Watching Government: Building STEM partnerships

Dec. 11, 2017
A study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute found that more than 630,000 management and professional jobs in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries, which typically require a bachelor's degree, will become available for applicants trained in science, technology, engineering, and medicine (STEM).

A study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute found that more than 630,000 management and professional jobs in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries, which typically require a bachelor's degree, will become available for applicants trained in science, technology, engineering, and medicine (STEM).

But a study by Rand Corp. also found that more than 1 million blue-collar positions will be open in those energy and manufacturing areas through 2035 to applicants with associate degrees and certificates that use STEM disciplines. Finding new ways to reach members of racial and ethnic minorities and more women with this message is challenging.

"The oil and gas industry will experience significant turnover and growth in the years to come, greatly expanding career opportunities for women and communities of color," said API Pres. Jack N. Gerard. "This study shows that STEM education is the key to creating a workforce that reflects the many faces of this great nation with skilled workers of all backgrounds."

Rebecca Winkel, an economic advisor in API's policy analysis department, said, "This will give us a lot to talk about over the next few months." Speaking at the Nov. 29 event with the Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies (JCPES), where the study was released, Winkel added, "The report will help us understand where we are, but it doesn't explain how we'll solve these problems."

JCPES Director Spencer Overton noted, "It clearly shows that STEM education can be a primary driver of employment opportunities and economic mobility, especially as the economy evolves over the next decade. Energy is growing, and it's critical that its future workforce reflect the diversity of our nation."

Into the neighborhoods

Calvin Mackie, who has launched several programs to introduce STEM and its critical thinking to youngsters in New Orleans neighborhoods, said, "When you look at these industries, many of the future blue-collar jobs also require working with your hands. We need to make sure that more black and brown children spend their Saturday mornings preparing for their future occupations."

Overton said, "We need to look out not only for children who may get these positions, but also their parents who want to move away from their fast-food jobs to something better. Automation poses an increasing challenge for drivers, cashiers, and retail salespeople."

Gerard noted, "The oil and gas industry is the foundation of nearly everything we use in our society. We need to show more kids how much of what they already use comes from our industry. We don't want to scare them with a STEM conversation when they're very young. We want to show them there are opportunities in oil and gas they can pursue."