Can the oil and gas industry be inspiring?


Susan Brimmer

Susan Brimmer

People and Organisational Development Manager

Aberdeen is long-established as an energy city, so you’d imagine there would be lots of young people with future careers aspirations to get involved. However, there’s been a history of competing for talent, confusing information and mixed perceptions of the industry.

With this in mind, a group of like-minded individuals established our local STEM group. The aim is to work together to align our support adding value to existing projects and inspiring new initiatives. The includes promoting career opportunities to attract, retain and engage the people our industry needs.

When we heard that last year’s Skills Scotland event had minimal representation from the local offices of energy organisations, we realised we were missing an opportunity to showcase the wide range of careers available.

With over 10,000 visitors across the programme, Skills Scotland aims to address this gap and inspire young people about their future careers and possible post-education opportunities – and it’s a key highlight on the academic calendar for students S4 and above.

I got together with Martin Johnston from Developing the Young Workforce North East (DYWNE) to bring together like-minded organisations and ‘The Energy Hub’ was born.

The ethos behind The Energy Hub was to work collectively with local energy organisations to promote the diverse range of opportunities available – providing a one-stop-shop for our industry. For the inaugural showcase, we brought together Bilfinger; Centrifuges Un-limited; Chrysaor; Expro; OPITO; Subsea 7; and Total. Collectively, we believe it is vitally important that we harness the wealth of talent in the region.

This is something I’m particularly passionate about and feel we all have a duty to inspire and attract young people – our next generation. And it’s not just about attracting engineers… we need to break stereotypes and showcase the huge breadth of roles, both now and in the future. Not to mention breaking the gender bias!

Earlier this year (September 2019), we were successful in launching the Mentoring with Energy app (, which has already attracted over 100 mentors and mentees – with people across a range of functions, level in their organisation and maturity in the career plan, not to mention a range of ages, genders and cultures. It’s fascinating to see so many people getting involved.

The use of technology is exciting as it provides a wider reach across both mentees and mentors. Allowing people to participate when it suits them, especially when everyone has a different pace of life and the traditional 9-5 doesn’t always suit, is of particular appeal. Using this alongside traditional mentoring techniques, is allowing us to reach a wide range of people that previously we were missing, and shows the importance of integrating tried and tested methods with new ways of working.

It never fails to astound me that despite 47% of the UK workforce being women, only 22% work in oil and gas and only 20% of that in senior management – with just 1% in CEO roles. The mentoring programme supports the specific focus on improving diversity and inclusion in the oil and gas industry, including mid-level career women looking to advance into senior roles. I’m proud to be part of the team making a difference.

I was particularly excited by a recent conversation I had with a physics teacher from an Aberdeenshire school. It’s thoroughly interesting to hear different perspective and learn how we better engage with people. We are under no illusion – it’s no easy task, and one side definitely don’t get it right every time. We spoke about the lack of knowledge of energy amongst young people – where it comes from and how it’s used. As a result, I’m excited to have developed some unique content to share with local schools as part of the ‘Classroom Flip’ pilot.

If only one young person is inspired to pursue an interest in STEM education or career then we are making a difference. What is immediately clear is that as an industry, collaboration with shared goals and combined efforts is key – it’s pretty daunting regardless of whether you’ve been exposed to the industry or not through parents or family members. We need to explode the historical myths and stereotypes – breaking barriers, embracing diversity and generally keeping an open mind to what is on offer.

OPITO’s skills research is a great example of showcasing the range of new roles that will come into play. Unsurprisingly, these are inspired by robotics and artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things, alongside the more familiar disciplines of geology, drilling and reservoir engineering.

There are roles that I’d never heard of up until now, such as 3D maternal scientists, gamification designers, AI learning specialists and virtual reality journey builders… I won’t pretend to have any idea what some of these roles do, but what I do know is that they are beginning to attract a new generation. The workforce of tomorrow, who will work very different from how we work now.

It sure is an exciting time… there’s so much more to the oil and gas industry than you think. I’m learning more and more about the range of opportunities every day and feel inspired by both stories of people’s career journeys and the aspirations of the workforce of tomorrow.

Can the oil and gas industry be inspiring? I think so, and we’re only scratching the surface of what it has to offer…

We would love to hear from you if you if your organisation would like to get involved in our STEM group.
We hold regular meetings, with our next one tomorrow (Wednesday 27 November 2019). If you would like to attend this or future meetings, please contact