By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

At the latest count, there were more than 8 million people age 16 or older who do not have jobs, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Yet, the number of jobs with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at their core is growing and projected to continue doing so, especially as the nation’s workforce grays.

U.S. Education Department data show that the number of system software developer and computer systems analysts jobs, for example, will grow by 32% and 22%, respectively. These positions are just a few of the fields that experts believe will see future growth.

“The skills gap continues to widen and something needs to be done to engage students in STEM education in other areas of their lives, not just in the classroom,” said Kathleen van Keppel of the Consumer Energy Alliance.

The Energy Day festival—organized by the Consumer Energy Alliance and the Consumer Energy Education Foundation with support from the energy sector and others—will provide an opportunity to do just that.

Scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 17 at Sam Houston Park in Houston, the free event will feature more than 70 exhibits and demonstrations with music, food and games. Attractions for the festival—geared toward students in kindergarten through 12th grade—will include petrochemical magic tricks, energy-generating bicycles, robotics, subsea ROV demonstrations and an LNG “magician” with plenty more hands-on activities, organizers said.

The event can help build a pipeline of future engineers, scientists, researchers and tradesmen, Van Keppel said, later noting it will expand next year to Midland, Texas, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City.

“Interactions with energy experts and hands-on experiments can help cement an interest in STEM education in student’s minds,” she added. “It’s also a great opportunity for parents and teachers to learn more about STEM and the energy industry.”

Plus, the festival can be an opportunity for not only energy companies, but also STEM-related companies to get involved by interacting with students and consumers.

In 2014, the festival attracted about 25,000 people. This year, organizers expect more people to attend. Additions include the Nissan Leaf Ride & Drive Course and a live performance from country music singer Alyssa Bagley.

“Students and parents can expect a broader array of displays and booths, and a more interactive experience from start to finish,” she added.

But the festival is not just about having fun. Organizers are awarding scholarships.

To date, more than 300 students have been awarded nearly $60,000 total from the Consumer Energy Alliance and Consumer Energy Education Foundation. This year organizers said more than 120 students and teachers will receive more than $15,000 in awards.

STEM might not be at the forefront of the minds of oil and gas executives, given today’s low commodity prices, cost cuts and the layoffs of thousands of workers amid an abundance of oil. But it is definitely not something to put on the back burner.

The industry needs to do all that it can to help young people see the importance of STEM. Events like the Energy Day festival can make a big difference. Get more information about Energy Day at

Velda Addison can be reached at