Three key components of a thriving economy are the availability of natural resources (mineral commodities) as building blocks to develop and to produce goods and services; steady, reliable sources of energy; and the ability to use these raw materials to drive commerce—specifically, a capable workforce and an economic system.
The United States has access to both natural resources and energy. However, a look into the future reveals that there are challenges related to these vital components that must be overcome if the United States is to maintain its economy and standard of living.
Energy in the United States comes from a range of sources, including oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear, solar, wind, and geothermal sources. Each of these industries is an important piece of the nation’s energy “quilt.” Carbon dioxide (CO2) is also of interest when considering energy conversion processes since it is a by-product of coal- or gas-fired power plants and petroleum refineries. It also is associated with global warming and climate change. The process of geologic carbon sequestration is the subsurface storage of CO2 and it falls within the area of carbon capture and storage, or more recently renamed carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS). CCUS activities affect energy production and utilization because these activities are intended to minimize the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere, and to provide CO2 to enhance the production of oil from mature oil fields through the process of CO2-enhanced oil recovery.
A trained and skilled workforce of sufficient size is necessary to provide the energy and mineral resources that the nation needs. Considering the importance of energy and mineral resources to our national prosperity and security, it is important for the nation and its leaders and planners to know the current state of
Statement of Task
An ad hoc committee will conduct a study of the availability of skilled workers to meet the energy and mineral security requirements of the United States.
This study will include an analysis of:
(1) The need for and availability of workers for the oil, natural gas, coal, geologic carbon sequestration, nuclear, geothermal, solar, wind, and non-fuel minerals industries;
(2) The availability of skilled labor at both entry level and more senior levels; and
(3) Recommendations for actions needed to meet future labor requirements.
Specifically, this study will, to the extent possible given available data:
(1) Provide historic and current trends in the size, growth, and demographics of the workforce in these industries, disaggregating for each industry and sector (business, government, and academia) and identifying the main worker groups by sector and occupation.
(2) Examine key labor market characteristics of the workforce in each industry, including sectoral workplace practices and any labor market impediments, constraints, and failures.
(3) Discuss future demand for and supply of workers in these industries, sectors, and occupations.
(4) Describe current and projected education and training programs for these groups at community and technical colleges and universities or through other on-the-job or job-specific training and re-training initiatives.
(5) Discuss the potential for skilled foreign labor meeting projected sectoral labor requirements.
(6) Assess potential job health and safety impacts and national security of a long-term (more than three years) workforce shortage or surplus.
(7) Describe and evaluate data sources available, federal data collection and coordination, and possible research initiatives for future decision making on workforce issues.
the energy and mining workforce. Insight into the future of the energy and mining workforce is also necessary for avoiding possible disruptions in the supply of energy and mineral resources. In addition, well-informed decisions and plans can be made to determine how these industries and their workforce should develop in order to continue to meet national needs.
Because of the national importance of the energy and mining workforce, the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory contracted with the National Research Council (NRC) to perform a study of the emerging workforce trends in the U.S. energy and mining industries. Accordingly, the NRC convened a committee of experts to perform the study and to prepare this report on its findings. The statement of task for the study is shown in Box 1.1.
This report focuses on the current and future availability of a workforce that has the skills necessary to recover raw materials and to generate the energy
needed in the decades to come in the face of increasing global competition. Included in this report are discussions on the mining of metals, nonmetals, aggregates, and coal; oil and gas extraction; nuclear, solar, wind, and geothermal energy production; and the related industries associated with CCUS and the electric power grid that will make it possible to use the energy we create.
The report considers a multifaceted workforce that includes entry-level workers, technical and professional employees, managers and leaders, and professors and researchers as well as the “pipeline”1 that prepares them for the workforce. The study committee recognizes that creation of a skilled workforce begins at an elementary school level, that the nation depends on these workers to be capable in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and that this prerequisite creates a parallel requirement for an educational system that can effectively teach these subjects. The report therefore includes discussions on K-12 STEM competencies, the role of community colleges in strengthening those competencies, and the state of higher education in relation to the nation’s ability to graduate the engineers and scientific professionals needed for the workforce. The report also includes a discussion of the federal workforce needed to provide oversight of resource management, regulatory support for safety and health, as well as environmental protection, training, and research. The topic of safety and health is of critical importance in any consideration of the workforce, and to address this concern the report contains a discussion of workforce safety and health issues.
As shown in Figure 1.1, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting a steady increase in the demand for energy through 2035. The increase is expected to be both domestic and international. Although the makeup of the energy “quilt” may change over time, it is extremely unlikely that the energy sector itself will weaken or disappear altogether. Similarly, the minerals necessary to build the energy infrastructure and to produce the goods it makes possible also play a vital role in the nation’s future. It is important that these sectors work together in order to support the future we envision, and their success depends on a skilled workforce.
The energy and extractive sectors will continue to grow to support the increasing population, and they will be looking for the qualified employees that are necessary to do the work. The jobs in these sectors are very high paying, compared with jobs in other industries. As this report discusses, the very future of the United States depends on a workforce that is competent in STEM. Growing energy and mining sectors combined with a current workforce that is aging and preparing to retire are creating unprecedented opportunities for young people
1 For this report, the pipeline is defined as K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions and programs, including community colleges, universities, vocational technical institutes, specialty training facilities and programs, and apprenticeship programs that train and prepare people to join the energy and mining workforce.
FIGURE 1.1 Primary energy use by fuel, 1980-2035 (quadrillion Btu). SOURCE: EIA (2012a, Fig. 73, p. 76).
interested in these fields. The demographics of the United States are changing, with increases in populations from other countries, and growing numbers of women and minority students entering the workforce and earning college degrees. It is key for the nation to look for new workers with both traditional and nontraditional backgrounds in order to provide future employees at all levels. The future is very bright if we choose to prepare for it.
The scope of this study is quite broad, covering the workforce for the U.S. oil, natural gas, coal, geologic carbon sequestration, nuclear, geothermal, solar, wind, and nonfuel minerals industries. Therefore, not every portion of the energy and mining workforce could be considered in detail within this study. The focus of the study was placed primarily on the production or extractive portion of the energy and mining industries because these are the fundamental sources of the supply of energy and minerals. The infrastructure that extends beyond these basic footprints to the users of the energy and mineral resources is not considered in detail with respect to workforce needs and issues.
The one specific exception to this approach is the electric grid, including the Smart Grid (an improved electric grid with greatly enhanced performance as discussed in Chapter 4). The reasons for this exception are: (1) the lack of an
expanded and enhanced grid infrastructure poses a limitation on the expansion of the renewable energy sectors (wind and solar, in particular); and (2) so much is being said about the promise of the Smart Grid that a brief overview of the grid helps to identify its central features, along with potential enhancements and associated impacts on the energy picture and workforce.
There are other industry components beyond the basic production and extraction footprints that are touched on but not pursued in substantial detail with respect to workforce needs and issues. Appendix B gives an overview of the U.S. energy and mining workforce (overall and for each of the mature sectors), based on data from federal government sources. This discussion is largely based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)—the standard industrial classification system used by government statistical agencies—and it includes all of the NAICS industry codes that apply to the energy and mining industries. Some of these NAICS codes apply to the workforce beyond the basic production and extraction footprints, and the discussion gives a variety of information about such industry segments. This, in turn, provides the reader with a sense of the size (current and projected) and other characteristics of these industry segments, but no further exploration of them is pursued with respect to workforce issues. Examples of industry components that are not explored in detail include oil and gas pipelines, rail distribution, trucking distribution, power lines/electricity distribution systems (past a general overview of the grid, including the Smart Grid), power plant construction (except nuclear plants and geothermal facilities), petroleum refineries, wholesale and retail trade, equipment leasing, and equipment and machinery repair. Also, although other energy sources, such as hydroelectric sources and biofuels contribute to the nation’s supply of energy, they are not included in the study’s Statement of Task, and therefore, are not covered in this report.
In conducting this study, the committee considered the information and data available from a range of sources, including federal, industry, industry association, professional society, and academic. The committee found that different entities collect and analyze data for their own particular purposes; consequently, they collect different data in different ways and they do not coordinate their data collection and analysis efforts. This makes direct comparisons of data from these different sources difficult and imprecise and combining data sets generally impossible. In addition, no single entity collects, analyzes, and reports data on all aspects of the energy and mining workforce. As a result, the data that are available are not sufficiently consistent and comprehensive or refined to an adequate level of detail to provide a complete and precise description of the workforce. When they exist, workforce projections are frequently near-term and carry significant uncertainty. However, the committee found that, despite their substantial
shortcomings, the available data and information do provide a clear indication of the general nature of the energy and mining workforce and the important trends, issues, and concerns related to it.
Data from federal sources were used where possible because they are heavily vetted and well accepted. These data sources were used to provide a snapshot of the nature and composition of the U.S. energy and mining workforce. In characterizing the workforce, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) information mainly was used because the BLS is the primary federal agency responsible for collecting and disseminating information about the U.S. workforce. As an independent agency, the BLS is the single best source of objective information about the U.S. energy and mining workforce. However, information from the BLS (and other federal agencies) utilizes standardized coding schemes (such as standardized industry and occupation classifications) that limit the way in which the energy and mining workforce can be examined. The other federal data sources that were used to characterize the workforce are the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and the Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration. FedScope was also used to provide workforce information on the primary federal agencies responsible for management and oversight of energy and mining.
As noted above, the use of BLS data for examining the energy and mining workforce has limitations primarily associated with the NAICS. Because the mature industries of oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, and mining (coal and nonfuel minerals) have been in operation for some time, NAICS codes exist that relate to these industries. Although the NAICS codes of relevance to the mature industries do not all uniquely map to each one of the mature industries, the NAICS categories do match fairly well with these industries with only a modest amount of overlap. Nuclear electric power generation is the only nuclear energy activity that is associated with a unique NAICS code.
Whereas there are NAICS codes that are helpful in understanding the more mature industries, this is not the case for the emerging industries (solar, wind, geothermal, and CCUS), making it currently infeasible to examine or project the workforce in each of these areas using BLS data. This limitation may be mitigated in time as the NAICS codes are updated.
The use of BLS data for determining employment is complicated and it does not provide a clean and complete view. The BLS’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages offers the advantage of a high level of industry detail (employment information is available at the 6-digit-level NAICS code), facilitating the disaggregation of employment into the industries of interest. A drawback is its exclusion of self-employed workers, which results in an employment undercount. The BLS’s Current Population Survey includes self-employed workers, although with less industry detail. This survey of households captures information by industry based on the 2007 Census industry classification system, which is derived from the 2007 NAICS taxonomy, but there is not a one-to-one mapping
between these codes. However, a crosswalk can be used to map the two classification systems.
The EIA is the government body that collects, analyzes, and disseminates energy information. Data from the EIA were used to describe current and projected future industry markets and trends, which in turn provide possible insights into the related industry employment trends. The EIA also projects employment for the oil and gas extraction and coal mining sectors, based on BLS data.
Where data on market size, trends, and projections, and on employment were available from sources other than the federal government, they were also used to provide a more complete view of each industry and its workforce. These sources included industry, industry associations, professional societies, and academic sources. Given the limitations of the federal data, these additional data were helpful in supplementing the committee’s understanding of the industries and their workforces, especially in the case of the emerging industries.
There are drawbacks associated with the use of data from these other sources, particularly industry, industry associations, and professional societies. These sources typically act as advocates for their respective communities. Therefore, their data may be valid, but the data also may be nuanced by the ways in which they were collected, compiled, analyzed, and presented, which results in some uncertainty about the data and the limits of their application. Moreover, these data were collected to meet specific needs and they do not provide a complete view of the energy and mining workforce.
Following the Summary and Chapter 1 Introduction, Chapter 2 presents a discussion of the “mature” sectors included in this study—oil and gas, nuclear energy, and mining (including coal and nonfuel minerals)—and their workforce characteristics and issues. These industries are considered mature because they have been in existence for a long time and they are well established and well understood. Although mature, however, these industries continue to change.
Chapter 3 follows with a discussion of the “emerging” sectors—solar, wind, and geothermal energy, and CCUS—and their workforce characteristics and issues. These sectors are considered emerging because they are not as long established as those discussed in Chapter 2, and their pieces of the future U.S. energy quilt are still evolving.
Chapter 4 presents a discussion of the electric grid (including the Smart Grid, an emerging part of the energy infrastructure). As noted above, the grid is discussed in some detail (albeit from an overview level) because the lack of an expanded and enhanced grid limits expansion of the renewable energy sectors (wind and solar, in particular).
Because the federal government has such a significant role in the domestic production and distribution of energy and raw materials, if the government cannot
find qualified workers, the energy and extractive industries will be dramatically impacted as a result. A discussion of federal workforce issues is provided in Chapter 5. Of similar crosscutting importance is the area of workforce safety and health in the extractive industries, and this is the subject of Chapter 6.
Workforce education and training related to each of the energy and mining sectors are discussed in their respective sector sections of the report. The broader issues of education and training affecting the range of energy and mining industries are discussed in Chapter 7. This discussion includes a description of the significant challenges that currently exist and that are anticipated for the future workforce, as well as promising approaches for addressing them. Chapter 8 contains a set of key findings and recommendations that are based on a detailed overview in Appendix B of the U.S. energy and mining workforce, which is derived from federal data sources. Chapter 9 provides the overarching conclusions of the study.
Accurate and refined data are essential for a clear picture of the size, characteristics, and trends of the energy and mining workforce, and are an important consideration in this report. Data are available from a range of sources, and multiple sources are used in the discussions throughout the report. However, as noted above, the data from the various sources were originally collected by those sources in different ways and for different purposes, and they are therefore quite disparate, making refined comparisons and linkages difficult.
Appendix A describes the federal data sources that are most relevant to an examination of the energy and mining workforce. Using these vetted and broadly accepted federal data, Appendix B provides an overview of the U.S. energy and mining workforce, addressing trends in workforce size, growth, and demographics, disaggregating each industry by sector and occupation. Appendix C contains detailed tables of the workforce data obtained from federal sources. The federal government data, although not available for all sectors and not all refined to the level of greatest detail, provide a unified and vetted view of the workforce. Data from other appropriate and knowledgeable sources are also used throughout the report to help fill gaps and broaden the constrained workforce view afforded with the federal data. The key workforce issues and trends are clearly identifiable despite the disparate and incomplete nature of the workforce data that are currently available.
To capture the key fundamental themes contained in the full array of their findings and recommendations, the committee formulated a set of overarching findings and recommendations, which is contained in the report’s Summary. The
full set of findings and recommendations, as well as the information and data to support them, are provided throughout the report.
Several recommendations that are shared across the mature and renewable industries described in Chapters 2 and 3 are given in the final sections of those chapters. Important industry-specific recommendations for each of the industries are given in their respective sections of the report. In addition, through its discussion and set of recommendations, Chapter 7 lays out an approach to education and training that applies to the range of energy and mining industries covered in this report (except that the final recommendation does not apply to nuclear, solar, or wind energy). Chapter 8 presents a set of key findings and recommendations that are based on a detailed overview in Appendix B of the U.S. energy and mining workforce, which is derived from federal data sources.