South Africa’s burgeoning youth population represents tremendous economic potential if its energy can be harnessed, but will be a threat to social stability if the current high unemployment rates are not rapidly reduced. “For bpSA, investing in education is a top priority—it’s a way of ensuring our country has a good future,” says Hamlet Morule, bp Southern Africa Executive for communications & external affairs.
“Our focus is on helping today’s youth negotiate a successful journey through high school and on to tertiary education. For our economy to grow and become a net creator of jobs, we need a pipeline of young talent with the right skills and attitude to play a leadership role,” says Morule. “Through a combination of financial support, mentoring and transferring professional skills, we aim to give our beneficiaries the tools, confidence and knowledge to build successful careers—and act as agents for positive change in society.”
Since 2014, bpSA has invested over R188 million in educational programmes via the Energy Mobility Education Trust (EMET), equipping South African youth with the education they need to enter the job market successfully. By 2021, EMET’s maths and science programmes had benefitted more than 2 500 high school students and provided bursaries for 244 tertiary-level students. 140 of the latter have already graduated.
EMET is a skills development implementing agent for bpSA and runs a range of programmes for high-school pupils through Star Schools, Stellenbosch U-Prep and Rhodes University Nine-Tenths. These programmes are focused on STEM subjects, and target black pupils from underserved areas of the country. Some of these learners receive scholarships to go on to university. EMET takes its responsibility towards its beneficiaries seriously, and the scholarship programme is comprehensive, covering tuition, accommodation, meals, a stipend and learning resources. It also provides additional mentoring support.
“EMET prioritises nurturing talent aligned to the in-demand skills of the energy industry,” Morule explains. “Our industry is evolving rapidly in line with the need to become more sustainable, so the need for highly specialized skills is acute. It goes without saying that individuals with these skills have excellent career prospects.”
bpSA’s competitiveness has always been dependent on its ability to attract highly skilled specialists and scientists, but as the company transitions into an integrated energy company, the need to nurture individuals with a completely different set of skills has become critical.
EMET’s holistic support of its beneficiaries shines through when they graduate. Master’s student and EMET beneficiary Zandile Myendeki says that the scholarship freed her from financial worries and enabled her to concentrate on her studies —to great effect as she graduated cum laude for her Honours from the University of Fort Hare. “EMET’s kindness has motivated me to help others and contribute to the community. I hope that one day, like you, I will be able to assist other students in achieving their goals,” he says.
Junior-Sy Maluleke, who completed his BSc in Mechanical Engineering in 2022, acknowledges the impact of EMET long-term support, as does Thabiso Sechaba, who also graduated last year with a Postgraduate Diploma in Accountancy. Both recognise EMET’s significant role in helping them realise their ambitions.
Morule says that bpSA will continue to provide integrated, holistic support through EMET to ensure that South Africa’s young people have a real opportunity to shine.