Bridging the Skills Gap
How Shell Approaches STEM and Diversity Outreach
- By Kristal Kuykendall
For the last decade, jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics have pointed to a worsening shortage of skilled workers in STEM fields. Everyone from industry leaders like Microsoft and National Science Board to the Society of Human Resource Management and U.S. Department of Education have called for a bigger STEM presence in K–12 classrooms.
Statistics show there is even less STEM education emphasis in K–12 schools serving mostly Black and Hispanic students, mirroring an underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic workers in STEM jobs relative to their shares in the workforce as a whole.
For large employers in STEM fields, the challenge is not only urgent — jobs that need to be filled now — but it is also long-term. How do STEM employers bridge the future skills gap and promote inclusion in the process?
For Shell, a multi-prong approach works on multiple fronts and in partnerships with community nonprofits, schools, local civic and government organizations, and universities, through a broad variety of programs led by Shell’s Workforce Development and Diversity Outreach division.
“When we can put those all together, that is the power of community, corporate America, and education coming together to make an impact in STEM,” said Shell Workforce Development and Diversity Outreach Manager Angela Penny.
“But when it really comes down to it, when we speak about our outreach, our team manages volunteerism for Shell in a variety of capacities, from health and human services to actually volunteering time to engage students,” she explained. That includes working with youth at K–12 level, with college students and campus organizations, and with teachers.
A few examples of Shell’s partnerships focused on STEM outreach and diversity:
Latinos for Education: Placing and connecting Latino leaders in the education sector, infusing Latino talent into positions of influencer and breaking barriers to educational opportunities.
Science Engineering Fair of Houston: Annual science educational competition for junior and senior high school students to promote STEM.
National Science Teaching Association: The Shell Science Teacher of the Year & Regional Science Lab Competition programs promote excellence in science education and lab experiences that nurture the science talent pipeline nationally and in schools near Shell assets.
Energize Your Destiny: Partnerships with Louisiana Technical College System, Los Medanos College and San Jacinto College, this program attracts and recruits female talent into the operator and craft education and career paths.
Great Minds in STEM: Through the Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Awards Conference, this partnership promotes STEM recognition for top innovators including Shell employees, and is a talent source for diverse interns/full-time candidates.
To make the biggest impact through their outreach programs and partnerships, Shell encourages its employees to “bring their whole selves to work,” Penny said.
“When our employees share their stories in the community is when students get inspired; we need our employees at Shell to help us recruit top talent, and encouraging their participation in STEM activities and volunteer opportunities, that’s where it starts,” she said.
Employees’ volunteerism reaches adults already in the workforce as well, Penny noted. “One great example of this is that we have a refinery operations employee who was living in their car prior to working for us; she wasn’t thinking about working with Shell and hadn’t even considered working for us,” she said. “But then she participated in our Date With Destiny program and was one of the top students in the program. She came to work at Shell, and now she volunteers frequently giving back to her community, sharing her story and encouraging others going through a hard time that there are a lot of different types of jobs at Shell. ”
When Shell employees share what they do on a daily basis and how it ties into the changes in the energy industry, it opens the minds of those listening to a world of new ideas and new career options, Penny noted. “If you really want to change the world, you actually get the opportunity to do that in the STEM field.”
Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can
be reached at [email protected].