Urban League wants to build an energy careers pipeline, official says

The National Urban League called on the oil and gas industry and other US energy businesses to work more aggressively in educating and recruiting minorities to fill future positions as their companies expand and their workforces grow. The emphasis this time needs to be more on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers than on jobs, an official told OGJ.

“We want to let more black and brown people know about STEM career opportunities, and give them the tools to become qualified,” said Donald R. Cravins Jr., NUL’s senior vice-president for policy and executive director of its Washington bureau. “Very few high schools in African American communities offer calculus or physics courses. There’s no advanced placement track with college credit in many of them. We’re asking all the energy industries to help us build a STEM careers pipeline.”

He spoke shortly before NUL released his white paper, “21st Century Innovations in Energy: An Equity Framework,” on Oct. 11. “In 2015, there were nearly 1.4 million people employed in the oil and gas and petrochemical industries, with nearly 94,000 African Americans and 283,500 Latinos. And the numbers look to grow in the future,” it said.

Citing an August 2015 American Petroleum Institute report on minority and female employment in the oil and gas and petrochemical industries for the American Petroleum Institute, NUL’s white paper said that millions of job opportunities could be created there by 2020, nearly 1.3 million through 2030, and 1.9 million through 2035 across the country.

“At a minimum, the [API] report estimates that African American and Latino workers could make up nearly 37% of all new and replacement jobs,” it continued. “Increased awareness about industry jobs, training, and opportunities in the industry among communities of color could greatly improve this outlook.”

It said that while the oil and gas industry should be recognized for assessing opportunities for minorities by providing data on current and future workforce opportunities as well as starting a conversation on greater inclusion, the sector still has a long way to go.

Ground could be lost

“In 2014, African Americans represented 12% of the US labor force yet only 7% of the oil and gas workforce,” Cravins’s report said. “Further, according to [API’s] own projections, African Americans are expected to make up slightly more than 6% of the workforce by 2035 if significant improvements are not made.”

While African American and Latino college enrollment is up by more than 1 million since 2008, “students of color still have low degree completion rates and low representation in STEM fields,” NUL’s report said. “African American students, like their Latino and Asian counterparts, are underrepresented in STEM programs and courses of study compared to their overall college enrollment rate. African Americans received just 7.6% of all STEM bachelor’s degrees and 4% of doctorates in STEM,” it said.

“This is where we need to put our emphasis if we want more of our people of color to be chemical engineers, petroleum geologists, or other energy industry professionals,” Cravins told OGJ. “There’s a real opportunity here because so many major universities’ petroleum engineering and other programs are looking for students to replace professionals who are preparing to retire,” he said.

“There must be sustained efforts to direct students of color into STEM disciplines starting in primary education and continuing through secondary school,” he recommended in his report. “Further, there must be a focus on vocational training as many energy sector jobs require only such training yet pay competitive salaries. Finally, there must be continued efforts to see students of color complete 2-year and 4-year college programs.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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