API Committed to Energy Accessibility and Workforce Inclusion
Posted October 21, 2020
As API’s members focus on meeting some of America’s greatest challenges, it’s clear our workers – the men and women of natural gas and oil – are our industry’s most valuable assets. For the future, this industry must continue to attract the best and brightest minds – while building a diverse, inclusive and resilient workforce that will bring energy to America for decades to come.
Over the summer, API President and CEO Mike Sommers wrote to colleagues underscoring the strength in this industry’s diversity, and initiating a conversation among natural gas and oil operators about actions to address disparities in the energy workforce and in American communities more broadly.
This month, Sommers joined Dr. Benjamin Chavis, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and a pioneering civil rights leader, to continue this conversation with a one-on-one interview entitled, “Opportunities in the Energy Industry.”
The virtual Q&A addressed a range of subjects, beginning with U.S. energy leadership and the relationship between domestic energy abundance and household energy savings. The American energy renaissance – enabled by hydraulic fracturing – has made the U.S. the world’s leading producer of natural gas and oil, which has helped lower domestic energy costs, increasing disposable income for U.S. households during times of economic uncertainty. Sommers explained:
“We’re proud of the impact we have in the United States and the American energy leadership that has come as a consequence of this innovation…While everything else in life seems to get more expensive year-on-year – healthcare costs have gone up 75% in the last 10 years, rent and housing costs have gone up by one-third, even food costs have gone up by one-third in the last 10 years – household energy costs have actually gone down 14.7%.”
Yet, affordable and reliable energy isn’t a reality everywhere in America. Dr. Chavis asked what the natural gas and oil industry can do to ensure greater access to the energy that plays such a fundamental role in virtually all aspects of modern life. Sommers said that energy is critical to economic opportunity and social mobility and stressed that infrastructure is key to energy fairness. Sommers:
“One of the things we’re focused on at API – and within the industry – is making sure that affordable energy can get to everyone. One of the ways we do that, is by developing pipelines throughout the United States. There are already thousands of miles of pipelines in this country…Unfortunately, that pipeline infrastructure hasn’t quite kept up with where it needs to be…to get that energy where it needs to go, particularly to vulnerable parts of our society.”
Ultimately, the U.S. has the pipeline technology, investment capability and skilled workforce to distribute our homegrown energy more equitably, but the question remains whether we have the political will to get these projects done.
On the topic of diversity and inclusion, Dr. Chavis asked what API and its member companies are doing to embrace these principles and create an energy workforce that reflects the diversity of our nation. Sommers acknowledged industry’s historical challenges and said the sector can help lead broader societal change:
“This is an industry that needs to do so much more to meet the challenges that have come to the forefront over the course of the last few months…In response, API has started a new diversity, equity and inclusion initiative among our own staff. We can do a better job of recognizing these problems, but it doesn’t stop there…Every one of our CEOs is committed to righting these injustices that are so deeply engrained. With your help Dr. Chavis, I think we can really turn the corner as a society, but I want to make sure the oil and gas industry is leading the way.”
Today, energy companies are actively seeking to diversify their supply chains through relationships with minority-owned businesses, and API is addressing the need for more diversity in the workforce pipeline by increasing access for more students to educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Based on API’s preliminary analysis, nearly 50% of new industry-related job opportunities through 2040 will be filled by African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and non-whites – and STEM competencies will be critical to attaining these jobs. That’s why API partnered with Discovery Education last year to launch the STEM Careers Coalition, focused on bridging the workforce skills gap in K-12 U.S. schools.
At this point, Dr. Chavis distilled down the discussion and reinforced the importance of fearless, forward-looking leadership from the business community:
“Some corporate leaders avoid addressing what you’ve just addressed because they feel that it causes controversy, but I see it the other way. Having the courage to make these statements – for the need to overcome systemic racism, the need to work together to practice what we preach – not only in your own shop but in the shops that represent the oil and gas industry throughout America, these are positive things. I want to thank you for having the courage to make those statements.”
When it comes to energy resources and industry jobs, natural gas and oil operators are advocating for increased equity and access, particularly among communities of color. Sommers concluded the dialogue with Dr. Chavis by invoking API’s principles and emphasizing the importance of diversity in powering our energy future:
“We’re an industry that’s filled with problem solvers. We’re an industry that’s focused on the future. And we’re an industry that wants to continue to build a diverse workforce to ensure that we can continue to produce reliable and affordable energy for the American people.”
For more information on the energy workforce, visit here.
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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