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Education & The Energy Workforce Workshop Series

“The Talent Pipeline: House Bill 5, Upskilling and Best Practices”
November 17, 2014

UH Energy presented its second energy workforce workshop series on the topic of “The Talent Pipeline: House Bill 5, Upskilling and Best Practices,” featuring Anne Ford of IPAA/PESA and Robert Sanborn of Children at Risk. The workshop was moderated by Catherine Horn of the UH Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department.

Ford and Sanborn opened the series with short introductory presentations on raising awareness of new educational programs and benefits available for students seeking a career in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Ford shared information on the newly instituted petroleum academies in Houston designed to provide students with multidisciplinary curricula in the sciences. According to the IPAA’s Energy Education Center website, the center establishes programs that coordinate and coexist with public schools in order to “address the projected loss of 50 percent of engineering and geosciences professionals” due to a lack of motivated students who require proper resources.

Five high schools, four located in Houston and one in Fort Worth, constitute the IPAA/PESA Energy Education Center Petroleum Academies. These academies have created initiatives to follow: “Real world experiences through participation in a paid externship program,” a focus on STEM academics as they relate to the exploration of respective career paths, and partnerships with oil and gas industry businesses and associations.

While Ford explained the advantageous opportunities associated with the Petroleum Academies, Sanborn followed with his account of critical student-related issues, such as the financial stresses of family income relative to funding in schools, the lack of motivation for students without the proper resources to actively seek higher education, and the means of acquiring those resources. 

Bi-annually, Children At Risk posts an online version of a report analysis titled “Growing Up in Houston: Assessing the Quality of Life of Our Children.” The 2014-2016 publication details and outlines the current problems and implications associated with the Texas state education system, case studies created and evaluated within the last documented period, community resources dedicated to providing schools with the necessary tools and links for education innovation, and demographics and percentages of current institution standings.

Separated by key components such as education, food access and security, health, demographics, and juvenile justice, the report indicates that only 61% of graduates from the 2010-2011 classes are enrolled in a Texas institution of higher education. Ford and Sanborn noted the urgency for opportunity reform based on the falling standardized test scores over the last three school terms. The 2014-2015 school year saw more than 50% of HISD students “who did not pass any of the state assessment subjects in any two of the preceding three years. These falling test scores have been attributed to a lack of funding for schools where the majority of students come from households living in poverty. With the federal poverty guideline for a family of four at a strikingly low $23,850, and the population of children in Harris County rising well beyond 1.18 million, Sanborn and Ford acknowledged the need for educational reform.

The consensus for discussion came to one conclusion: the demand for younger and newly educated workers requires improved, more resourceful educational practices, and consistent and proportional funding.

Authored by Rachel Henton