Recognizing the Workforce this National Energy Awareness Month
Posted October 15, 2019
Since 1991, October has served as National Energy Awareness Month, recognizing the importance of sustainable resource management and the dedication of the people who enable our energy economy. More recently, this also has highlighted the remarkable role of American resource abundance in strengthening the domestic economy and reducing our dependence on imported energy.
Given that the U.S. is the world’s leading natural gas and oil producer, and is expected to become a net exporter of total energy this year, the story of National Energy Awareness Month is now one of energy security and economic progress – powered, in large part, by innovation and an industrious and tech-savvy workforce.
Earlier this month, President Trump explained via presidential proclamation:
“From large cities to rural communities, Americans are reaping the benefits of reduced energy costs and enjoying a renewed sense of energy security… At the forefront of the American energy revolution are men and women whose tenacity and resolve are undeniable and unbreakable and whose commitment to innovation has transformed the global energy landscape.”
Weaved into the declaration – and into the very fabric of the U.S. energy renaissance – is the often understated yet indispensable role of the natural gas and oil workforce. The industry currently supports 10.3 million good-paying U.S. jobs, many of which are in skilled trades and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Construction workers, operating engineers, pipefitters, plumbers and boilermakers work alongside data analysts and computer scientists to build, operate and maintain America’s energy infrastructure, ultimately delivering the affordable and reliable fuels that power our everyday lives. These jobs are not only essential to preserving U.S. energy security, for many individuals, they also represent opportunities for meaningful career advancement.
The average annual pay in the natural gas and oil industry is upwards of $100,000, which is nearly $50,000 higher than the national average. With approximately 1.9 million direct jobs projected to emerge in natural gas and oil and petrochemical manufacturing by 2035, the energy industry is poised to provide stable livelihoods to an expanding workforce – one increasingly comprised of veterans, women and minorities.
Notably, of the 1.9 million projected job opportunities, more than 700,000 are expected to be filled by African American and Hispanic workers, and 290,000 are expected to be filled by women. And the natural gas and oil industry has consistently employed larger shares of veterans than both the government and the private sector, since extensive training and advanced occupational skills often make military personnel strong candidates for civilian careers in energy.
Unfortunately, a leading obstacle to successful employment – especially among women – is lack of information about job opportunities and career development in the industry. While a majority of women surveyed were willing to work in energy, nearly 97% admitted to never applying for employment in the natural gas and oil industry – and most weren’t aware of available opportunities or assumed that they weren’t qualified.
Introducing the next generation to STEM pathways and skilled professions – and connecting qualified candidates with existing and expected jobs in the natural gas and oil industry – is critical to maintaining America’s robust energy workforce. Initiatives to promote relevant apprenticeships and advanced math and science curricula in U.S. classrooms are elevating the conversation around STEM skills and their industry applications.
For example, the STEM Careers Coalition – a partnership between API, Chevron, the National Association of Manufacturers, Boeing and Discovery Education – launches next month and will focus on STEM learning equity and access in K-12 schools, with the goal of advancing the future of education through 2025 and beyond. By directly investing in schools, connecting industry employees with classrooms and creating an easily accessible career portal, the coalition will inspire students to pursue STEM learning and introduce them to the career opportunities available in the energy industry and related trades.
America’s natural gas and oil workforce facilitates the exploration, production and distribution of affordable and reliable fuels. Sustaining a pipeline of well-trained employees with a variety of skillsets is critical to our energy independence, and that’s why this National Energy Awareness Month we acknowledge the people who serve as the backbone of our operations.
The natural gas and oil industry is teeming with opportunity for the next generation of energy employees, and by connecting students with the appropriate education and workers with attractive careers, we can continue to empower people to drive progress.
For more information, visit Oil & Gas Workforce.
About The Author
Sam Winstel is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. He comes to API from Edelman, where he supported communications marketing strategies for clients across the firm’s energy and federal government practices. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Sam graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina, and he currently resides in Washington, D.C.
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