Engineering young careers
On a macro level, Schuster is disappointed by the lack of people choosing STEM careers (using science, technology, engineering or maths) and puts this down to a ‘fundamental problem’ that society is failing to inform people of the consequences of their choices.
“We need to do more to educate the next generation about what it means to work in a large oil company,” he says, adding that people have an outdated perception of engineering, preferring ‘more exciting’ technology companies. “There’s a lack of awareness – the technology we apply is amazing,” he adds.
And while Schuster emphasises the importance of engineering skills within BP, he is keen to point out the breadth of commercial opportunities available – for example in downstream marketing and trading – which do not require STEM qualifications.
Yet this brings its own set of frustrations from a recruitment perspective. With other sectors fishing not only in the same talent pools but the same geographical locations, competition increases. However, Schuster is adamant that the onus then falls on organisations to “stop looking at universities in an isolated way” and reach out to those in locations such as India and China. BP interacts with schools through a variety of programmes, which for Schuster, signals a long-term pillar of engagement with society. “It’s in our DNA to work with schools and has been throughout my career here – it’s so important to think about your future workforce.”
Shifting demographics - the big crew change
So what is Schuster’s view on the apparent diminishing supply of younger oil and gas specialists in tandem with the mass exodus of older, retiring workers, commonly referred to in the industry as ‘the big crew change’?
“When this idea surfaced years ago, we were all concerned. But as a business leader you always need to think about the continuous renewal of your organisation and have a succession plan in place,” he says.
He argues that the next 10 years will look very different to the past 10 and he puts this down to changing workforce demographics – in part due to retirement ages increasing – while remaining pragmatic about the agenda. “As an oil company, our business is predominantly in non-Western countries where there are different demographics. Brazil, for example, has one of the youngest populations in the world.
“Often, our thinking on these matters is heavily influenced by Western press – when you are a global company you realise the world is a big place,” he adds.