As head of technology, David Eyton is accountable for BP’s technology strategy and its implementation across the company, and conducting research and development in areas of corporate renewal. In this role, Eyton sits on the U.K. Energy Technologies Institute board.
Prior to this, Eyton was BP’s exploration and production group vice president for technology. In this role, Eyton was responsible for research and development, technical service work, digital and communications technology, and procurement and supply chain management for BP’s upstream business.
Eyton joined BP in 1982 from Cambridge University, where he earned an engineering degree. During his early career, he held a number of petroleum engineering, commercial and business management positions. In 1996, he was named general manager of BP’s North West Shelf interest in Australia. Eyton later managed Wytch Farm in the U.K. and then BP’s gas businesses in Trinidad. Following that assignment, Eyton was vice president of deepwater developments in the Gulf of Mexico.
Eyton is a fellow of the U.K. Royal Academy of Engineering, Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining and Institute of Directors.
BP is a leading producer of oil and gas, employing about 18,000 people in all 50 states. To provide the energy that keeps America moving, the company invests in leading-edge technologies that improve energy discovery, recovery and efficiency, as well as enhance safety and reliability. BP depends on the brightest people with strong foundations in STEM subjects to drive these technologies. Over the past three years, BP has invested more than $60 million in activities that encourage students across the U.S. to pursue STEM education – a commitment that earned the company the No. 1 spot on the 2015 list of STEM Jobs Approved Employers. For more than six decades, BP has supported national and regional initiatives to equip educators to excel in STEM teaching, to inspire students to pursue STEM pathways, and to mobilize employees to make a powerful contribution in STEM.
There is a consensus that future economic sustainability depends not only on financial and other business services, but also on manufacturing, engineering and other sectors requiring science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.
However, studies suggest the gap between the skills available in the current U.S. workforce and those needed for many 21st century jobs creates a serious challenge. These are the job vacancies for people with skills that are essential for designing, developing and testing the products and services we need in modern society – highways, buildings, new materials, food and medicine. And yes, the skills that are essential for finding and producing the energy that warms our homes, fuels our cars and powers our workplaces.
As BP’s group head of technology, I am excited by the promise of imminent technological advancements in our company and the wider oil and gas industry. These innovations will be made possible because we have access to some of the brightest minds in our own workforce and through collaborations with university and joint venture partners. Almost two-thirds of BP’s U.S.-based employees work in STEM-related roles, and more than half of all new BP graduate hires over the next decade will require a STEM degree.
Investing in STEM is therefore important to foster the talent needed to advance innovation in BP, the energy industry and across the country. For more than six decades, BP has supported activities that help improve pathways to STEM education and careers. Across the U.S. alone, we’ve invested more than $60 million in STEM education since 2012.
In the U.K., we have collaborated with the Science Museum Group and King’s College London to conduct research on why there is a STEM skills gap and how to fill it. We believe that it is critical to engage young minds with the potential of STEM subjects and the possibilities of a career in STEM, long before students make their college choices. And with such a mountain to climb, collective action is needed on many fronts. Companies such as BP need to work together with parents and educators to help build a stronger STEM pipeline.
Let’s consider parents as the starting point. Behavioral scientists say attitudes and habits form and harden as early as the age of seven, and research has been done that highlights the perceptions, misconceptions and unconscious bias within society toward STEM subjects and careers. Parents can help by being open-minded about STEM, and by challenging antiquated career stereotypes.
Educators have an important contribution to make too. At school, I was encouraged to study math, physics and chemistry, which meant that by the time I made my degree choice, I was instinctively drawn toward engineering, the passport I needed for a career in technology at BP.
For educators, BP supports programs that provide the training and tools they need to teach STEM more effectively, especially in economically disadvantaged communities. We have partnered with the Association of Science Technology Centers to develop an energy-focused STEM learning module that advances teacher development.
Research shows the students studying STEM subjects after the age of 16 still fall roughly into the same gender, ethnic and social groups as they did 20 years ago. Analysis of Department of Education data by Change the Equation, a Washington-based coalition of business leaders promoting STEM education, shows that women earned only 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering in 2013. Furthermore, despite making up more than a quarter of the U.S. population age 21 or older, minorities hold only a tenth of science and engineering jobs.
To infuse additional diversity into our STEM strategy, BP America joined the Million Women Mentors initiative, designed to help girls learn about careers in STEM. BP also supports LATINO Magazine’s STEM AHORA program, where BP leaders and employees engage with college-bound Latino students to discuss STEM careers in the energy industry. For the past 40 years, BP has partnered with the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), which offers scholarships to African-American, Native American and Latinos in engineering education. Today, the six-year graduation rate of NACME Scholars is 79 percent, compared to just 39 percent for all minority engineering students at NACME’s partner institutions.
Inside and outside the classroom, we must provide opportunities for students to excel in critical thinking and problem solving. For example, we held the BP Ultimate Field Trip again this year, which asks college students to work in teams to answer a real-life energy challenge.
This year, the teams were challenged to apply STEM skills to identify and develop a novel technical solution that would reduce the amount of water produced from operations. The winning team from Rice University earned a two-week field trip to explore BP’s operations in Trinidad and Tobago.
The true impact of the BP Ultimate Field Trip, as with all STEM activity, is almost impossible to measure directly. Over the next decade or so, how many more of the Ultimate Field Trip entrants will turn into engineers or technologists as a result of this early experience?
The importance of STEM is greater than ever before, and we all have an obligation to help bridge the skills gap. In this high-tech world, it is critical to encourage more young people to opt for STEM subjects at school and in college. It’s equally critical to showcase STEM careers as an attractive option among the many choices offered to highly talented graduates. Let’s all play our part.