At a recent meeting of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, Chevron CEO John Watson addressed an oft-raised question in energy workforce development: who is going to fill the shoes of an aging energy workforce, and what is the energy sector doing to prepare those future workers? Currently, African Americans hold only 8% of all jobs in the energy sector. Based on current demographics, Watson proposes that there is a significant opportunity to fill these soon-available positions with highly skilled minority workers.
According to the US Census Bureau, the US population is 63% white, 16.9% Hispanic or Latino, 13.1% black, and 7% other minorities. In contrast, Mississippi presents a very different population makeup: 59.9% white, 37.4% black, 2.9% Hispanic or Latino, and 1.6% other. As a state with a remarkably high concentration of the minority workforce and a unique position for growth in the energy industry, Mississippi could be ground zero for the advancement of minorities in energy.
The question for Mississippi, then, is not one of available and willing minority workers, but of preparedness. Currently, most employers say they cannot find enough workers who are proficient in STEM-related skills. At the high school and college level, the necessity of STEM learning often needs to be promoted alongside specific job opportunities in order to increase motivation; it is not enough to tell students the “what”, but also the “why”. Trade educations are directly tied to an end career. A public education campaign geared to increasing awareness of these shorter, less expensive, and often more profitable educational routes and the subsequent tangible rewards could be a great step to grow the number of minority workers in the energy industry.
Chart data from US Census Bureau.
 “Energy sector pushing minority employment”
 “Chevron CEO urges more diversity in energy employment”
 USA QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau
 Mississippi QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau
 Energy Jobs Report Survey conducted by Mississippi Energy Institute, 2013