Skip to main content

Education & The Energy Workforce Workshop Series

“Short- and Long-term Workforce Needs from a Macro Perspective”
September 8, 2014

UH Energy launched its first energy workforce workshop on the topic “Short- and Long-term Workforce Needs from a Macro Perspective,” featuring guest speakers Elaine Barber, David Foster of the U.S. Department of Energy, and Jonathan Moore of Deloitte Consulting, LLP. Something all of the speakers agreed upon was that in order to fill the employment gap in middle skills jobs, particularly in the energy industry, was the need for better data on current workforce trends.

Elaine Barber discussed UpSkill Houston, an initiative that connects leaders from various sectors to address the issue of workforce development. The goal is to develop a properly trained employee base for the future needs of Houston industries, particularly in the fields of oil and gas, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, petrochemicals, and maritime jobs. UpSkill is currently focusing on middle skills jobs, which require more than a high school diploma but not as much as a four-year degree. The board has identified major gap areas: awareness, basic skills, data, and coordination among organizations already providing training. UpSkill is endeavoring to gather more accurate and timely data, promote awareness of the job gaps within the middle skills sector, coordinate between curricula developers and employers as to what skills are most critically needed, and increase communication among all stakeholders.

David Foster began his presentation by setting the scene out of which the Department of Energy’s job strategy comes. He noted that the economy has not fully recovered from the recent slump, that the issue of climate change more urgently needs to be addressed, and that the U.S., as an international leader, needs to show the way in the areas of energy production, technology, distribution, consumption, CCS, unconventional natural gas extraction, oil recovery, electric vehicles, renewables, etc. According to Mr. Foster, the “low cost energy producer in a highly efficient, low carbon economy will dominate the next generation.” He reminded the audience that our industrial economy was built in a time when energy was abundant and cheap, but the U.S. lost its advantage by outsourcing energy intensive projects, like manufacturing, instead of focusing on efficiency, and became a large importer of energy. However, Mr. Foster said we now have the opportunity to make a change towards a lower carbon economy given the technological advances in oil and gas extraction, policies and incentives in place to accelerate renewable energy, and the push for greater fuel efficiency. The Department of Energy has three strategies to create jobs and fill the employment gaps: 1) obtain better data, 2) connect the innovation technology of national labs and universities to economic development programs in the states, 3) enhance the workforce by identifying job skills and building curricula to train workers, creating a standardized certification process, and making workers aware of career pathways.

Jonathan Moore emphasized the importance of collecting data on the workforce, on jobs, and education and training, and using the data to fill the gaps in the employment pool. The problems in achieving this include the streamlining of technological innovation and globalization, high levels of worker attrition, a lack of graduates with required skills and the export of skilled employees. A solution Moore suggests is to identify, through predictive analytics and data collecting, where the workforce needs are, and to develop and expand retention and recruiting strategies based on that. Deloitte Consulting has conducted a survey on human capital trends that can help guide the direction of education and development of programs concerning preparing the upcoming workforce.

Authored by Sarah Mae Jones