Since the oil price crash over two years ago, job losses in the oil and gas sector have dominated headlines. Yet with BP predicting energy demand will rise around 30% between 2015 and 2035, the company knows it is still important to keep attracting the brightest and best graduates to the sector.

Particularly as oil and gas goes increasingly digital, the tech savviness of millennials will be vital to its future. But how do you attract this new generation to an industry that has a less than modern image, especially with growing competition from a range of newer energy and technology companies in the market?

Heidi Vella (HV): BP has axed thousands of jobs over the last couple of years – are you starting to rehire again and at what rate?

Suzy Style (SS): At BP we have continued to hire graduates and interns over the last few years. We will open applications for the next season of graduates and interns this September.

In terms of skills shortages, there is a shortage in STEM subjects but there is also a steady stream of STEM students coming from universities and they are of a very high calibre. What is challenging is that there is so much competition for these students because it is not just energy and engineering companies that want this talent. There are lots of different companies from different sectors interested in these individuals, so we need to demonstrate the compelling opportunities that we have at BP.

HV: How do you do that?

SS: We know from speaking to our graduates, interns and students on campus that they like meeting our people and getting the opportunity to hear from us directly – to meet role models and listen to someone working in our sector bring the job to life.

We go out on campus and engage on social media to promote what we do. We often bring students into BP for ‘discovery days’, where we show off the amazing technology we have. We know millennials are very technologically savvy and enjoy seeing the technical opportunities that exist at BP.

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Recently, graduates had an opportunity to see our virtual training facilities, where, for example, they experienced a chemical plant without physically visiting one. We have a highly immersive visualisation environment we call the HIVE, where students can experience different environments virtually. This really resonates with millennials.

HV: What other opportunities do you offer graduates?

SS: Once people join BP it is about giving them access to a variety of support networks and mentors and helping them transition from university to work life with on the job learning. We also have the universal graduate skills programme, which is an opportunity for them to develop some of their softer skills, such as networking and delivering presentations, which they may have had less of an opportunity to do.

HV: BP is a huge global brand; graduates will already have pre-conceived notions about the company – what kind of response do you get from students generally?

SS: The feedback we hear from students on campus is that they may be aware of some of our opportunities but generally hadn’t appreciated the real breadth of them and the different things we recruit for. We are well known for recruiting engineers and scientists, but perhaps less well known for some of our other roles in the business and commercial space, such as the opportunity to join as a trader or work in analytics or procurement. It is important for us to give them exposure and awareness of these opportunities.

HV: How many people are you looking to hire in the next round of recruiting?

SS: We don’t have this year’s demand yet but we will be recruiting around 100 graduates and 70 interns from a variety of different disciplines. The reason the demand may vary from year to year is because it is real work, real projects. All the graduates will be based around the UK, depending on the projects we have each year. The minimum starting salary is £33,000.

HV: Do you expect to retain all 100 after the graduate programme?

SS: The programme is generally between two and three years, depending on the department, and retention is usually very good. Generally, we know that once they are with BP, because of the opportunities and the nature of the work, the people they are working with, the technological innovation and support networks, they find BP is a place they want to continue their career.

Many graduates say they only look two to three years ahead and that is how long they think they will stay within an organisation, but we know that at BP people stay beyond that.

We are very fortunate at BP; we have a lot of interest in our opportunities and so we can recruit graduates year-on-year. It is competitive, but we have tools available online to help people apply for the right roles.

HV: Do you have quotas for hiring women?

SS: We are proactively targeting a diverse group of students. What is important to BP is recruiting diversity of thought; whether that be a diversity of disciplines that students have studied, picking graduates from a variety of universities or a diversity around gender and ethnicity.

Our sector is known for recruiting males historically, but it has been proactive in hiring women. In the UK last year, 40% of our graduate hires were women across different disciplines. For women and girls specifically, we have run events so they can meet role models and other women working at BP and we have spent time focusing on their personal brand, employability, confidence and raising awareness about opportunities.

I think the challenge is that we still see some of the subjects being male dominated. For example, in an area like mechanical engineering, most students are male. It is fantastic to see more females coming into STEM areas but there is still some work to be done in attracting females to some subjects.

HV: What is your general career advice to students and graduates?

SS: My advice to students is to make the most of their time at school and university. It is important to study and achieve academically but it is also important to make the most of other opportunities, such as extracurricular activities; join a society, play in a team, learn an instrument. Work experience is also important. It could be working in a bar or restaurant or work experience at a company – try and develop skills outside of studying.

Lastly, use your career services, spend time thinking about what you want to do and do it as soon as possible.