Employment Pipeline Eyed By Policymakers

Over the course of the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), or its Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, chaired by Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), hosted seven hearings celebrating energy education and employment.

Hastings pointed out that the committee supports development of all American energy sources; the committee also champions science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

An additional subtext for these hearings, Hastings mentioned, is that the government needs to increase access to federal lands for energy development.

The late June hearing may have been the most relevant to energy professionals that are concerned about attracting and educating the next generation of workers for an expanding industry that is about to experience significant retirements.

American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Education

The focus of the June 24 hearing was on how the nation’s two-year and four-year colleges are rapidly expanding educational and training programs to meet the growing needs of energy industries. These institutions work with industry to tailor their curricula to job offerings and assure that students are studying the latest technologies.

Most of the witnesses focused on two-year colleges, reflecting on how half of oil and gas industry workers are skilled and semi-skilled blue-collar workers.

Marlene S. McMichael, associate vice chancellor for government affairs at Texas State Technical College (TSTC), noted that the college is a major source of underrepresented populations for potential energy employment, with 62.82 percent minority enrollment (53.94 percent Hispanic, 7.41 percent black, 1.47 percent other minorities). In addition, the student body is comprised of 39 percent females – significantly higher than the composition of the current workforce.

McMichael attributes much of the college’s success to its strong partnership with industry that advises on curriculum, mentors students and donates state-of-the-art equipment for training labs.

Mark Volk, president of Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa., attributed the success of the two-year college in part to collaboration with and funding from Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., which allows the college to help offset tuition costs for disadvantaged students and use the latest technologies in its labs.

Witnesses from Utah State University’s Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center in Vernal, Utah, and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, S.D., stressed two components of their successful programs: collaboration with industry to address current technology needs and issues, and student involvement in scientific research to provide new technology to both the industry and the workforce.

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology witness also pointed out that active collaborations with numerous federal agencies as well as private industry are necessary to support their research.

Matthew M. Kropf, director of the American Refining Group/Harry Halloran Jr. Energy Institute and assistant professor of petroleum technology and energy science and technology at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, commented that the current energy boom creates significant educational opportunities in both the short and long term.

“In the short term, we can help replace an aging workforce with workers proficient in the application of modern technologies,” Kropf said. “In the long term, we can create a STEM-educated workforce capable of wielding advanced technologies to create the innovations necessary to arrive at energy security.”

American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Skilled Trade Workers

In the April 29 hearing, witnesses praised the skilled trade apprentice programs, bemoaned the federal regulations that impede energy growth and suggested ways to get more young people interested in the energy industry.

Monica Martinez, president of Hispanics in Energy, suggested four principles that can help industry find workers and underrepresented minorities find existing and future job opportunities in energy:

  • General dissemination of energy opportunities to educators, parents, community leaders and the general public.
  • Student engagement at all levels – including elementary through high school, and technical and college level students.
  • Expanding the network of engagement by energy providers and companies to create a pipeline of prospective workers.
  • Assessing outcomes by utilizing data, analysis and benchmarks.

Speakers at two other hearings described what could be a new trend – high schools that focus on oil and gas technology education. The schools mentioned are the Utica Shale Academy in Ohio and the Houston Energy Institute High School.

The other hearings considered the opportunities for energy employment for veterans, women and minorities, and the benefits to manufacturing and state and local economies:

♦ Feb. 26, American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Veterans.

The subcommittee heard testimony from workers who had made the transition from the military to the energy industry explain how the private sector is facilitating this transition for other workers.

♦ April 8, American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Women and Minorities.

Witnesses noted the low representation of women and minorities in the oil and gas industry and suggested the need for industry to educate young people about the opportunities and advantages of working in the industry.

♦ May 20, American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for American Manufacturing.

Subcommittee chairman Lamborn stated the hearing theme: A key factor in the current trend of U.S. companies bringing manufacturing jobs back from overseas is the abundance of affordable natural gas and energy.

♦ June 6, American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Innovation.

Lamborn summarized the hearing as presenting “the ways private industry promotes innovation in the workplace and how they recruit and train the next generation of innovators to continue this good work.”

♦ June 18, American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for States and Localities.

Witnesses described the benefits that revenues from oil and gas production bring to states, local governments and communities. They also described the challenges that come with increasing population and traffic.

All hearings webcasts and written testimony are available at the committee webpage.

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Policy Watch

Policy Watch - Edie Allison
Edie Allison began as the Director of the AAPG Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington D.C. in 2012.

Policy Watch

Policy Watch is a monthly column of the EXPLORER written by the director of AAPG's  Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington, D.C. *The first article appeared in February 2006 under the name "Washington Watch" and the column name was changed to "Policy Watch" in January 2013 to broaden the subject matter to a more global view.

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Make your plans now to join members of AAPG and other geoscience organizations in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 16-17 for Geoscience Congressional Visits Day – an opportunity for you to help raise visibility and support for the geosciences, and to discuss the science behind the energy issues important to you and other AAPG members.

Constructive visits from citizen geoscientists – centered on the importance of geoscience and the science behind energy issues such as hydraulic fracturing – are the most effective way to inform and influence federal policy.

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Fact sheets and talking points for shared geoscience concerns will be provided – and you can plan to bring impacts and examples from your experience to your congressional district.

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