Why the energy industry should invest in high-school education
The demand for new technologies and energy have created two parallel workforce phenomena— the development of new careers in the energy industry and the increased competency skills for technicians. From construction to business management, energy management issues are growing very important in a number of career pathways.
These jobs are high-skill, high-wage and in high demand. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of individuals with the necessary skills in energy practices, and employers seeking more technical workers often face bleak prospects. In many instances, while the technologies to support the energy industry have been or a
re being created, the industry lacks the skilled workforce necessary to implement and use these technologies. To some capacity, the need for human capital is proving to be a barrier to the continued growth and expansion in energy efficiency and sustainability.
Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs are poised and ready to ease the workforce bottleneck that could limit job growth in the energy sector and meet the need for energy job training across career areas. Community and political leaders, along with local business and industry, should look to CTE programs as the answer to this workforce challenge, and aim to invest in and expand these programs and opportunities so that even more students can participate. CTE programs are flexible and responsive to economic and workforce needs, placing them in a prime position to serve the growing and evolving energy industry.
The majority of our CTE programs include science, technology, and mathematics instruction coordinated with academic instruction; clearly articulated pathways to careers and postsecondary education; and some opportunities for work-based learning. CTE offers early exposure to students regarding energy career options through curriculum integration, provides the “cutting edge” training necessary to ensure future employees meet workforce pipeline needs. At all levels of education, from career exploration to specific job training, CTE has an essential role to play in energy and environmental sectors.
Not only does our economy need high-school and community-college graduates to fill nearly 1 million Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs in the next decade, but those students will reap enormous benefits from an education that prepares them for these jobs. The STEM report available at ccj-online.com/stem finds that people with a high-school diploma or less have higher lifetime earnings working in STEM jobs than in any other field. STEM jobs also pay more than all other fields for people with an associate’s degree, some college, or a postsecondary certificate.
We in the energy industry need to become important players in promoting STEM in high school. Around the country, CTE programs focused on a wide variety of energy technology ideas and practices have stepped up to ensure the continued pipeline of skilled workers with a strong knowledge foundation. These programs should be recognized for their leadership, and expanded so that even more students can participate. Community and political leaders, along with local business and industry, should look to CTE programs as the answer to the future energy workforce challenge.