UH Energy Symposium to Focus on Future Energy Workforce

Despite Current Slowdown, Industry and Academia Say Next Generation is Key

The energy industry has warned for years of the coming “crew change,” sparked both by the looming retirement of baby boomers and a hiring freeze during the 1980s oil bust that left a lingering gap in the workforce.

That concern hasn’t gone away, despite recent job losses in the upstream oil and gas industry caused by the sharp drop in crude oil prices. Both issues will be part of the final debate in the 2014-15 Energy Symposium Series at the University of Houston.

 “The industry is thinking long-term,” said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at UH. “Finding and hiring the right people is key to a company’s success, and companies are very engaged in ensuring the talent pipeline is producing the mix of skills that will be needed in the decades to come.”

The debate, “Energy Workforce: How Do We Prepare for the Future?” will be Tuesday, March 31, at the UH Student Center South Theater. The debate begins at 5:30 p.m.

Speakers include U.S. Rep. Pete Olson; John Colborn, director of Skills for America’s Future at the Aspen Institute, and Elaine Cullen, former researcher with the U.S. Bureau of Mines and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Cullen now has a consulting company, Prima Consulting Services.

"While oil prices are falling right now, the state of Texas is still the No. 1 producer of oil and gas and will be for many years to come,” Olson said. “New technologies and our state's abundance of energy mean we need a consistent supply of Texas’ best and brightest, ready and trained to help bring that energy to market. Schools across Texas like UH are filling a critical need to educate and train our students of today for the energy workforce of tomorrow."

In preparation for the debate, UH Energy hosted a series of workshops, featuring experts from the Department of Energy, the Greater Houston Partnership, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the American Institutes for Research, among others. They addressed a range of energy workforce issues, starting with attracting students to STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – as well as so-called middle-skill jobs, which don’t require a four-year degree but do require post-secondary training.

The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Register at www.uhenergyseries.eventbrite.com. Parking is available in the Welcome Center garage.