By Freddie Allen
When it comes to preparing the next generation for careers in science, technology engineering and mathematics, also known at “STEM,” Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said that leaders in the oil and natural gas industry have to answer the “awareness question.”
“There are many people out there, today, that don’t really understand the oil and natural gas industry or the opportunities that it can present for them, their families and for well-paying careers,” said Gerard. “It’s incumbent upon us, as an industry, to have this dialogue more often and to intensify this discussion, so that people really understand,” the connection between the oil and natural gas industry and their everyday lives.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, recently hosted a panel discussion focused on increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM careers and in the oil and natural gas industry. API, the only national trade group representing all facets of the oil and natural gas industry, according to the group’s website, supports 10.3 million jobs in the United States and nearly 8 percent of the U.S. economy.
The panel discussion coincided with the release of a new RAND report titled, “Postsecondary Education and STEM Employment in the United States.” The report, which was prepared for API, examined national education trends and the relationship between degree attainment and employment and wages, specifically in STEM fields.
“Many of tomorrow’s best paying careers, at all levels, will require some kind of training or education in a STEM discipline,” said Gerard.
STEM degrees can lead to higher earnings and can help to close the wage gap between Blacks and Whites. Those higher earnings are even more pronounced in the oil and gas industry.
Blacks with STEM bachelor’s degrees earn $45.15 in hourly wages in the oil and natural gas industry, compared to Blacks with non-STEM bachelor’s degrees, who make $28.10 per hour, according to the RAND report.
Whites with STEM bachelor’s degrees make slightly more per hour than Blacks with STEM degrees working in the oil and natural gas industry ($45.26 vs. $45.15).
The hourly wage gap is higher between Whites and Blacks with non-STEM degrees that work in the oil and gas industry ($37.73 vs. $28.10).
According to the 2016 report titled, “Minority and Female Employment in the Oil & Natural Gas and Petrochemical Industries, 2015-2035” by IHS Global prepared for API, “nearly 1.9 million direct job opportunities are projected through 2035 in the oil and natural gas and petrochemical industries” and “African Americans and Hispanics will account for over 80 percent of the net increase in the labor force from 2015 to 2035.”
Dr. Calvin Mackie, a motivational speaker and founder of STEM NOLA, a program that exposes students from underserved communities to STEM careers, said that if the oil and natural gas industry is going to recruit minorities to fill some of those 1.9 million jobs, industry leaders “have to go where most people don’t want to go” and that’s into Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Mackie continued: “We have to make sure that we expose every kid to the possibility of STEM, because the future will belong to those that can play in it and create it and all of our kids deserve that possibility.”