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Support Energy Jobs Bill

Posted by Admin On June - 5 - 2015
Op-Ed By Joe Gibbons
Much has been made about America’s new role as the world’s leading exporter of energy. Much less, though, has been said about the need to educate and train minorities for lucrative jobs in the nation’s energy industry. If there ever was a compelling goal for America in the 21st century, this is it.

Fortunately, there is legislation before Congress that will kickstart that effort, open the doors to jobs and careers to a larger segment of Americans and boost an important sector of this country’s economy – the 21st Century Energy Workforce Development Jobs Initiative Act of 2014, (H.R.4526).

The bill, originally sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., focuses on increasing the number of skilled minorities and women trained to work in the energy sector and requires the secretaries of Energy, Education and Labor to set up a comprehensive education and training program to boost minority participation in energy’s employment, entrepreneurial and ownership opportunities.

The oil and gas industry has wrestled with this issue for years, but a look at industry figures show that crafting an answer has been difficult. In 2014, for example, the American Petroleum Institute released a study that showed blacks represent about 8 percent of employees in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors – and just 6 percent of management, business and financial jobs.

What the energy sector already knows is that thanks to the growing demand worldwide for American energy, the industry must increase its employment opportunities for African Americans, women, Hispanics, veterans and other underserved communities.

Thanks to the anticipated industry growth, retirements and job turnover, the API study projects as many as 1.3 million new job opportunities through 2030 in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors, and believes blacks and Hispanics potentially could fill a third of those positions.

The dirty secret of lack of diversity also plagues the clean energy sector. According to the Solar Foundation’s 2013 National Solar Jobs Census, African Americans made up only 6 percent of the industry’s employment base. The numbers were better for women at 19 percent and for Hispanics, nearly 16 percent. Like the energy sector overall, women and ethnic minorities make up a smaller share of the solar workforce than of the broader U.S. economy.

Fortunately, Rush and other members of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee see the benefit of increasing opportunities for minorities within all sectors of the energy industry. The jobs supported by energy efficiency are diverse and require the skills that are now available in America’s workforce.

Not only would their bill provide students and job candidates with skills and certification for skilled and semi-skilled employment opportunities in the industry, but the bill also establishes a clearinghouse to serve as a resource on industry training programs for schools and workforce development programs.

The Energy Equity Alliance, along with other civil rights organizations and other non-profit groups that advocate for cleaner and more affordable energy support Rush’s efforts to provide greater opportunities for Americans in a vibrant and lucrative part of the American economy. We urge Congress to approve H.R. 4526 and send this badly needed jobs bill to the president’s desk.

Joe Gibbons is chairman and CEO of the Energy Equity Alliance, a national nonprofit that advocates for affordable clean renewable energy and better conservation policies for America’s low-income and minority energy consumers. He can be reached at 954-684-1880 or Joe@energyequityalliance.org.

Photo: Joe Gibbons

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