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Training next generation of workers begins with STEM and Energy Day

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Energy Day started in Houston to show the children of the Houston Independent School District how studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) could lead to really cool job with fun companies in the energy industry. With a national laboratory, various types of energy production along with colleges and universities focused on STEM subjects and energy, Colorado seemed the next natural fit as we looked to expand Energy Day. It also seemed the state and different players thought so too. 

Last fall, The Denver Post quoted a New American Economy study that said there were about 15 job openings for every unemployed STEM worker in Colorado in 2016.

Those are candidates educated or experienced in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing. Thus, STEM.

This means every STEM worker in the state had 15 job openings to choose from — and that 14 would-be employers were turned down, forced to look elsewhere, anywhere, for hard-to-find qualified candidates.

Colorado’s figure closely mirrored the national ratio of 13 to 1.

“Our work shows that the United States has a persistent and dramatic shortage of STEM workers — a problem that worsened considerably during the first half of the decade,” the report said.

The energy industry has had similar trouble finding and developing talent as the supplies needed to power our digital lives balloons.

Goldman Sachs, for instance, projected in 2016 that the energy sector would need to hire 80,000 to 100,000 workers by the end of this year to accommodate the uptick in U.S. land rigs.

Add in other forms of energy and those figures grow. For instance:

Provided, of course, we have the workforce do it.

That’s where our schools come in. Math and science are poised to assume greater significance as industries work to find employees with the chops to balance sustainability with keeping the lights on.

Efforts are already underway. They include:

  • Community colleges and four-year universities bolstering vocational training.
  • Programs in secondary schools increasing the number of STEM-ready graduates.

Denver’s Energy Day Festival

Then, there’s Consumer Energy Alliance’s (CEA) annual Energy Day Festival. One’s in Houston; the other is in Denver.

Both are free, family-focused events that attract record crowds and use real-world examples and interactive exhibits to showcase the fun students could have in their future careers if they used their classroom skills to pursue a STEM education and fill Colorado’s workforce-ready pipeline.

This year, at the Denver event slated for Saturday, Sept. 22, at East High School, 1600 City Park Esplanade, the following exhibits will be featured:

  • The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will showcase an electric vehicle to showcase the driving options of the future.
  • Students from the Colorado School of Mines will present an Hyperloop project, highlighting the next generation of transportation.
  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Dakota Ridge High School robotics team will present model electric cars from last May’s NREL’s annual Middle School Electric Car Competition.

Plans are underway to expand Energy Day into other cities and states in the coming years, to help more students become well-versed in the sciences and see how technological innovations help Americans set global standards in fields across conventional and renewable energy.

But we need more – from educators, parents, students and you. Energy Day alone won’t solve our STEM education and workforce needs, but it’s a start.

Come out and celebrate this great day of energy education with CEA. For more information, visit EnergyDayFestival.org.

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