The Power of Connecting Education to Life Outside the Classroom

There’s a famous line from a novel called “The Leopard” that says: “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” It was on my mind frequently this past week, when I was in Palm Springs to speak at the 2019 Linked Learning Convention.

The idea behind Linked Learning and career technical education (CTE) in general is simple but powerful: make students’ educations relevant to the lives they want to lead as adults, and equip them with the experiences and skills they will need to succeed outside the classroom. It’s an area I’m passionate about and one that is very relevant to the energy industry.

Often, it is school districts and industry partners working together that provide this real-world exposure, in opportunities ranging from mentors to field trips, internships to expert guest speakers. Companies within our industry welcome the opportunity to invest in the education of their own future workforce and help build a sustainable future in an ever-evolving landscape.

It’s critical to remember that it’s in the interests of oil and gas companies to find paths to long-term, sustainable profitability. And that means finding ways to support all our people, our planet and our shared prosperity. Here’s just one example. Since 2000, ExxonMobil, one of our member companies, has spent about $8 billion to develop and deploy lower-emission energy solutions across its operations.

The company is deep into research on advanced biofuels – targeting the technical capability to produce 10,000 barrels per day by 2025. ExxonMobil is partnering with universities, government laboratories, and other companies. This work is part of the company’s investments in new technologies with the potential for increasing energy supplies, reducing emissions and boosting operational efficiency. ExxonMobil is also actively researching other emission-reducing technologies, including carbon capture and sequestration. All of our WSPA member companies are doing similar innovative technological advancements to support our shared sustainable future.

Companies will tell you that success is tough to predict because it depends directly on the pace of technological innovation. It’s worth noting that engineers and scientists are among the groups that both traditional fuel and energy efficiency employers say they have the most difficulty recruiting. So is it any wonder that our industry invests in education?

A few years ago, the Linked Learning Alliance, host of last year’s convention in Palm Springs, named one of our members – Chevron – A Linked Learning Employer Champion. Chevron provides support and helps build sustainability for Linked Learning STEM Academies. The company also encourages industry partners to engage in aligning Linked Learning pathways with the growing number of STEM jobs.

Chevron has invested about $7 million in STEM throughout California for the use of high-quality CTE curriculum in secondary schools—one of the four pillars of the Linked Learning approach—and in student support, teacher professional training and collaboration, and equipment. Chevron employees also serve on Linked Learning academy advisory boards, mentor students, participate in career fairs, and help provide many other work-based learning opportunities. The examples of what our members companies have done and are doing seem endless!

We believe in the power of connecting education to life outside the classroom so that students can become the business and industry leaders who will steward a strong economy in the future. Recently, I had the great opportunity to speak to three classrooms of students at my alma mater, Cal Poly State University, on the Future of Energy. The dialogue was engaging and enlightening. We all have a stake in ensuring students receive an education that prepares them for life’s opportunities beyond high school and I am fully engaged and eager to connect.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd is the President of the Western States Petroleum Association and oversees the trade organization’s operations and advocacy in five states. You can follow her on Twitter @WSPAprez. 

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