Posted November 29, 2017
Technology has never been more important to our society and economy. It is transforming how we get around, communicate, learn and, most importantly, how we work. The innovative sectors driving these changes – science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) – currently comprise 20 percent of all U.S. jobs and are expected to grow 9 percent by 2040. Ensuring our children have the skills needed to be successful in these fields and part of the 21st century workforce they support, is critical for their economic future, and the world’s.
“As an industry that supports 10.3 million American jobs, many of which are STEM jobs, we have a great interest in better understanding and promoting the relationship between STEM education and employment.” -- Jack Gerard, API President and CEO
That’s why our member companies are invested in STEM programs across the country. These programs support kids and young professionals in hands-on learning environments to develop and spark their interest in STEM career paths. After all, STEM skills are the educational foundation to many well-paying positions and careers in the natural gas and oil industry.
Investing in Our Future
Today, API released a new RAND report that highlights the importance of STEM education and showcases a link between more STEM education and better employment opportunities in energy. Spencer Overton, President of The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said:
“This report will help shape government and education policies that will expand job opportunities and economic development for communities of color. The study 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 a growing sector, and it is critical that the future energy workforce reflect the diversity of our nation.”
The fact is, a STEM bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, for example, nearly doubles the likelihood of working in the natural gas and oil industry, while earning a degree in an industry-specific or related field increases the likelihood of working in the industry by three to seven times.
The advantage of having a degree in STEM is not lost on companies looking to hire their workforce of the future. Take the industry’s investment in the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME). Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Halliburton, Marathon Oil, Shell and Xcel Energy have all provided generous grants to TAME to support the organization’s programs and overall mission of encouraging Texas students to pursue careers in STEM.
“The Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering works with many natural gas and oil companies here in Texas to ensure that students are inspired and prepared to enter into STEM career paths.” -- Savita Raj, Executive Director of the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering
TAME has provided kids and young professionals in Texas communities with hands-on opportunities, giving them a feel for different career paths in STEM fields. The organization’s Trailblazer Program brings mobile museums to students across the state. Students can step inside these on-the-go trailers and learn about careers in energy, space, weather, biotechnology and aerodynamics.
TAME also works with its sponsors to host a statewide competition bringing hundreds of minority and female students together to work on designs provided by expert engineers. Of those students attending in 2016, 100 percent planned to attend college, with 91 percent looking to major in STEM. The industry’s investment and involvement with TAME is just one example of the commitment to investing in education and expanding the opportunities and skillsets of tomorrow’s engineers and scientists.
Industry investment in STEM is taking place all over the country. ExxonMobil is a founding sponsor of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) and has committed $125 million to the organization. NMSI works hard to empower teachers with knowledge and resources and equip students with the skills needed to achieve their goals.
Companies like BP are also doing their part to ensure that these students have the right resources at their disposal. From 2012-2016, BP spent almost $70 million in support of STEM efforts focusing on teacher training and development, sponsoring student programs that inspire learning and encouraging employees to volunteer as mentors.
A Comprehensive Effort for a Strong and Diverse Future
Our industry is committed to building a more diverse workforce for the future because incorporating as many backgrounds and viewpoints as possible will help our companies broaden their approaches to meeting energy challenges while also better reflecting modern society. That is why the natural gas and oil industry is working so hard to support STEM efforts with young women and minorities that have traditionally been underrepresented in the industry’s workforce. With nearly 1.9 million new job opportunities projected to be added to the industry by 2035, a proactive effort is needed to encourage more young women and minorities to pursue STEM education. Historically, women and minorities have made up just a fraction of graduates with STEM degrees.
To help get more young women interested in STEM, Exxon, in partnership with DiscoverE, has established Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. This program provides girls with role models who encourage and mentor their continued interest in math and sciences. During an annual one-day event, girls around the country participate in hands-on activities that illustrate how engineers are integral in building and advancing communities. Since 2003, over 10,000 students have participated in Girl Day activities at ExxonMobil facilities or through classroom demonstrations.
Our member companies, like Schlumberger, understand that a diverse workforce means different perspectives on solving problems, and innovative solutions. As the fourth largest employer of computer scientists in the U.S., they seek to inspire the next generation with opportunities, like their all-female coding events and workshops. The company coordinates with organizations and businesses to expose these young women to the real-life applications and opportunities STEM provides. Additionally, they sponsor over 60 robotics and coding clubs in Houston and New Orleans.
As a global industry, the benefits and progress diverse ideas can provide doesn’t stop at the U.S. border. So we are reaching out and providing local children around the world with the resources needed to help them develop a deep love of STEM, too. Shell, for example, supports programs in 16 countries aimed at engaging children and inspiring them in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This includes supporting the Al Amal program in Egypt, launching the Generation Discover Festival in The Netherlands, and inviting secondary school students to participate in the Bright Ideas Challenge in Singapore, among others. This type of international engagement not only energizes the boys and girls that will one day power the natural gas and oil industry, but it fosters global economic and educational development.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Wallace is an associate of research and content development for the American Petroleum Institute. Before joining API she was a researcher and policy analyst at America’s Natural Gas Alliance, and worked on pollinator conservation programs and state wildlife conservation policies before entering the energy industry. Kate graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in Resource Economics, and earned her Master of Public Administration from George Mason University. She loves taking her dogs on hikes, travelling and navigating the northern Virginia/DC craft beer and wine scenes with her friends and family.