Energy industry is taking steps to attract and nurture best and brightest as it gears up to meet climate challenge and low-carbon imperative

The energy sector must attract and nurture a new generation of talent in order to meet the demands of transition and the wider low-carbon economy.

Oil and gas, renewables, carbon capture and hydrogen all have more to do if the workforce is to better reflect, and contribute to, the society in which we all live.

This is of course about diversity and inclusiveness in recruitment but it also goes beyond – to encouraging different ways of thinking, new perspectives and fresh approaches into senior positions where they can make a real impact.

The need for this kind of future leader has never been more acute, the world of energy is changing rapidly to meet the demands of the net-zero economy and the low-carbon imperative.

"This is why business and organisations, including energy technology company Baker Hughes, have put in place well-defined and proven programmes to develop, grow and nurture a new generation of talent," said Daniel Wright – Global Executive Sales & Commercial Director, Flexible Pipe Systems at Baker Hughes.

Aspire to greatness

Energy companies are not what they once were with the focus shifted to encompass a range of technologies and disciplines, and a more holistic approach to powering the world around us.

The industry is, if anything, more important at this time of change than it has ever been in the past. But perceptions can be difficult to shift, and energy is often seen as part of the problem when in fact it offers the chance to be part of the solution.

Programmes like Aspire, which Baker Hughes has been running since 2018, are designed to overcome these challenges through experience, exposure and cross-fertilisation.

The two-year initiative places participants into four different segments of the business – engineering, sales, operations, communications etc. – with direct links to leadership teams, best practice and global perspectives.

"We believe this is the way to build future leaders, to provide early exposure to the best of the best in our business, accelerating the development of crucial skillsets and creating jobs with a real purpose," said Wright.

"It's an incredible opportunity to do and to learn, and of course it gives Baker Hughes the pipeline of next-generation talent so crucial to meeting the needs of the energy transition."

Two-way street

The experience is of course about more than career development. The ideas, opinions and diversity encouraged by initiatives such as Aspire provide insight into the priorities and perspectives of a new generation.

And the interaction provides an opportunity for the hard-won experience of senior staff and 'old hands' to be passed down, ensuring continuity of experience and preserving the institutional know-how so critical to getting energy right.

"New input and fresh thinking are the only thing that will keep this industry relevant," said Wright.

"If we want to insure security of supply, if we want to meet growing energy demand, if we want to achieve accelerated decarbonisation – we need to encourage, and learn from, new thinking."

Fresh perspectives

Aspire participant Cameron Crenwelge said the program fosters adaptability in a time of accelerating change, building on an "entire ecosystem of experienced individuals willing to take on the challenge of developing members."

Crenwelge added: "Aspire also cultivates a mindset centred around continuous growth; what you have learned is important, but what you can learn is of the greatest importance."

Rotational development programs also ensure that early career professionals enter the industry without fear of change, Crenwelge said. "This ideology is paramount in the energy industry as it works towards adapting core competencies and products to achieve net zero."

Aspire graduate Dylan Owens pointed to the experience gained "in situations I would never have been exposed to otherwise", building a track record of performance on which to build a future career.

Key skills included account management, commercial acumen, communications, industry understanding, project management and planning for uncertainty. "The feeling of being empowered across the organisation, and at various levels, was motivational," said Owens.

He added: "Initiatives like Aspire are critical to this industry, helping to funnel talent into the energy transition, helping to prepare that next generation for the challenges ahead, and retaining that people so that they can make a real impact over time."

Talking shop

Outreach is equally important: engaging with primary schools to foster an interest in energy and the wider STEM sector, encouraging diversity through initiatives designed to boost gender equality, working at university level through internships and other work experience.

Apprenticeships are also hugely important. Baker Hughes supported Skills Development Scotland in development of a programme focused on engineering and digital manufacturing.

It is an area of particular importance to the energy transition given the role that can play in emission reductions and low-carbon technologies, and relevant directly to Baker Hughes given the central part its Montrose Centre of Excellence plays in the subsea and renewables sectors.

"These are the types of interactions that offer the chance to emphasise the critical role the energy sector will play in areas including rollout of new technology, gas as a transition keystone, and industrial decarbonisation," said Wright.

"This give us the chance to explain why companies like Baker Hughes have committed to reaching net zero by 2050, and how we're going to get there."

Meeting the challenge

Navigating the energy transition over the coming decades will require perseverance, tenacity, innovation, technology and commitment – and it will be the industry's people at the root of all of those.

Experience, perspective and expertise are crucial, and the workforce coming through the door today will be the leaders of tomorrow, the game changers forging a new path for the sector in the low-carbon era.

It is why attracting the right mix of people into the industry has never been more important. And it is why Baker Hughes believes that initiatives such as Aspire are so important, and have so much to offer the energy sector as a whole.

"The skillsets will evolve, the technologies will change, the priorities will shift," said Wright.

"But if you have the right people, if you have the leadership and the experience, then you can tackle the challenges as they arise, you can meet them head on and you can succeed. And given where we are right now, what could be more important?"