When Hope Burton walked into the Aera Academy for a recent Boys & Girls Club of Kern County field trip she only expected to meet petroleum engineers, but she was surprised by many of the career journeys of those who work at Aera.
Like many of the high-school-age students visiting, Burton understood that Aera was an oil company, but she had no idea about the diverse range of career opportunities.
“It’s not just petroleum engineers,” Burton said. You could be an English major and be able to work at Aera. I didn’t even know.”
As part of the Boys & Girls Club PG&E Summer Jobs program, about 50 students from Kern County-area high schools visited Aera to get a first-hand look at opportunities in the oil and gas industry. The day also provided the students a view of the industry’s deep economic connection to the community.
“I learned how much I didn’t know about the oil industry,” said Jordan Annis, a student at Bakersfield High, who added that he was surprised to learn about the different teams that work together to produce the energy California needs.
Visiting students were met by Aera’s Ambassadors and companies that contract with Aera, including Braun Electric.
“We felt that visiting Aera and the Aera Academy would provide our students with more information about their community and the opportunities in the energy field,” said Zane Smith, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Kern County. “The PG&E Summer Jobs program is a work-force ready model that engages teens by teaching them soft skills and preparing them for both pre-employment activities from interview skills and professional demeanor to how to promote themselves as employable.”
Through the program, students are placed at local businesses as part of a paid internship, but being able to visit some of Kern County’s major employers is a critical step in the education of those participating.
“We include visits like the Aera Academy and guest speakers to complement and expand our participants understanding of their community and the robust opportunities,” Smith said.
For many students the realization of how much oil plays a part in everyday life came as a surprise.
“It’s just a lot more than I originally thought,” said student Alexander Kaufman.
During the visit, students were able to ask questions of Aera’s engineers, geologists and safety experts, but they also got to meet Randy Teel, Aera’s tax manager, and representatives from public affairs and human resources.
“The students were particularly interested in why I chose accounting as a career and why I have stayed in this field,” Teel said. “Also, one of the things on our career poster was around creating value for the company and a couple of students asked for some examples of that.”
Just outside of the Academy, students were able to interact with contractor’s KSI, Qualspec and Braun Electric, which offers not only electrical contract work but produces safety videos for companies around Kern County.
“It was inspiring to see so many young people thinking seriously about their future careers,” said Jeff Coghlin, Braun Electric’s information technology manager, who helped oversee a booth that featured some of the company’s safety videos. “They were not simply going through the obligatory motions of a field trip, but were genuinely interested in exploring career options. We were impressed by the volume and specificity of their questions.”
This latest visit is another example of how Aera’s Ambassador Program has leveraged the Aera Academy to provide a hands-on experience to students potentially interested in science, technology, engineering and math education and careers.
“The kids were amazed to see how much our business relies on technology and innovation which changed their perception of our industry,” said Rick Rust, Aera Energy’s public affairs project manager, who oversees the Ambassador program.