrillo.
Martinee, in addition, suggests that the sector can go further than specialised schools and provide opportunities to students from myriad backgrounds as well.
“We’re a high school that’s based on energy and we’ve been around it since day one, and other schools aren’t like our school. They could reach out to the other schools, to the other students that aren’t in this environment, so they could get the same opportunities that we get.”
Schools like the Energy Institute are an integral part of the process of building a cohesive pipeline for utilities by bringing in pupils from a young age. Thus, taking full advantage of such an instrument is essential to how utilities can recruit talent that will significantly help shift the company’s role in the energy transition process.
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