When it comes to diversity in the workplace, the oil and gas industry in the U.S. still has room for improvement. African-American workers accounted for 8.2% of total employment for the U.S. oil, gas and petrochemical industries in 2010 with about 98,000 jobs, according to an analysis conducted by IHS and sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute (API). Hispanic workers held a larger share—8.2%, or 188,000 jobs—across the industry segments. U.S. Census figures show blacks make up about 13% of the U.S. population, and Hispanics make up nearly 17%. But the latest report brought by IHS and API on the issue points out that the energy revolution underway in the U.S. could pave the way for future job opportunities. About 408,000, or 32%, of the up to 1.3 million new jobs in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries are projected to be held by African-American and Hispanic workers by 2030, according to the report. Jobs are expected to be created as aging baby boomers leave the workforce. The report also projected that African-American and Hispanic workers could make up nearly 20% of the management, business and financial job opportunities, and “tremendous opportunities” will exist for workers in blue collar occupations by 2030. All told, minority employment in these sectors is forecasted to surge from one-quarter of the total in 2010 to one-third of the total in 2030. This is all good news, considering a diversified workforce brings a wider range of ideas, skill sets, experiences and other contributions to companies. And this could prove beneficial not only inside companies, promoting inclusiveness and perhaps increased staff retention and productivity, but also outside of companies. Diversity can be critical when companies try to tap into foreign or new domestic markets. But diversifying the oil patch requires making sure there is a pool of qualified job seekers. That means getting students involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Earlier is better. Paula Jackson, president and CEO of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), and José L. Pérez, chairman and CEO of Hispanics in Energy, touched on this aspect in a news release issued by the API. “As the study highlights job opportunities, it signals the tremendous need to prepare African Americans, Hispanics and women to be ready to fill the workforce gap,” Jackson said. "These jobs in the oil and natural gas industry don't just put people to work, they help to transform communities." Pérez called the report a “road map for workforce development stakeholders to align the content of their training with a sense of urgency to adequately prepare people for energy jobs.” As members of AABE gather in Houston this week for their annual convention, increasing minority employment will likely be part of the discussion as the association discusses issues impacting the global energy scene, innovative solutions and partnering opportunities. The group’s efforts toward filling the pipeline with minority energy professionals include offering scholarships to high school students planning to major in one of the STEM disciplines as well as hosting programs and participating in activities that promote energy industry careers, according to its website. AABE and others with energy interests should work to make minorities more aware of opportunities in the energy sector, Jackson told the Houston Chronicle’s Fuel Fix. “There’s got to be some sort of education and conversation with people about this viable industry that’s innovative, that’s interesting, that also pays you well and gives you the opportunity to raise a family,” she said in the article. Further diversifying the workforce is a goal that is well within reach with some hard work on the part of not only those advocating for the cause but those seeking the positions. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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