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Jack Gerard's Keynote Address at the U.S. News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference

As prepared for delivery

Jack Gerard, API President and CEO
U.S. News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference Keynote
April 25, 2014


Good morning and thank you Brian for the kind introduction.

And thank you to the U.S. News and World Report team for your continued leadership and vision on the issue of STEM education and, most of all to each of you for taking time out of your schedule to listen, to learn and to support enhanced STEM education for the next generation.

As the national trade association representing America’s oil and natural gas industry, we understand the need to ensure that tomorrow’s workforce is able to build on our nation’s emergence as a global energy leader.

Today, the oil and natural gas industry supports 9.8 million U.S. jobs or 8 percent of the U.S. economy.

And, according to a recent report by API and IHS Global, by 2030 there will be up to 1.3 million new job opportunities in the oil, natural gas and petrochemical industries.

The report projects that, on our current course, almost 408,000 positions of the 1.3 million opportunities -- roughly one-third of the total expected growth -- will go to African American and Hispanic workers.

Women are estimated to fill upwards of 185,000 of those jobs.

Further, the STEM workforce challenge is compounded by the fact that a significant number of workers will be needed to fill existing jobs created by the “crew change,” which is a 7 to 10 year period when roughly half of the industry’s current technical personnel will retire.

Bottom line, we need to increase the number of STEM graduates to ensure that we have a workforce capable of continuing America’s 21st century energy renaissance.

The report’s projections for women and minority positions are based on the status quo – if we do not increase the diversity of our Science, Technology, Engineering and Math student body.

But judging by the tremendous turnout for this conference, there is a strong and growing consensus that the status quo and inaction are unacceptable options.

It is my sense that there is deep understanding of what’s at stake: Continued American global leadership.

Specifically, in the energy sector, the need to improve minority educational attainment in STEM subjects will be vital to our nation taking full advantage of its enormous energy resources.

Given what we know from our and others’ research, the oil and natural gas industry’s fundamental recommendation is as straightforward as it is simple: Make the improvement of women and minorities’ preparation in STEM related disciplines a national priority.

It requires, and we strongly support, the continuation and expansion of the current public-private partnership that identifies and removes barriers to the entry and retention of women and minorities in STEM-related industries.

The oil and natural gas industry continues to lead the change we seek by engaging a broad range of stakeholders, including the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trade union, the U.S. Dept. of Energy, leaders in vocational education and universities and, four-year and community colleges through an eight city tour that highlights the career opportunities in the oil and natural gas industry.

The Energizing American Communities eight city tour has visited Chicago and Bakersfield, and will continue to Philadelphia next week with future stops in Las Cruces, New Mexico; Detroit, Denver and Charlotte. The tour brings into focus for local education and business leaders, students and their parents and educators, the career possibilities available in the oil and natural gas industry and how they can contribute to America’s energy renaissance.

It highlights ways in which local communities can put into place education policies that emphasize, promote and encourage STEM education regardless of geography, socioeconomic circumstance or demographic group.

And how critical those policies are to helping us reach our nation’s full energy potential.

To be clear, STEM underachievement is not limited to any one demographic group or region of the country.

Broadly, in the past decade or so, this nation has slipped relative to other developed nations when it comes to producing college graduates with degrees in science and engineering. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranks 27th in developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving undergraduate degrees in science or engineering.

That’s just one more data point that should spur us on to attaining greater STEM educational achievement for women and minorities.

If we keep working together we can put into place policies that promote STEM education from grade school to graduate school, and there is little doubt that this country will continue to lead the world in energy production.

Future generations are counting on us to implement policies that promote educational achievement, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math because it will largely be those subjects that determine who will benefit most in the 21st century.

And while the future belongs to our children and grandchildren, their future depends on us.

It depends on all of us putting into place policies that ensure that tomorrow’s workforce is ready and able to meet whatever challenges await them.

In that regard, API’s Minority and Female employment opportunity report makes two things clear:

First, that success will mean not just working with schools at all levels to ensure greater participation and completion of women and minorities in STEM-related subjects, but we must ensure that educators and counselors convey the significant job opportunities that exist in the oil and natural gas industry to their students.

And second that the oil and natural gas industry will continue to be a job creation leader for years to come.

But our position as a global energy leader is not a given.

To remain a global energy leader we have to listen and to learn from each other to ensure that the next generation of petroleum, civil and mechanical engineers and other science, technology, engineering and math undergraduate and graduate students are as diverse as our nation.

If we keep doing that, future generations of Americans will only know their country as a global energy leader.

And take a moment to think about that future – and look back at the short-term past.

Just five years ago no one would have believed that this country would be on the verge of being an energy superpower.

Again, thank you for all that you do on behalf of our nation’s children.

Brian…

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