Orient Magazine Issue 71 - April 2019 - Page 62

Orient - The Official Magazine of the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore - Issue 71 April 2019

Preparing for Tomorrow - STEM Education in the Energy Sector

By Peter Godfrey, Bree Miechel and Tim Rockell from the Energy & Utilities Committee

In this article, members from our Energy & Utilities Committee discuss the importance of STEM education for a future ready workforce, as well as the implications of new technologies
and automation in the energy sector.

The United Kingdom’s Energy Institute Singapore branch held a panel discussion in August 2018 at BP’s regional headquarters in Singapore. Hosted by Peter Godfrey, EI Managing Director for Asia, the panel comprised leaders from government, academia and industry with representatives from BP Learning and Development, Singapore Economic Development Board’s Energy & Chemicals, Reed Smith law firm and Singapore Management University. Quotes are from the panellists and audience.

Why is STEM education so valuable in the energy sector? Mainly because it instils a critical thinking skill set. Singapore’s agencies have been catalysts in driving a diverse pipeline of talent in the sector since the establishment of the Global Trader Program, drawing in many commodity trading companies in parallel with the development of Jurong Island’s integrated refinery and petrochemical hub, now hosting over 100 companies.

Development of a physical hub created an eco-system of finance, legal, technical and consultancy professionals including industry analysts; establishing Singapore as one of the world’s key energy cities and a leader in Asia. Profession firms in themselves have created a demand for likeminded technical thinking; “I think I missed out by only studying law! Professionals need to understand the sector”. This requires open-minded HR and recruitment professionals with an education system producing graduates to match demand. The corollary being that engineers are traditionally not so open minded in their approach.

“I only saw engineering as an exciting career path after I started my career.” Law, banking and corporate roles in finance, legal and human resources seem easier choices versus the ‘hard-hat’ professions. Of Singapore’s near 70,000 university undergraduates, around 45% are reading a STEM subject. Female enrolment in Science and Technology has plateaued at around 3,300 students, with the share of women dipping below 40 per cent. Even then, not all go into engineering. Selling insurance is still an attractive career path for those with scientific and technical degrees. There is clearly a gap in engaging students and equipping teachers to link the application of STEM into the real world.

Curriculum updates in finance needs consideration, example being the introduction of a commodity trading track; courses endearing greater understanding of risk management are required. A diverse curriculum should lead to a diverse talent pool. Finance majors have been shrinking following the major disruptions in banking since the financial crisis. Now more undergrads are following information systems syllabuses.

Singapore’s universities are adapting and displaying an understanding of the type of graduates the job market is demanding. Students are graduating ‘python-ready’. Today, International Oil Companies still take on a lot of in-house training; and retraining to make graduates career ready and build leaders of the future.

Whilst we can take a good guess, we don’t know what the jobs of tomorrow will be in an energy sector undergoing what will likely be a decades-long transition from the traditional fossil-based system to new fuels, automation, sustainable energy and circular economy developments.

A Vuca world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) needs Vuca skills. Three C’s of this world include Capabilities, Cultures and understanding of Civilisations. This entails lifelong learning. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) needs to adapt to incorporate these 3C’s too.