A visit to Aera changes their opinions about the industry
When 41 students from Moreno Valley College arrived at Aera’s Bakersfield office for a Thanksgiving-break tour, they brought plenty of negative opinions about the oil and gas industry.
“Expensive,” “dangerous” and “bad for the environment” were how some students responded when asked to share their impressions of the industry.
But less than three hours later, those perceptions had undergone a transformation.
After talking with Aera geoscientists, engineers and operations specialists, the students now see the oil and gas industry as “innovative,” “exciting,” “collaborative,” “helpful” and “cool.”
“This visit made a memorable impact on me,” said student Kaylyn Alexander. “I like how environmentally oriented Aera is, especially how they’ll stop operations if birds or animals are near their equipment.”
To show how Aera produces oil in the safest, most environmentally responsible oil way, Aera Ambassadors rotated the students through four different stations: geology, computer science, Lean manufacturing processes, and human and environmental health and safety. The Ambassador program relies on Aera employees to answer people’s questions and help them learn about the oil and gas industry.
“I was surprised to learn that oil isn’t just used to power cars,” student Andy Rincon said. “Petroleum has many uses.”
A program for college and career
The Southern California students are actually high-schoolers participating in a program at Moreno Valley College, which is part of the Riverside Community College District. The program, known as TRIO, helps first-generation students prepare for college and career. Participants in the late November tour were selected from 80 applicants.
The three-day tour was “an opportunity to make students’ worlds larger and broaden their ideas of culture, college and career opportunities,” said Micki Grayson, director of the TRIO program at Moreno Valley College. “This trip has brought new possibilities to life.”
During their three-hour stop at Aera, the students learned about options for careers in the oil and gas industry. They heard about one possibility of starting as an operator in the field with just a high-school diploma or attending college and majoring in a science, technology, engineering or math field, which can lead to a variety of careers in oil as well as other industries.
The high-schoolers also heard about the innovative Belridge Solar project northwest of Bakersfield, which will provide steam and electricity for Aera’s Belridge field and reduce air emissions in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
Funded by the Department of Education, the TRIO tour also included visits to California State University-Bakersfield, the Bakersfield Heart Hospital, California State University-Fresno, and the César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene.
“I hope the students take away from this visit the knowledge that the Central Valley has a lot to offer them in education, career and as a great place to raise a family,” said Kim Williams, the program’s outreach director. A Bakersfield native, Williams helped arrange the TRIO tour.