STEM Alliance Webinar: Perspectives on STEM and Energy careers

Webinar Outline and Links

The second STEM Alliance Webinar took place on Wednesday 7 September 2016 from 17:00 till 18:15 (CET). The webinar "Perspectives on STEM and Energy careers" offered the expertise and experience of STEM Professionals from this sector to teachers and careers counsellors.

During an hour and 15 minutes, teachers had the opportunity to learn about the topic and ask questions to three experts:

Wouter Bleukx, BU Manager Organic Chlorine Derivatives at INOVYN, Chairperson of the Young EPCA Think Tank (YETT).

Harbinder Bhanvra, Business Manager Olefins & Gases at SABIC, member of the Young EPCA Think Tank (YETT).

Annemiek Mensert, Reservoir Engineer at Shell E&P.

The Webinar followed this programme:

Teachers from 18 different countries participated in the second STEM Alliance Webinar: Turkey (6), Greece (5), Portugal (4), Serbia (4), Romania (3), Italy (2), Spain (2), Belgium (1), Bulgaria (1), Croatia (1), France (1), Georgia (1), Hungary (1), Ireland (1), Lithuania (1), Malta (1), Poland (1), United Kingdom (1).

Two of our experts, Mr. Bleukx and Mr. Bhanvra, accompanied by Omar Mockbil from EPCA, met us at European Schoolnet's office for the webinar; while the other expert, Mrs. Mensert, joined online. 

Maïté Debry, STEM Alliance Project Manager, moderated the webinar. During the first 10 minutes of the session, Maïté explained important upcoming activities for schools, like the Back to School Campaign, the continuation of online activities, and face to face activities as the Teacher Discovery Placements Workshop Experts, which gives the opportunity for teachers to connect the education with the industry world. She also reminded teachers that within the STEM Alliance resources section ( they can find some interesting material to use in their classes. In addition, in the STEM Alliance Practice focus section ( there are some articles with tips and tricks which give context to the resources. Two of these articles are related to the Energy topic: Chemistry for you from EPCA, and Everything comes from energy from Shell.

At this point, Maïté gave the word to the different speakers, starting with Wouter Bleukx, who first started talking about study and career paths and how he reached his current position. 

He studied Science in High school, and continued with Bioscience Engineering at KU Leuven, Belgium. During his thesis at the Department of Food Chemistry about "Evidence for the presence of arabinoxylan hydrolysing enzymes in wheat flour" he had his first lab experience. After this experience, he was offered to do a PhD in Applied Biological Sciences. During these years, apart from researching skills, he also gained analytical and communication skills, and improved his critical thinking. During this period he collaborated with industry, and, as he enjoyed the experience, once he finished his PhD his goal was to join this sector.

To start with, he worked in the food industry for the Tessenderlo Group for 10 years, starting from a technical position to a manager position. After this experience he accepted the challenge to become a European Customer Service Manager where he worked in a more business environment. At the moment he is working as Product Manager within INOVYN.

He explained that STEM was an excellent basis for him to develop in a variety of different jobs with different functions. Another key point for him was the importance to speak different languages, especially English. He also stressed the need of being flexible, motivated amongst other skills.

Regarding a question about how to pass his passion for STEM to young students, He believes that if teachers put passion into their teaching and they are positive, they will pass it to their students.

Another teacher was interested to know if Wouter sees females more represented in his sector than before. Answering to this question he mentioned he has seen this change in the last 5 to 10 years, where women are getting more and more positions in the Chemical and Petro-chemical industry sector.

After Wouter Bleukx, it was time for Harbinder Bhanvra, who presented the STEM Education program of SABIC, STEM careers and opportunities in the company.

From the personal side, he mentioned he studied engineering to become a car designer, but after he finished university he took another path, more focused on the business side. Nevertheless, the technical skills he gained with a STEM Education were also essential for this career path.

Mr Bhanvra presented the origins of the company and STEM education initiatives they are proposing:

  • Girls Day: A Dutch initiative by VHTO (Dutch National Expert Organization on Girls/Women and Science/Technology) to encourage girls aged between 10 and 15 to pursue careers in science and technology. The girls get to visit the SABIC Manufacturing site, laboratories and offices and using chemicals experiments, small quizzes, and workshops, SABIC showcased the world of chemicals and plastics.
  • Jet Net: SABIC is a member of Jet-Net, Youth and Technology Network Netherlands, which is a joint initiative of leading Dutch technology companies and secondary (pre-college) schools.
  • Skill event and Women in STEM: Employees of SABIC attended to these two events in United Kingdom. In the first one, to speak about careers available in the Petrochemicals industry; and in the second one, to encourage more young women to consider a career in the STEM industries.

Mr. Bhanvra continued talking about the importance of studying STEM and how it is connected with many of the products we consume on a daily basis.

When we entered the Question and Answers time, a teacher asked: How do you see the future for young people studying STEM job wise. Do you think the jobs will change from what you (and I) had, and if so, in what sense?

Mr. Bhanvra answered that 20 years ago, the types of jobs were, in a positive way, different. In this sense, he mentions that manufacturing is a very dynamic industry, so in his opinion careers will remain there.

The third speaker, Annemiek Mensert, was also part of the Jet Net network, and talked about how she arrived to Shell and her role in the company.

She studied at Delft university of Technology at the Faculty of Applied Earth Sciences, and got a Masters degree on petroleum engineering. From her university days, she remembered how the ratio of women in class was low compared to men.

After university she started working as an IT specialist at Logica PLC. It is then when she found the opportunity in Shell, where she started doing research and later on arrived to her actual position as Reservoir Engineer.

She explained us that one of her goals in Shell was to find a sustainable development of remaining oil and gas reserves. In this direction, during her presentation she explained the importance of having qualified engineers in order to achieve this transition.

We received a comment from a teacher on the need of including industry needs in the educational curriculum, and Annemiek agreed on that, and on the importance of research to find new sources to make our products.

To close this webinar Maïté thanked all participants and invited then to stay tuned on the STEM Alliance portal as there will be many more activities to participate.

You can watch a recording of the webinar below:

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