By Freddie Allen, Editor-in-Chief, NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com
As workers in the energy sector reach retirement age, the need to recruit, train and hire younger, more diverse talent will increase, dramatically.
That’s why the American Petroleum Institute (API), “the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry,” according to the group’s website, has increased their outreach and engagement efforts in the Black community.
According to a report by IHS Global prepared for API, “nearly 1.9 million direct job opportunities are projected through 2035 in the oil and natural gas and petrochemical industries” and “African Americans and Hispanics will account for over 80 percent of the net increase in the labor force from 2015 to 2035.”
David McGowan, the executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council (NCPC), said that the oil and natural gas industry “absolutely” sees the value in the ability of the Black Press to reach audiences that can benefit from learning more about opportunities in the energy sector; that’s especially true when it comes to reaching Black families with young children.
The key, McGowan said, is to empower parents and students, beginning in elementary school, with information about the importance of a rigorous education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics commonly known as STEM.
“Starting that conversation early with students and encouraging them to look at fields of study that would prepare them for any type of energy industry career path, whether that path is in oil and natural gas, electric utilities, wind, solar or renewables…if they have that STEM background they’re going to be better served as students and as future professionals than if they didn’t have that background,” McGowan said.
NCPC is the division of API that represents the oil and natural gas industry in North Carolina. McGowan joined API after serving as the director of regulatory affairs for the North Carolina Association of Realtors.
McGowan recently met with the North Carolina Black Press Association to discuss strategies for improving energy literacy and sharing aspects of the industry that many families in the Black community don’t know exist.
“It was a great first step in opening, what I hope will be, an on-going dialogue and relationship,” McGowan said. “That’s the model that we want to employ throughout our state network, because we recognize the value in those relationships.”
API partnered with the National Newspaper Publishers Association to increase the awareness about job and business opportunities in the energy sector. The NNPA is a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies in the United States, that reach more than 20 million readers, combined, in print and online every week.
“We not only have a need for a diverse workforce, but also a younger workforce,” McGowan said. “We need new workers to come into the industry.”
McGowan said that a critical component to NCPC’s outreach efforts in North Carolina also includes engagement with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the state.
In a partnership with the American Association of Blacks in Energy, NCPC hosted an event about opportunities in the energy sector at Winston-Salem State University. NCPC also invited HBCU students from schools like Johnson C. Smith University to attend an event focused on the oil and natural gas industry at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“We’re not neglecting college students, that’s still an important outreach avenue for us, but we’ve seen, more recently, that it’s also important to start getting in front of these students earlier,” McGowan said. “We start [reaching] them at the elementary, middle and high school levels so that they are aware of the opportunities in [STEM careers] and so that they’re best prepared to take advantage of those opportunities when they get to college.”
Touting the creation of job and business opportunities, McGowan said that his group advocates for expanding access to offshore environments and offshore waters off the coast of North Carolina for energy exploration and production in the Atlantic Ocean.
Earlier this year, The News and Observer reported that, “Supporters and opponents of offshore drilling gathered in Raleigh for the state’s only public hearing on the Trump administration’s controversial plan to open up the Atlantic coast for oil and gas exploration.”
While supporters of offshore drilling in North Carolina said that “the oil and gas industry would create good-paying, full-time jobs to prospect and later drill for oil and natural gas,” opponents argued that “oil spills would be an ever-present threat to the state’s environment, its tourism and fishing industries, and coastal people’s way of life,” The Observer reported.
The Virginian-Pilot reported that, President Donald Trump’s vision for dramatically expanding offshore exploration for oil and natural gas in the U.S., “calls for the largest auction of offshore leases in U.S. history—a total of 47 sales between 2019 and 2024, compared with 11 that had been scheduled in the 2017-2022 plan ironed out under President Barack Obama.”
The plan also includes three lease sales in the region that include federal waters off Virginia and North Carolina, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Still, McGowan said that, based on research provided by API, more than 50,000 jobs would be created by 2035, if offshore drilling and exploration moved forward off the coast of North Carolina.
McGowan continued: “That could be a tremendous opportunity, not only from an employment standpoint, but also from an economic development standpoint, as well.”