At BP offices around the UK, lunch-goers were treated to ‘old skool’ menus, reminding us of the delights of ocean pie and baked rice pudding. And some of us even remember 1968, the year that BP began formally investing in education, and engaging with young people to encourage them to pursue STEM subjects and improve their employability skills. Since then BP has consistently acknowledged the gap between schools and businesses and the necessity of companies helping schools to prepare young people for employment and develop the skills they will need for the opportunities that lie ahead.
BP’s ground-breaking Schools Link programme started as a single partnership between a local school and BP volunteers in the chemicals business in Hull but quickly spread to East London, Scotland and throughout the UK. Volunteers have always been the mainstay of this programme – presenting workshops, acting as role models and inspiring and motivating the students with tales of how hard work in the classroom can develop into an exciting and rewarding career.
50 years on, Schools Link is still a popular and effective programme, which engages with around 150 schools near BP sites. Nearly 1,000 volunteers annually give 5,000 hours of their time to work with classes of students and individual young people of all ages, as part of over 46,000 hours of volunteering overall by BP volunteers. They do a variety of activities from reading supervision with 5-7 year olds to employability mentoring programmes with 15-16 year old students preparing for qualifications such as GCSEs and Scottish Nationals.
Volunteers also support the development of content for curriculum-linked STEM teaching resources found on the BP Educational Service website and act as case studies and ‘talking heads’ for the careers information we provide on our website and Start, an online careers platform. In this way we know that all the stories we tell are real and authentic, our volunteers talk directly from their own experience in a relatable, accessible way for the young people of today.
Giving volunteers the opportunity to be judges in STEM competitions, work on projects with groups of young people and make a real difference to the choices of a young person by hosting a work experience placement helps them to become more aware of how important it is for businesses to work with young people and, importantly, how much fun it can be! BP hosts over 250 work experience placements a year around the UK and hundreds of young people aged 11-14 take part in the annual Ultimate STEM Challenge which is open to entries now!
To find out even more about the great work that BP continues to do with today’s young people take a look at our BP in the Community webpages.