Inspire, excite, attract: Growing the pool of STEM talent

July 22, 2019

Source: Viacheslav Iacobchuk/Dreamstime

Building a flow of STEM talent

The energy sector’s skills gap is hitting the headlines again. This year’s GETI report highlights the growing concern that another skills gap is on the horizon. 

Although it might feel like you’ve heard this all before, the shortage still causes concern to hiring managers. Creating a strong pipeline of future talent is one solution to this recurring problem, but that’s easier said than done.

In fact, building a strong talent pipeline is extremely difficult. The energy sector requires a steady flow of STEM educated talent.

The problem is that there isn’t enough of it to go around, and energy companies are forced into competition with other sectors for the scarce talent available. To alleviate pressure, energy companies need to turn their attention to growing the pool of STEM talent. 

Download the Global Energy Talent Index.Visit the GETI site to download the report


How can the industry bring in STEM talent? Any engagement needs to happen early. By the time students are considering their higher level qualifications, some will have decided it’s not the path for them.

It’s essential the energy industry remains an option at this point.

Tapping into this desire to inspire the next generation, the sector is already delivering events and activities.

For example, Worley, a global provider of professional services in the energy, chemical and resources sector, has devised a creative, new initiative to spark interest from school-age children.

Flipping the concept of parents evening on its head, children came to Worley’s offices to get a better insight into what their parents get up to at work. This included a virtual reality experience of offshore assets and understanding the importance of PPE.

Initiatives like this can transcend past business units.

Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce is involved with STEAM town USA. The purpose of this initiative is to give young women role models, in traditional STEM and arts positions, who they can aspire to be like.  Getting access and advice from these successful women can drive school-aged children to consider a role in the wider energy sector.

But more can be done.

Partnering with schools and higher education institutions can be another effective channel for companies to inspire the next generation of talent. Schools play a significant role in shaping the future career directions of pupils, so are a key actor for inspiring and exciting them about STEM subjects.


Once teenagers are inspired to work in the sector, we need to build and maintain their excitement.

In the UK, STEM Ambassadors help to capture their initial enthusiasm and nurture this into actively looking for a role within the sector.

Attending careers fairs and highlighting the range of opportunities is key for companies trying to motivate this talent.

Companies have the opportunity to demonstrate how the industry is more than hard hats and hi-vis, and showcase the variety of roles from data analysts to project managers and compliance officers.

This interest may lead current students to consider STEM subjects as they continue their education. Again, there is a role for schools in ensuring pupils are supported to study STEM subjects.

Attract and retain

And this journey results in converting applications to roles. Numerous students will search for graduate schemes as their university course comes towards an end. And the energy sector isn’t the only competition. There are skill shortages in other industries too, such as tech and pharma.

As ADNOC’s recent survey reports, STEM-focused individuals view companies with an innovative approach to technology as more attractive. Energy, therefore, needs to stand out in this crowded field by showcasing its technology credentials in any graduate scheme offering.

These schemes are one route for new recruits, but apprenticeships are also growing in importance.

For example, Shell Energy Retail has put together an innovative apprenticeship programme giving apprentices hands-on experience in cyber security and network engineering, and a degree level qualification.

It is not just attracting the talent that can prove difficult, but the average tenure of a young professional is just over two years. This isn’t a new problem with previous generations also seeing young workers carrying out a short tenure. Companies are therefore having to be more creative than ever in how they’re securing and developing their talent.

Retention is essential to HR strategy

Millennials are, generally speaking, keen on roles that offer variety and the opportunity to be challenged and progress.

These opportunities need to be front and centre in recruitment efforts by energy businesses. The journey needs to continue past attraction and form a key part of a retention strategy.

Simple solutions can be put in place to ensure the voices of new recruits are heard. Whether it’s a tech-based solution or access to senior team members, listening to employees is essential. Flexible working and a culture to be proud of, through charity commitments and a focus on employee wellbeing, enhance the employee experience and likelihood of staying.

Relatively minor tweaks to company culture and outlook can make a big difference to staff retention. The Googles and Amazons of the world are changing expectations of employees. Companies must put their people at the heart of their strategy.

Where next?

As the energy sector continues to transition to a low carbon future, the range and variety of roles will continue to grow.

This can create talent shortages in roles that don’t even exist yet.

Taking the “inspire, excite, attract, retain” approach will work dividends for companies in securing the talent to address skills shortages.

It’s a long game approach that cultivates a strong talent pipeline to proactively plug gaps as they arise. Today’s skills gap can’t be solved overnight, but taking this long-term approach can stem the tide of talent crisis headlines.

Download the Global Energy Talent Index.Visit the GETI site to download the report


This post was written by: Jenny Amalfi, Director of Learning and Development, Airswift