According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the number of jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) industries, including oil and natural gas, is expected to grow 50 percent faster over the next decade than in non-STEM industries according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Moreover, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) estimates 50 percent of America’s petroleum workforce will retire over the next 10 years. Filling these jobs is both an economic imperative and an amazing opportunity for students, but our industry first must empower students with knowledge of the STEM career paths within their reach. To meet this need, the Petroleum Equipment and Services Association (PESA), is devoted to programs that reach children in high school, grades six through nine and grades three through five, where STEM education is critical.
PESA Member Companies, which represent the oilfield services and equipment sector, support STEM energy education in the Permian Basin, Houston and Dallas areas. In 2012, PESA partnered with the IPAA to expand PESA’s commitment to educational outreach through the IPAA/PESA Energy Education Center.
The IPAA/PESA Energy Education Center includes five Petroleum Academies — four in Houston and one in Fort Worth. IPAA/PESA Petroleum Academies provide high school students with an advanced, multidisciplinary learning experience in science, mathematics and the emerging technology concepts needed to pursue professional training and degrees in engineering, geology, geophysics and global energy management.
The IPAA/PESA Petroleum Academies have achieved an unprecedented level of success in preparing the next generation of talented professionals who will lead the oil and gas industry forward. To date, there are:
• 2,900 graduates
• 1,500 students currently enrolled for the 2018-19 school year
• 41 percent female participation
• Two-thirds of the student population is economically disadvantaged
• Significant impacts on first- generation college participation
• $900,000 in college scholarships awarded
• 642 student oil and gas industry externships awarded
The IPAA/PESA Energy Education Center has expanded with the introduction of the IPAA/PESA Middle School STEM Career Exploration Initiative, a digital program designed for middle school students. Grades six through nine are particularly critical years, as research published by Sadler, Sonnert, Hazari, & Tai shows that a key indicator of whether students will graduate high school with an interest in STEM is a demonstrated interest when they enter high school. Through the IPAA/PESA initiative, learners engage with interactive content and familiar environments to show them STEM in their world. Students utilize STEM skills such as critical thinking, data visualization and analysis, rapid prototyping and design thinking. Virtual career cards are integrated within the digital learning experience to expose students to STEM roles relevant to their interests.
The IPAA/PESA Middle School STEM Career Exploration Initiative will initially launch in the Permian. Phase one includes 10 schools in six school districts and will reach 600-800 middle school students in the 2018-19 school year.
PESA supports elementary students through the National Society of Black Engineers’ (NSBE) Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program, a free, three-week engineering immersion program that exposes third- through fifth-grade students in underrepresented communities to STEM education.
At SEEK, student teams learn to power a vehicle using chemistry and electricity, design and construct a vehicle that is powered by gravity, and explore the relationship between force and motion and the effects of weight and lift on gliders. Through initiatives like this one, NSBE is committed to increasing the number of African American engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact their communities. Other minority groups, such as women and people of color, are also included in NSBE’s outreach.
While 80 percent of jobs this decade will require STEM skills according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, a study by EVERFI Endeavor found only 40 percent of middle school students think of themselves as candidates for careers in STEM. Thus, to be on the right track for STEM career paths, children need to be educationally engaged early on so they can be excited about science.
For more information about PESA, please visit pesa.org.