Get Resources: STEM & Energy Industry


According to the National Science Board’s 2010 Science and Engineering Indicators, only 5 percent of college graduates in the United States major in engineering, compared with 12 percent of European students and 20 percent of those in Asia. The report also notes that the performance of elementary and secondary school students in the United States lags behind many nations on international assessments of mathematics and science. If we are to be globally competitive, it is imperative that our schools do a better job of generating interest in careers that have science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as their cornerstone. 

Since 2003, The U.S. Department of Labor has announced 22 investments totaling more than $37 million to address the workforce needs of the energy industry. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has sought to understand and implement industry-identified strategies to confront critical workforce challenges. ETA has worked with the energy industry to identify its hiring, training, and retention challenges in its sectors ranging from oil and gas to utilities and mining.

The challenges faced are far too complex for one institution or industry sector to solve alone. Solutions are based on the energy industry’s priorities that address the following issues:

  • Employers expect that up to half of their current workers will retire over the next five to 10 years.
  • Stereotyping of energy careers as unstable, dirty, and low-skilled causes qualified workers, especially youth, to be unaware of the many highly skilled, good-paying career opportunities.
  • Many training programs were scaled back or closed due to a downturn in the industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Programs have not ramped up at the same rate as the industry’s need has rebounded.
  • Employers in all sectors of the industry need workers who are more proficient in math, science, and, especially, technology than workers in the past.
  • Creative solutions are necessary to help experienced workers, who will be retiring, transfer their knowledge and skills to their replacements and to help new workers gain necessary skills as quickly as possible.
  • Few industry-defined, portable credentials have been developed in the energy industry. Additionally, some energy occupations lack unambiguous career ladders necessary for changing a perception that working in the industry is a viable career choice.