Encouraging Innovation


While global demand for energy is on the rise, so is the need for delivering energy in new ways, with few emissions. Overcoming this dual challenge requires a spirit of invention and purpose as well as strong science, technology, engineering and math) STEM skills, now and in the future.To help build a pipeline of globally ready STEM professionals, BP America partnered with AFS Intercultural Programs to create and deliver the BP Global STEM Academies. The Academies is a study-abroad program which provides 100 scholarships to participate in a life-changing educational experience. It is available to high school-age students from countries like Brazil, China, Egypt, Hungary, India, S. Africa, Mexico, as well as the U.S. The scholarships are administered by AFS, which offers international education opportunities in over 45 countries and hosts exchange students from 90 countries. AFS provides its considerable expertise to the program in developing key global competencies like language skills, adaptability, and the ability to build bridges across cultures.

This year, the BP Global STEM Academies took place during the summer in three different countries: Brazil (June 15 – July 13), Egypt (June 27- July 23) and the U.S. (July 7-August 1).  The U.S. program took place in Houston, where students were able to tour BP America headquarters, and learn about technological advances and oil exploration at BP’s cutting-edge training simulators.

Students also traveled to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and took a deeper look at conservation, biomechanics, and other technological breakthroughs. They were immersed in a broad spectrum of fields, and learned diverse skills needed to pursue careers in STEM. Students became familiar with foreign cultures and worked together in team-building projects.

Another partner was the University of Houston Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies (PROMES) which offered a one-day summer camp to visit the BP America campus during the Academy. The visit included workshops and classes where students learned about the energy industry.

Many students in the U.S., particularly Latinos and other minorities, have a low participation in STEM education, which is key to maintaining the American economy at the forefront of innovation worldwide. According to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012-2013 only 14% of Latino students earned a STEM bachelor’s degree as opposed to 30% of Asians. In 2016, India had 2.6 million new STEM graduates compared to 568,000 graduates in the U.S. Young women are also less likely to pursue a STEM degree. In the U.S., only 35% of femaile students earn a STEM-related undergraduate degree.

Cindy Berkman, Associate Director, National Strategic Relationships & Initiatives at BP America, said that it will require teamwork to change this: “I think that it takes the effort of governments, communities, local leaders, corporations like BP, and parents.  It’s all of us working together. BP is doing its part by showing young adults the need for professionals leading innovation as well as showing the relevance of STEM programs.”

Many students, whether in the U.S or abroad, simply do not have a role model with a STEM background. The BP Global STEM Academies program seeks to expose students to STEM by showcasing the benefits of such careers and meet with potential mentors, who can be their role models.

Leading the program is Kathleen Martinez, Senior Director of National Strategic Relationships & Initiatives at BP America, and Executive Director of the BP Foundation. Named one of the top 100 Corporate Women Leaders in STEM by STEMconnector, she strives to offer opportunities to U.S. students and particularly to Latinos and females. “The fact is that many economically disadvantaged students don’t have equitable access to STEM education and knowledge of career opportunities. This is why our work at BP is focused on increasing opportunities for students and increasing wider workforce diversity in the energy industry, as well as other sectors that require advanced science and technology skills,” said Martinez in an interview with Energy Voice.

BP America’s global efforts will have a lasting impact not only in including Latinos in STEM, but also in ensuring that the U.S. economy remains vibrant by promoting technological breakthroughs. The future is in the hands of our students, and the BP Global STEM Academies provides them with the tools to succeed.

By Erika Hernandez