Emma, aged 20, joined the Supply & Trading school leaver programme after completing A-levels in geography, economics and maths. “Despite having also applied to university, I decided that this programme was my preferred option for a number of reasons,” she says. “What it offered was very similar to the BP Commercial and Trading graduate programmes, in terms of training and support, so I felt that it would quickly get me to the same place as someone who had joined on the graduate scheme, except of course without the debt of a student loan.”
Emma says that because she wasn’t sure which career path to take, the school leaver programme offered the flexibility to explore different routes in the industry, and she hasn’t been disappointed. “The great thing about it is that every role is different, so your average day will depend on the specific role you are undertaking,” she says. “My current role is in Trading Operations, where the team is responsible for arranging and overseeing the movement of oil across Europe for our traders.
“We plan and coordinate all the movements using vessels, barges and pipelines, making sure all controls are in place and all contractual obligations are met. This involves liaising with BP traders and refineries as well as third party trading houses and inspectors from across the world on a daily basis. We are an integral part of the trading process.”
Commenting on the variety of the work, Emma says: “My favourite aspect of the programme is it that you can expect to do at least four completely different roles during your time on the scheme. This allows you to gain experience in a wide range of functions in Supply & Trading, and develop strong background knowledge essential to a future career in the energy industry. You also become an important part of your team during each rotation and are given responsibility equal to any graduate.”
As well as flexible, varied work, there is also a robust training programme undertaken by all school leaver trainees alongside their peers on the graduate schemes. This training is mainly classroom-based, and often involves simulations across a wide range of topics including energy markets, trade economics and analytics, all designed to prepare trainees for their future careers at BP. There is also on-the-job training specific to each individual’s role.
“My favourite aspect of the programme is it that you can expect to do at least four completely different roles during your time on the scheme. This allows you to gain experience in a wide range of functions in Supply & Trading, and develop strong background knowledge essential to a future career in the energy industry. You also become an important part of your team during each rotation and are given responsibility equal to any graduate.”
In addition to this training and support, the school leaver programme has given Emma something else she would struggle to get at university: “Throughout your time on the programme, you develop skills which are essential for any career but are not necessarily picked up at university, such as communication, organisation, teamwork, leadership and presentation skills.
“The programme has also offered me the opportunity to learn about the wider energy industry as well as global trade, current affairs, business and economics.”
The energy industry itself is just as interesting and varied – and forward-thinking – which Emma thinks makes it particularly suited to school leavers. “It will change significantly in the near future with the switch to low carbon fuels and increased efficiency,” she says. “It’s an exciting, fast-paced sector that needs young people to find new innovative solutions and help shape the future of the industry.”
Working with Emma and her peers is Rachel, BP’s Commercial Training Manager in Supply & Trading. She says the five-year programme is essential for the organisation in terms of ensuring it recruits the brightest young people from all backgrounds. “BP believes that diversity makes good business sense, and the school leaver programme really facilitates this,” she says. “Originally, it was set up to replicate the graduate trading scheme, allowing people who for whatever reason do not want to attend university, to reach the same level within the company.”
Rachel says plenty of support is provided during those five years: “All school leavers are provided with a ‘buddy’ from the scheme and a ‘mentor’ from the business to help them navigate the company and develop their career. And as Programme Manager I am also available to help them with any questions or issues they may have, so they are also supported on a personal level.”
She agrees with Emma that the energy sector is particularly suited to young people; it needs them, in fact: “The world is always going to need energy and the demand is likely to increase several times over in the next 20 years,” she says. “Today’s school leavers are the generation who will need to manage and meet this demand.”
If you want to be a part of this then take a look at BP’s school leaver opportunities, and take your first step towards an exciting and rewarding career.