The sectors of oil and gas, nuclear energy, and mining (including nonfuel and coal mining) have been in existence for a long time and are well established. Therefore, although these industries continue to change, they are well understood and considered to be mature. In this chapter, an introduction of each sector is followed by detailed discussion of each industry including market trends and projections, occupational categories, career pathways, employer needs and challenges, workforce education and training, possible solutions, potential impact of innovation, conclusions, and recommendations.
This chapter also highlights examples of very effective educational programs that are addressing workforce issues. These programs primarily target minority sectors of the young population—a pool that traditionally has not been tapped but which is needed for the future workforce. These approaches could have application across the energy and mining sectors and serve as examples for industry, academia, and government to consider and emulate.
Recommendations of importance for each of the mature industries along with the information and data to support them, are provided within their respective chapter sections. In addition to these industry-specific recommendations, a set of Shared Recommendations that apply across the industries are presented at the end of the chapter.
Since no single source of complete workforce data exists, the committee relied on data from a number of sources. As the most objective and officially vetted and accepted data available, the committee used data from the federal government wherever possible. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data were used
for all of the mature industries. In addition, data from the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) were used for the mining workforce, and data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) were used for the oil and gas extraction and coal mining workforces. However, the government data do not provide a complete picture of the workforce within the industries of interest in this study. Therefore, in each industry, the committee also drew upon other sources of information in order to gain a more complete picture of the associated workforce and its issues.
As noted in Chapter 1 and discussed in detail in Appendix B, this report primarily uses workforce data from the BLS. However, there are limitations to using BLS data (primarily associated with the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), the standard industrial classification system used by the BLS and other federal statistical agencies). Because the mature industries have existed for some time, NAICS codes exist that relate to these industries. However, with the exception of nuclear electric power generation, the NAICS codes of relevance are not all uniquely mapped to each one of the mature industries.
Workforce information, data, and projections from sources other than the federal government are discussed as appropriate in each of the mature industry sections. Variations among data from different sources are noted in the discussions. Additional information about these data can be obtained from their associated referenced sources.
Some general points should be mentioned. Workforce estimates and near-term projections related to the oil and gas workforce from several studies are given. Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) workforce estimates for the nuclear power industry, as well as NEI long-range workforce estimates (based on a potential industry scenario), are provided. Also, workforce projections for coal mining to 2030 from a study by the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research are given. The projection timeframes vary among the different data sources.
Industry market trends and projections also provide insights into possible workforce trends. The EIA is the source of energy statistics from the U.S. government, so EIA data are used to describe market trends and projections to 2035 for oil, gas, and coal production, and for nuclear power generation. Another source of trend and near-term projected trend information for oil and gas production is noted.
A big crew change is underway in the oil and gas industry. A “big crew change” refers to a rapid shift in industry demographics, triggered by mass retirements of baby boomers, resulting in a shortage of experienced technical talent.
Industry Overview and Profile
The oil and gas industry satisfies more than 60 percent of the total U.S. energy demand and more than 99 percent of the fuel used in U.S. vehicles (PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2009). In 2010, domestic oil and gas production totaled more than $244 billion (EIA, 2011c), and the industry has seen a renaissance of new drilling and production driven largely by technology associated with new production from shale reservoirs, deep-water discoveries, and heavy-oil development.
The nation depends on foreign sources for 49 percent of its 19.2 million-bbl/ day consumption of liquid fuels. On the other hand, 89 percent of the 24 trillion cubic feet of natural gas consumed in the United States is produced within the continental United States (EIA, 2012a).
Production Regions of the United States
Hydrocarbons are produced from 22 states. Well over 80 percent of hydrocarbon production is from onshore operations. Large additional resources have been estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to exist in the undrilled outer continental shelf regions of the eastern United States, offshore California, and eastern Gulf of Mexico, where a drilling moratorium currently exists.
Industry Size, Employment, and Structure
Based on 2007 data, the total operational oil and gas workforce has been estimated to be 7,818,437 workers (2,123,291 direct and 5,695,146 indirect and induced), according to one source (PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2009). This number encompasses all types of employment, from oil and gas well drilling to petroleum and petroleum products merchant wholesalers to gasoline stations—a far broader footprint than is the focus of this study.
The BLS also reports oil and gas workforce data (see discussion in Appendix B). Table 2.1 shows BLS employment data for 2010 for the NAICS industry codes that are unique to oil and gas. The exploration and production (E&P) technical workforce (“upstream” workforce) is estimated to be 494,201 workers. The “midstream” technical sectors of pipeline construction and transportation total around 250,608, and the “downstream” technical workforce is 72,689 workers in refining. Altogether for these NAICS industry codes, the total employment is 817, 498, with the vast majority in the private sector (an additional 7,699 workers, not shown, are in the local government sector)—see Table B.12.
The data in Table 2.1 are from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (BLS, 2011d) and include employees of oil- and gas- producing companies as well as service companies that work on a contract or fee basis. However, these data exclude self-employed workers and unpaid family workers, leading to an undercount. This factor contributes to a portion of the difference between the BLS total and the PriceWaterhouseCoopers (2009) total (which covers a much
TABLE 2.1 2010 Upstream Technical Oil and Gas Employment (light gray), Midstream Employment (gray), and Downstream Employment (dark gray).
|NAICS Code||NAICS Title||Total Employment||Private Sector Employment||Private Sector Average Hourly Earnings|
|211||Oil and Gas Extraction||158,423||158,423||$35.94|
|213111||Drilling Oil and Gas Wells||74,491||74,497||n/a|
|213112||Support Activities for Oil and Gas Operations||201,685||201,685||$24.43|
|2212||Natural Gas Distribution||115,138||108,605||$31.49|
|23712||Oil and Gas Pipeline and Related Structures Construction||92,319||92,039||$24.51|
|333132||Oil and Gas Field Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing||59,602||59,602||n/a|
|Total Upstream Employment||494,201|
|Total Midstream Employment||250,608|
|Total Downstream Employment||72,689|
NOTE: Earnings information includes overtime. SOURCES: BLS (2011d [employment]; 2012a [average hourly earnings]).
broader view of the overall oil and gas industry). Table 2.1 also shows average hourly earnings, indicating that jobs in these sectors pay well.
However, a BLS estimate for a 2010 employment level that includes self-employed, wage and salary, and unpaid family workers is available for the oil and gas extraction sector only through the BLS Employment Projections Program. Therefore, this more complete level of 2010 employment for this NAICS code is given in Table B.14 (158,900, compared to 158,423 from Table 2.1, which is based on the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages). Unfortunately, estimates of self-employed and unpaid family workers are not available for the sectors of drilling oil and gas wells and support activities for oil and gas operations.
Table B.13 provides a BLS historical view of the average annual U.S. oil and gas employment by NAICS industry code for 2005-2010. Over this period, employment in these oil- and gas-specific NAICS codes grew by almost 140,000, with an annual growth rate of 3.8 percent. The growth was concentrated in 2005-2008, with an annual growth rate of 9.2 percent. The largest growth was in support activities for oil and gas operations, with an annual growth rate of 6.7
percent for 2005-2010. Employment over this same period grew in all of the oil and gas NAICS codes except for natural gas distribution, in which employment remained basically the same. Tables C.11 and C.12 in Appendix C show average annual oil and gas employment for 2005-2010 for the private and local government sectors, respectively.
Table C.13 provides key demographic information for the oil and gas workforce by Census industry for which information is available. The data show that relatively few women are employed in oil and gas compared with the overall U.S. workforce, and a sizable percentage of the workforce is Hispanic/Latino. A key point to note is that the oil and gas workforce is relatively old compared with the overall U.S. workforce. This important issue is discussed more fully below. (Table C.14 maps U.S. oil and gas NAICS industries to Census industries.)
Table C.15 of Appendix C provides 2010 employment estimates for the 20 largest private-sector occupations in the oil and gas extraction NAICS industry code. These occupations account for more than 50 percent of this industry. (Similar data for natural gas distribution and pipeline transportation are given in Tables C.16 and C.17.)
Salaries for skilled oil and gas workers are relatively high. BLS data indicate that the U.S. employed about 1.48 million engineers in 2010. Petroleum engineers numbered 30,880 (2 percent of the overall engineering population), and received the highest salaries, with an annual mean of $138,980 (BLS, 2011b, Code 17-2171).
The average annual pay for petroleum geoscientists is given in Table 2.2. As indicated, salaries have been increasing over time. The increase has been driven mostly by the demand for energy and mining commodities, along with the associated price increases over the same period. Table 2.2 also shows how experience is prized and rewarded.
Oil and Natural Gas Market Trends
Over the past 50 years, U.S. oil consumption has almost doubled, from 10 million bbl/day in 1960 to more than 19.2 million bbl/day in 2010 (2 percent per year). Currently, the United States is the largest consumer of oil in the world, but countries such as China and India are on growth trajectories that show rapid increases in consumption (EIA, 2012c). In 2003, China became the fastest growing consumer of oil, surpassing Japan, with consumption in 2011 estimated to be about 10 million bbl/day. This new demand has created an economic global shift in the price of oil beginning around 2005.
The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.6 percent from 2010 through 2011 (BEA, 2012), while the GDP in China and India increased dramatically by 11.6 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively (IMF, 2012). Large populations
TABLE 2.2 Historical average salaries for petroleum geoscientists.
SOURCE: Modified after Nation (2012). Used with permission from the AAPG.
such as China and India with growing GDPs are expected to keep worldwide oil demand and prices high for the foreseeable future.
The U.S. Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Revival
The U.S. oil and gas industry is experiencing a revival as a result of strong prices and new technological advances. Except for the 2008 economic downturn, oil prices have remained above $30/bbl, averaging well above $70/bbl, and they are increasing (EIA, 2012h). Natural gas prices have been above $3.00 per thousand cubic feet and have averaged above $5.00 per thousand cubic feet since 2003 (EIA, 2012e). However, with the advent of new shale gas drilling and excess supplies, natural gas prices have softened.
The strong demand for oil and gas at higher sustained prices has created new opportunity, with boom effects being experienced in the onshore regions of the country that have not been seen since the 1970s. The resulting explosion has created demand for workers and equipment. Demand for onshore equipment has tripled since 2000. In the offshore areas, where the number of deep-water projects has been increasing rapidly, the number of floating production and storage and offloading vessels (ships that are used in the development of deep-water oil fields worldwide) is on a 57-vessel backlog (IMA, 2011). The trend in U.S. onshore and offshore rig counts (EIA, 2011c) is an indicator of activity. The number of onshore rigs has grown rapidly in response to drilling in the shale plays across the country. The total U.S. rig count is 2,008 units according to Baker Hughes (2012), with more than 98 percent of the rigs drilling onshore.
Oil and Gas Market Trends and Projections
The Oil Production Boom
U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 at about 9.5 million bbl/day, when total imports were 1.4 million bbl/day. Total U.S. oil demand in 1970 was 10.9 million bbl/day (EIA, 2011c). Prior to the embargo of 1973, U.S. oil production supplied about 87 percent of U.S. demand. Since then, U.S. and Canadian oil production has steadily declined. In 2008, U.S. production dropped to an all-time low of 5 million bbl/day, while demand was about 20 million bbl/day. Domestic production was about 25 percent of U.S. demand. According to Fowler (2011), BENTEK Energy anticipates a production turnaround, and U.S. oil production in areas including the West Texas Permian Basin, South Texas Eagle Ford Shale, and North Dakota Bakken Shale having an increase of slightly more than 2 million bbl/day from 2010 to 2016.
Due mainly to improved technology associated with horizontal drilling in oil shale and unconventional reservoirs such as the Bakken formation, as well as improved oil-sands production in Alberta, Canada, oil production in the United States is expected to hit levels not seen since 1990, and production in Canada also is expected to be at an all-time high. Figure 2.1 shows the historical and expected future trends in U.S. and Canadian oil production.
Projections from the EIA also indicate increases in domestic oil production through 2030 and domestic gas production through 2035 (see Table 2.3). The EIA projections for oil production are not as optimistic as the BENTEK Energy projections.
The Bakken and Eagle Ford Shales
With expected production increases, due mainly to unconventional projects, the demand for a qualified workforce is very strong. Two examples are the Bakken Shale and Eagle Ford Shale formations.
The North Dakota Petroleum Council reported to the committee that it had conducted its own workforce study in 2010 and determined that 7,000-10,000 workers would be needed per year to develop the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota alone. The Bakken Shale is located in northwestern North Dakota and northeastern Montana. The local Job Service North Dakota Web site listed more than 1,600 oil and gas jobs available at the time of writing and the North Dakota unemployment rate was under 3.2 percent when the U.S. national average was over 9 percent. Similar demand for workers extends into Montana and Canada (Ness, 2011).
A similar story is being played out in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas, where large multinational companies have been acquiring acreage for the high liquid and gas yields expected from this reservoir. Depending on the depth of this formation (which in turn helps determine the maturation of the hydrocarbons
FIGURE 2.1 Historical and future U.S. and Canadian oil production shows that combined U.S. and Canadian oil production could reach record-breaking highs by 2016 as output grows in unconventional projects such as Alberta oil sands and U.S. oil shales, according to BENTEK Energy.
NOTES: Excludes natural gas liquids and other liquids. The decline in oil production that has been the norm for the last 40 years is expected to reverse as a result of production increases from the shale reservoirs and heavy-oil production. SOURCE: Modified after BENTEK Energy.
TABLE 2.3 Domestic Oil and Gas Production (EIA Reference case).
|2009||2010||2015||2020||2025||2030||2035||Annual Growth 2010-2035 (%)|
|Crude oil and lease condensate (million bbl/day)||5.36||5.47||6.15||6.70||6.40||6.37||5.99||0.4|
|Natural gas plant liquids (million bbl/day)||1.91||2.07||2.56||2.91||3.01||3.05||3.01||1.5|
|Dry natural gasa (trillion ft3/year)||20.58||21.58||23.65||25.09||26.28||26.94||27.93||1.0|
aMarketed production (wet) minus extraction losses. SOURCES: EIA ( 2012a, Table A11, pp. 153-154; Table A13, pp. 157-158).
found in it), the reservoir can produce oil, condensate, and/or gas. Wells that are horizontally drilled with multistage fracture stimulation have reported flows of more than 1,000 bbl/day, with the potential of accumulating 600,000 bbl over their lifetime.
Other oil shale development projects similar to the Eagle Ford Shale (Fayettville, Niobrara, and Woodford Shale, and others) will take tens of years to develop, requiring a workforce that includes truck drivers, welders, and field workers as well as petroleum geologists or engineers. Developing a pipeline of workers through education will be a key to ensuring that these workers are available in the future.
The Boom in Natural Gas
The shale gas plays that recently have come to the forefront have largely developed as a result of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques. These technologies have unlocked more than 1,000 trillion cubic feet of potential new gas reserves. With the United States consuming approximately 24 trillion cubic feet per year, these gas volumes represent a long-term energy solution, provided the industry can overcome environmental and socioeconomic concerns about the extraction technology.
The expected domestic production of large amounts of natural gas will have a major impact on electricity generation, where currently 45 percent is generated by coal, 20.3 percent by nuclear energy, and 23.4 percent by natural gas. Producers are finding that natural gas in the $4-5 per million cubic feet range can be profitable and they are selling long-term contracts to the power generation industry. In some cases, companies such as Natural Fuels and Seneca Resources are becoming vertically integrated to take advantage of the synergy between upstream and downstream activities. With combined-cycle efficiencies that can reach 60 percent, coupled with a smaller CO2 footprint, natural gas will be used over the life of an expected 100+ years of reserves. The relatively low cost of gas will affect future power generation by all sources. The largest resources are in formations such as the Marcellus, Haynesville, Eagle Ford, and Utica shales. With production quickly ramping up, these reservoirs are expected to represent 49 percent of the total U.S. gas production by the year 2035 (EIA, 2012a). EIA projections for domestic gas production are shown in Table 2.3. Figure 2.2 offers an historical view of production by formation type and projections to 2035.
Employer Needs and Challenges
Oil and gas employment projections are limited. BLS projections for 2020 for the private sector are available for only a subset of oil and gas NAICS codes. The available projections are shown in Table B.14 in Appendix B, and they indicate that employment in the oil and gas extraction industry is expected to grow by 23,200 (an annual growth rate of 1.4 percent), from 158,900 in 2010 to 182,100
FIGURE 2.2 EIA historical and future production trends for gas by reservoir type. SOURCE: Newell (2010).
in 2020. EIA projections indicate that total employment in oil and gas extraction was 452,891 in 2010 and is expected to rise to 459,032 in 2020, and then decline to 404,866 in 2030 and 383,205 in 2035 (EIA, 2011a; EIA projections are based on BLS data.) Table 2.3 projects oil production to rise through 2020 and then decline through 2035, and natural gas production to rise through 2035. The EIA employment projection for oil and gas extraction reflects the projection for oil production.
The Bakken and Eagle Ford shales are only two of perhaps 10-20 other basins that will have productive shales. The shale projects will take decades to develop, requiring a diverse workforce of professionals and nonprofessionals. However, the industry is facing two challenges. The first is increasing international competition for workforce talent that is being drawn from the United States to high-paying jobs in a well-integrated international market. The second, larger challenge is the prospect of large numbers of worker retirements in the near term.
The Aging Workforce
The boom in oil and natural gas exploration and production has created a demand for workers and equipment that comes when a large portion of the existing workforce, professional and nonprofessional, is less than 5 years from retirement. Many of these workers are actually now at retirement age, but still remain employed because of an undersupply of experienced workers.
U.S. Census data indicate that about 76 million baby boomers are poised
FIGURE 2.3 U.S. population distribution in 2010. SOURCE: Schill (2008). Reprinted with permission from Mark Schill, NewGeography.com.
to retire in great numbers by the end of the decade (Figure 2.3). Baby boomers represent about a third of the nation’s workforce, and there are too few younger workers to replace them. Expected labor shortages in important industries will require a major reconsideration of recruitment, retention, work schedules, and retirement (Reeves, 2005).
The oil and gas workforce reflects a similar age distribution and retirement issue. According to the EIA, energy and commodity prices are expected to stay high well into the century (EIA, 2012d) and demand for skilled and professional oil and gas workers at all levels is expected to continue to climb. Wowever, the future source of the workers to replace the retiring population is still in question.
Soon-to-retire boomers are also a large portion of the experienced technical and skilled workforce. A discussion with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy indicated that close to 45% of its technical staff is eligible to retire within five years. Other agencies within the federal government also are experiencing a similar situation, with a large gap between the younger workforce and older management. (The federal workforce is discussed in Chapter 5.)
Reeves (2005) indicates that the number of U.S. workers aged 35 to 44—or those typically moving into upper management—declined by 19 percent in 2007, the number of workers aged 45 to 54 increased 21 percent, and the number of workers aged 55 to 64 increased 52 percent. The age demographics are not limited to the United States. Similar demographics exist for Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, and China (Reeves, 2005).
FIGURE 2.4 U.S. petroleum engineering workforce. NOTE: Blue columns are the workforce in place as of 2000, red columns are cumulative new graduates, and the green curve is the projected workforce. SOURCE: Sampath and Robinson (2005, Exhibit 2, p. 3).
The Workforce Concern in the Earth and Engineering Sciences
The discussion now focuses on the earth and engineering sciences, specifically, future workers with careers in geology, geophysics, petroleum and natural gas engineering, drilling, and related fields associated with the oil and gas industry. According to the National Petroleum Council’s 2007 Global Oil and Gas Study (Raymond et al., 2007), the majority of the U.S. oil and gas workforce is eligible to retire in this decade and there are not enough prospective employees in the pipeline. Virtually every major technical society across the energy spectrum has conducted workforce studies, and they have expressed concerns about the aging petroleum workforce and the lack of qualified personnel to replace them. Figure 2.4 shows this effect for the U.S. petroleum engineering workforce: the workforce in place since 2000 is declining because of retirement and attrition, and the number of incoming graduates will be insufficient to fill the gap.
The 2010-2011 annual American Association of Petroleum Geologist Salary Survey (Nation, 2011) indicates that groups in high demand are workers with 10-14 and 25-plus years of experience. A similar aging trend for the petroleum engineering sector has been documented by the Society of Petroleum Engineers membership survey. It revealed that more than 30 percent of the members were 50 years of age or older.
A global workforce study in 2008 indicated that nearly a third of the global petrotechnical workforce (about 40,000 workers) was 50 years of age or older and expected to retire in the subsequent 5 years (SBC, 2008). These older workers
are typically the most experienced, highly trained, and senior members of the workforce.
A more recent analysis by Rousset et al. (2011) indicates similar trends and describes the transition that is now in progress for the global petrotechnical workforce (Figure 2.5). The article notes that 25 percent of petrotechnical employees of E&P companies are older than 50 years of age and most will retire in the next 5 years. They came into the industry at the height of the oil and gas growth cycle, and the subsequent long period of weak recruitment produced a gap in mid-career professionals. The growth period of 2003-2008 has increased graduate recruitments, resulting in the bimodal workforce distribution (Figure 2.5 and Rousset et al., 2011).
The bimodality of the age distribution is of concern because it indicates a significant gap in age, experience and training between the older workers who are poised to retire and the younger workers who would remain. This gap portends that there may be difficulty in finding managers with the needed experience and training to replace the retirees in positions of leadership.
The so-called “big crew change” in the petrotechnical workforce is under way. A loss of 22,000 experienced workers and an addition of 17,000 younger petrotechnical workers are expected between 2009 and 2014 (Figure 2.5). It is important for companies to be addressing the transition now to avoid the loss of knowledge and experience. The other challenge of the transition will be to recruit and develop the younger workers to help the industry address its future needs.
Education and Training
The Geoscience Trend
Until recently, the number of geoscience departments and faculty, and the undergraduate enrollments have been declining in the United States (Figure 2.6). The state of geoscience departments has a direct impact on the size and training of the future geoscience workforce. A master’s degree is the professional degree in geoscience occupations, meaning that there is a lag of about 5 years between undergraduate enrollment and entry into the workforce for students receiving a geoscience master’s degree. Geoscience bachelor’s degrees afford limited job opportunities. Nonacademic job opportunities exist for geoscience doctorates, but more than 80 percent seek academic careers. A lag of 10-15 years exists in the geoscience academic workforce, depending on the time spent by doctoral graduates in postdoctoral positions before taking a faculty position (Gonzales and Keane, 2011).
The American Geological Institute (AGI) regularly conducts a census of geoscience departments across the country. According to their report on 2004 results, after 1994, the trend was for the number of students enrolled in geosciences departments and associated facilities to decrease. Also, the number of academic
FIGURE 2.5 The large turnover of retiring industry personnel to a younger workforce is under way. The graph displays the percentage of petrotechnical professionals (PTPs) by age category on a global basis. The red curve shows the percentage of PTPs as of 2009. The green curve projects the percentage of PTPs in the same age categories for the year 2015. The number of experienced petrotechnicals (those age 35 and older) is expected to drop by 5,000 between 2009 and 2014. Experienced petrotechnicals refers to those age 35 and older. SOURCE: Rousset et al. (2011, Fig. 1).
departments in the United States decreased dramatically after the 10-year oil market bust of the mid-1980s —70 geoscience departments had closed or merged since 1999. Most of the affected programs were at community colleges. Many were folded into physics programs and the geology courses were phased out, and many bachelor’s programs shifted from geology to environmental programs (Keane, 2005).
The most recent (2011) AGI workforce report is somewhat more optimistic. For the 2009-2010 academic year, the number of geoscience undergraduates enrolled in U.S. institutions was 23,983 majors (the most in a decade). Graduate geoscience enrollment increased significantly to 9,054. The increases probably are due to several factors—continued high prices for commodities, increase in salaries (Table 2.2), better recruitment of students, and, for graduate students, the impression of a negative job market. Despite the fact that employment opportunities in the geosciences remain good, the impression of a negative job market drives undergraduates into graduate programs. There also was a significant increase in the number of geoscience degrees conferred (3,037 bachelor’s degrees, 1,078 master’s degrees, and 668 doctorates), probably linked to earlier growth in undergraduate enrollment and the bad economy. The bad economy motivates graduate students to complete their studies at a higher rate, rather than to find jobs before they receive their degree (Gonzales and Keane, 2011).
FIGURE 2.6 Median size of geoscience departments based on number of faculty and number of students. SOURCE: Gonzales and Keane (2011, Fig 3.3, p. 50). Reprinted with permission from American Geosciences Institute.
The Petroleum Engineering Trend
The history of petroleum engineering graduates over time has been a story of boom and bust. Dr. Lloyd Heinze of Texas Tech University has been tracking enrollments of petroleum engineering students for more than 20 years and provides the following information in Figures 2.7, 2.8, and 2.9 (Olson, 2011).
As shown in Figure 2.7, the United States saw its highest petroleum engineering enrollment in 1983 (approximately 12,000 students), only to see a 10-year hiatus during the years of low oil prices. After the oil crash of 1986, enrollment dropped below 3,000 students and remained low until 2006. With the advent of higher oil prices, enrollment climbed at almost every major institution. Enrollment has steadily increased since 2005. Figure 2.8 shows the undergraduate enrollment from the 19 largest programs in the nation for 1993-2011. The top six schools (Texas A&M University, University of Texas, Colorado School of Mines, University of Oklahoma, Louisiana State University, and Texas Tech University) account for well over 50 percent of the total petroleum engineering students. As shown in Figure 2.9, the U.S. graduated about 1,000 undergraduate petroleum engineers in 2011. According to the BLS, there currently are about 30,880 petroleum engineers employed in the U.S., up 10,000 from 2008 (Olson, 2011). With universities graduating many fewer than this number over the same period, it is possible that the difference has been covered by individuals returning to work after the 10-year oil crash and by foreign nationals who have been given U.S. work visas.
In considering the overall petroleum engineering population and the number of individuals currently in the pipeline in universities and other institutions, it
FIGURE 2.7 U.S. petroleum engineering enrollment for 1972-2010. SOURCES: Heinze (2004), Holditch (2009), Olson (2011). Used with permission from Lloyd Heinze and the U.S. Petroleum Engineering Heads.
becomes obvious that, as large numbers of the petroleum population retire, it will be very difficult to replace them under the current situation. This problem becomes even more acute as the country experiences the anticipated oil and gas boom.
The Need for Technicians
Geological and engineering technicians are also needed. Once considered to be an apprentice position, these technicians provide expertise in computer applications and data analysis that supports the daily activity of a company or institution. As the demand for engineers and geoscientists increases, so does the demand for these mid-level positions. Many suggest that technician positions are today in even greater demand. Technical colleges offering 2-year degrees focused on providing certified training for these jobs have been very successful. Competition for these workers can be fierce because they often crosscut a variety of energy and technology disciplines. Virtually all find employment after completing their training.
Faculty and STEM Teacher Shortages
An important problem common to geoscience and petroleum engineering education is a faculty shortage in institutions of higher learning. Also, as noted
FIGURE 2.8 Petroleum undergraduate enrollment by university. SOURCES: Heinze (2004); Olson (2011). Used with permission from Lloyd Heinze and the U.S. Petroleum Engineering Department Heads.
above, increased funding from industry and the federal government for academic research is needed to attract faculty and students.
Likewise, STEM education at the middle- and high-school levels is also key to workforce development and it faces a shortage of qualified and motivated STEM teachers. Two programs that serve as good examples of approaches to addressing this issue are AggieTEACH and UTeach, which work to provide university-educated and motivated STEM teachers.
AggieTEACH at Texas A&M University prepares mathematics and science teachers for undergraduate and secondary-level (grades 8-12) education. Students receive classroom teacher education with skilled teachers, and they can obtain a bachelor’s degree and a Texas mathematics or science teaching certification. The UTeach program is discussed in Chapter 7.
The Role of the Community Colleges
One of the best investments in STEM education is community colleges, which are cost-effective and, in some cases, allow students to receive certifications in STEM-related fields. They also can provide a pathway to 4-year institutions. One successful example of such a partnership is the Blinn Community College and Texas A&M University Transfer Enrollment at A&M (TEAM) program, which is a collaborative, coenrollment partnership between these institutions. Through this program, hundreds more students have been admitted each
FIGURE 2.9 Petroleum degrees granted in the United States. SOURCES: Heinze (2004); Olson (2011). Used with permission from Lloyd Heinze and the U.S. Petroleum Engineering Department Heads.
year into the Texas A&M freshman class than would have been possible without the program. Students enter Texas A&M University on a part-time basis and then may earn full admission.
Counseling is a valuable tool for students planning to enter a community college. Counseling can inform them about employment trends and opportunities in an industry, and about the best classes to take. Although the future looks bright for the oil and gas industry, with a history of past ups and downs, counseling can help students make well informed decisions.
In summary, oil and gas production in the United States is expected to dramatically increase at the same time that a large portion of the E&P workforce is expected to retire. At present, it is not clear that the United States has the capacity in its universities and community colleges to meet the demand for trained workers.
As experienced workers retire, they not only leave a void in the professional workforce, but also a gap in the number of mentors for younger workers. Experienced workers are critical for the continuation of historical and corporate memory. In the earth resource industries, analogs are used as a source of new
geological and engineering concepts. Mentors are the source of support for new ideas coming from the younger workers. Mentors also are a critical addition to the training material and programs for new hires. The loss of mentors in an industry facing significant workforce retirement will negatively affect productivity. Without experienced supervision and guidance, past mistakes will be repeated and past learning forgotten until new knowledge is acquired. As talent and experience are lost, not only is capacity lost, but also the capability to perform the tasks at hand.
Knowledge capture and management are very important to any company, and many have worked to find ways of effectively capturing the knowledge of experienced workers. As one example, Schlumberger has developed the InTouch system that provides mentors and experts online for any employee to access. An employee may pose a technical question to, or seek advice from, an InTouch engineer. A database provides answers if a question has been asked before, but if a question is new, a domain expert offers answers and the answers are added to the database.
As noted above, there is an experience gap in the oil and gas workforce—between 15 and 30 years of experience. With a knowledge database such as the one described above, and with the experienced professionals who are poised to retire, the energy industry could benefit from refining the ways in which engineers and geoscientists are trained after they have worked for 5 or 10 years. New training methods (perhaps using simulators) to accelerate experience-based learning could offer promise. Simulators are used for training in many areas, including drilling. The development of simulators to train engineers and geoscientists in order to endow them with the equivalent of many more years of experience than represented by their time on the job alone could greatly smooth the big crew change. Potentially, research into ways of training young professionals could yield other, more effective approaches.
The Search for Talent
During its meetings, the committee heard about a number of ways that oil and gas producers are planning to cope with shortages of workforce talent. Many of the larger integrated companies recognize the problem and have sought workers from the international markets. Education of the future workforce has been a high priority for supplying replacements and presentations by many educational institutions indicated a surge in U.S. enrollments by foreign students in the geosciences and engineering fields, where they can compose as much as half of the overall graduate populations in the major educational institutions.
The committee’s experience is that, to meet the current demand, companies also are filling U.S.-based positions with foreign nationals via the H-1B visa work program. However, hiring foreign workers through this process has its own set of problems. It is not only expensive and time-consuming for companies to apply, but they also are constrained by mandated ceilings imposed by the govern-
ment. H-1B visas are typically for professional jobs that require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a specific academic field.
The committee is also aware that another approach used by some companies to meet their demand for workers is through the acquisition of other companies’ assets and the retention of all of their employees. Often as much time and effort goes into evaluating the age and expertise of the talent of the company being acquired as goes into evaluating the assets themselves.
A practice used by many companies is to address the problem by retaining their aging workers through incentive programs that keep experienced, active employees well beyond the typical retirement age. Small- and mid-size companies frequently have many geoscientists and engineers who are in their 70s and 80s.
These approaches are only temporary stopgaps. Inevitably, to adequately address the coming workforce shortage, the United States will need to train its new workforce now.
The New Workforce
One of the primary ways to address the workforce talent needs will be to attract a younger generation of workers. As the U.S. demographics continue to change, the population will have an increasing percentage of people who typically have not been attracted to the earth and engineering sciences. Ethnic minorities and women are expected to make up a large portion of the population. In addition, as companies look for more global resources, they will continue to identify and attract non-U.S. talent to satisfy their workforce needs. There is an opportunity for government and industry to recruit these groups, and investments in organizations, institutions, and faculty that have educational programs focused on young students, ethnic minorities, and women are required. Successful technical programs such as GeoFORCE, which focuses on Hispanic Americans, and collaborative efforts by the Cooperative Development Energy Program, which focuses on African Americans, are just two examples of how the organic growth methods have been successful. These and other example programs are described below. They have been driven primarily by industry with some government support, but they have long lead times for worker development that begins as early as grade 7 and requires 10-12 years of education and training, in what is referred to as the “energy pipeline.”
In 2007, the National Petroleum Council released a study report on the future of oil and gas to 2030 (Raymond et al., 2007). The oil and gas workforce was a component of the study. Also released were certain topic papers from the study. Topic Paper #23 (Andersen et al., 2007) specifically addressed workforce issues, and its conclusions remain valid.
The study concluded that attracting as many young people as possible to technical and engineering careers was necessary, and much remains to be done, especially in recruiting women. Industry, state and federal governments, and
academia could work together to create programs to attract high school seniors to study technical disciplines. Increasing funding from industry and the federal government for academic research is also necessary for attracting students and maintaining U.S. leadership in technology development. Additional professionals are also needed to invent and use the technologies that will enable oil and gas operations in challenging environments and to manage the resulting resources (Andersen et al., 2007).
The study had further conclusions. The industry’s public image makes it difficult to attract graduates of other scientific and engineering disciplines. One company’s hiring of a mid-career worker from another company is expensive and it may help the hiring company, but it hurts the other company. Workforce data are lacking. Except for petroleum engineers and geologists, engineering, procurement, and construction contractors are frequently competing with their oil and gas company clients for many entry- and mid-level workers. In 2005, a period of craft labor scarcity began in the United States, in which aggregate demand exceeded supply for many skilled crafts, and the trend will continue (Andersen et al., 2007).
Solutions—Programs to Emulate
The committee learned of a number of ongoing efforts by a variety of educational institutions that have established excellent pathways to address the workforce issues. These successful programs are due recognition, and great benefits could be realized by emulating them. These programs are: the Petroleum Engineering Technology Program at Houston Community College–Northeast Energy Institute, the Cooperative Development Energy Program at Fort Valley State University, GeoFORCE Texas at the University of Texas, Penn State AfricaArray; and the Greater Houston Partnership Energy Collaborative. They are described in Boxes 2.1-2.5.
Innovations in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies are making access to large shale reservoirs of oil and gas possible, holding great promise for future domestic supplies and a robust and growing oil and gas workforce, provided the industry can overcome environmental and socioeconomic concerns related to the extraction technologies. Successful resolution of these concerns, advancements in technologies to be used in challenging environments, such as the Arctic and in ultra-deep water, and continued advancements in technologies that would increase the efficiency of oil and gas extraction and production would provide a direct stimulus to workforce growth at all levels.
A Potential Government–Industry Collaboration
As described in Chapter 5, the federal government plays a key role in the energy and mining sectors, but it has challenges in retaining and recruiting needed employees. There is a collaborative approach that could be of potential benefit to
Program 1: The Petroleum Engineering Technology Program
at Houston Community College–-Northeast Energy Institute
The Petroleum Engineering Technology Program (HCC, 2012) is designed to prepare people to work as petroleum engineering technicians in the oil and gas and related industries. Students complete an intense core curriculum that includes two field experience courses developed in partnership with industry organizations, including BP, Shell, Chevron/Texaco, ExxonMobil, Conoco, and Halliburton.
Program graduates take positions in the following areas: data entry and evaluation, reservoir process design, well operations, plant engineering, oil and natural gas exploration and production, environmental control, geological surveys, engineering sales, research and development, and manufacturing. Industries that are common employers for these graduates include: power, petrochemical processing, gas processing, refineries, oil and gas mining, manufacturing, drilling and exploration services, government organizations, and other relevant industries and servicing companies. (Over its history, the Energy Institute’s student population has been quite diverse, with students from Houston’s many ethnic communities.)
Features of the program include the following:
- Society of Petroleum Engineers student chapter on campus;
- Training on a live rig (PetroDrill);
- On-campus interviews (Conoco, BP, Chevron);
- Dual credits with high schools (Milby High School Petroleum Academy);
- Funding to increase the female population in the oil and gas industry (Perkins);
- Student scholarships (BP, CHEVRON, SPE, Halliburton);
- Over 90 percent placement of graduates; and
- Well-known program faculty.
the government and the oil and gas industry. With health, safety, and environment and an understanding of new operational regulations playing an increasing role in energy, a public service program to permit workers to rotate in and out of critical government agencies could be a short-term remedy for attaining needed employees and a way of facilitating cross training. Such a program also could promote the safety culture concept that has government moving from checklist systems to more integrated, risk-based safety management systems, where cultural shifts in safety play a key role in making the workplace safer. Many excellent programs are already under way at energy companies (like ExxonMobil, Shell, and Statoil) that are implementing new federal and state safety and environmental rules. As envisioned, the program would focus on employees with 5-7 years of industry experience, who would do a 2- to 3-year (or more) rotation in government and then return to industry. Also, consideration could be given to older industry and
Program 2: The Cooperative Development Energy Program
at Fort Valley State University
The Cooperative Development Energy Program (CDEP) created at Fort Valley State University (FVSU, part of the University System of Georgia) is highly successful in finding and attracting minority students to the earth and engineering sciences (FVSU, 2012). The CDEP began in 1983 and it recruits students from all 50 states. The CDEP has partnered with more than 60 companies and U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Collaborating universities include: Penn State University; University of Oklahoma; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of Texas; and University of Arkansas. The CDEP has graduated more minority earth and engineering scientists than any program of its kind in the country, having graduated 71 engineers, 25 geoscientists, and 4 health physicists since 1997. The program identifies high-potential students in the 7th grade and places them in an educational pipeline of mentorship and summer internships. The students’ 3-year experience at FVSU culminates in their moving to a major institution. Known as the 3+2 development program, it permits students to attend FVSU for the first 3 years and major in biology, mathematics, or chemistry and then to transfer to one of the partnering universities for the 4th and 5th years to earn a second degree in engineering, geology, geophysics, or health physics. The CDEP is the predecessor of the highly acclaimed GeoFORCE program at the University of Texas.
Program 3: GeoFORCE Program
GeoFORCE Texas (UT, 2011), which began in 2005, is a highly acclaimed earth and engineering science program, patterned from the Forth Valley program. Designed by the University of Texas with an Hispanic student focus, the program has been very successful in identifying students in Texas. GeoFORCE Texas is an industry–education partnership that has successfully implemented a cohort model targeted at disadvantaged youth in Texas. The comprehensive program stresses academic achievement, retention, and transfer, while learning about geosciences. Measures of those who complete the program demonstrate the benefits of this effort compared with those of their peers in their high schools. Program benefits include highly increased high school graduations and almost double the college readiness, college matriculation, and high college persistence, compared with peers (Figure 2.10). The program has relationships with various high schools across Texas, where STEM programs are being instituted for students at a young age. The high school graduation rate for GeoFORCE Texas is 100 percent and its college matriculation rate is over 95 percent. It currently has 268 students enrolled in more than 50 colleges and universities across Texas and the United States.
The program was expanded in the fall of 2011 to Alaska through the coop-
FIGURE 2.10 Comparison of achievements of GeoFORCE students with other educational indicators. SOURCE: Ratcliff and Snow (2011).
eration of the University of Texas and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The Texas program was adjusted to account for differences in culture and environment, and then replicated in Alaska as GeoFORCE Alaska (UAF, 2012). The first cohort was 40 rising 9th graders during the summer of 2012. The program will achieve its capacity of 160 students in grades 9 through 12 by the summer of 2015. Corporate contributors to the GeoFORCE Alaska program will qualify for the Alaska Higher Education Tax Credit.
Program 4: Penn State AfricaArray
AfricaArray is a multifaceted initiative focused on developing a pool of diverse and talented undergraduate and graduate students for the geoscience workforce in the United States and Africa through linked research and training programs (Pennsylvania State University, 2012). In the U.S. program, the Department of Geosciences at Penn State University is collaborating with minority-serving institutions (California State University at Northridge and Bakersfield, Colorado State University at Pueblo, Fort Valley State University, North Carolina A&T State University, and University of Texas at El Paso) to create a pipeline of underrepresented minority students for the domestic workforce. The program’s goal is to graduate up to 25 students with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields per year by 2014, preparing them to compete for and matriculate into geoscience graduate programs and industry positions in the United States (Figure 2.11).
In Africa, AfricaArray is building a scientific workforce for the natural resource sector through degree and technical training programs at African universities and affiliated government institutions. These programs engage students and technicians in hands-on training, quality research, and international collaboration. The
FIGURE 2.11 U.S. students working with other international students on a geophysical project in South Africa. SOURCE: Pennsylvania State University (2012).
U.S. and African programs are connected in several ways. Geoscience courses at U.S. and African universities are taken together by U.S. and African students. Students and faculty collaborate on running an environmental observing network that includes 46 stations in 18 African countries that record weather, GPS, and seismic data. Those data then are used by many students and faculty working collaboratively on research projects. In the United States since 2005, AfricaArray has supported more than 50 undergraduate students from minority-servicing institutions, as well as many graduate students that have completed or are working toward M.S. (10 students) and Ph.D. (6 students) degrees. The program is supported by a public–private partnership that includes government agencies, academic institutions, and corporations (A. Nyblade, personal communication, 2012; Pennsylvania State University, 2012).
government workers, who wish to be a part of the institutional memory transfer process.
A similar kind of program could be implemented with state governments. Several excellent examples already exist, in which industry personnel rotate in and out of critical positions that are sponsored by a state. Examples include the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, State geological surveys (where there is a relationship with a state university), and institutions such as the University of Utah’s Energy and Geoscience Institute.
Conclusions and Recommendations
2.1 The exploration and production technical workforce in the oil and natural gas industry is estimated to be about 494,200 workers.
2.2 Demand for domestic workers in the oil and gas industry will remain strong for the foreseeable future. This demand is being driven primarily
Program 5: The Greater Houston Partnership Energy
The focus of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Energy Collaborative (Houston’s Energy Future, 2011; Schott, 2011) is to attract a workforce for the many greater-Houston-area energy companies. The collaborative focus is on students in K-16 to provide the talent pool with appropriate skills to fill key energy sector employment opportunities. STEM education is promoted, as well as the development of minority students. The Energy Collaborative creates alliances among its members, who represent industry, academia, and the public sector, in order to address target industry clusters, including workforce development. The Energy Collaborative Workforce Committee works to identify and support initiatives that promote awareness of the importance of STEM education, striving to strengthen the relationship between industry and academia and address the shortage of new technical workers in the energy industry. The Committee’s core values are: it is industry led; it is inclusive and collaborative; it supports best practices that are replicable and scalable; it capitalizes on networking opportunities; and it focuses on enhancing the K-16 talent pipeline. The Greater Houston Partnership Energy Collaborative is a comprehensive workforce strategy. The educational challenge is illustrated in Figure 2.12 which shows the loss of students from the educational pipeline beginning in 7th grade compared to median 2008 wages the students forego with each school degree they do not achieve.
FIGURE 2.12 The Gulf Coast K-16 education pipeline and 2008 median wages. SOURCE: Schott (2011). Used with permission from the All Kinds Alliance with data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
by recent technological advances in drilling and completion in unconventional shale reservoirs, advancements in oil sands development, and strong commodity prices.
2.3 Opportunities for employment across the oil and gas industry for skilled technical and professional workers are bright and will continue beyond 2030.
2.4 Demand for, and production of, oil and gas on a worldwide basis are expected to continue to increase. High commodity prices and domestic production increases are predicted (at least through 2030 for oil and 2035 for gas). The United States will increasingly compete for workforce talent that is being drawn to high-paying jobs in a well-integrated international market.
2.5 Similar to U.S. national trends, baby boomers that currently make up a third of the existing oil and gas workforce will retire within the decade. There are concerns within the business, academic, and technical communities about the ability to adequately replace the retiring workforce.
2.6 There is an urgent need to attract young workers into the energy workforce.
2.7 There is an urgent need for enhancing the education “pipeline” by attracting nontraditional students and training, retaining, and rewarding more faculty to ensure that the demand for U.S. workers will be met.
2.8 Increasing funding from industry and the federal government for academic research in the geosciences and petroleum engineering is necessary for attracting students and faculty, and for advancing innovation.
The following recommendations should be initiated as quickly as possible and some will take longer than others to become fully operational. The recommendations are ordered and labeled in terms of when they would be expected to be operational. All of the recommended actions are expected to continue for the long term. In addition to the recommendations below, the Shared Recommendations for Chapter 2 (at the end of the chapter) also apply for the oil and gas industry.
2.1 The committee recommends that government and industry develop a closer working relationship through collaborative programs that focus on cross training employees in the technical and regulatory aspects of health, safety, and environment. (Short Term)
2.2 In pursuing Shared Recommendation 4, it would be important to consider, encourage, and emulate successful programs, such as the University of Texas GeoFORCE, the Petroleum Engineering Technology Program at Houston Community College’s Energy Institute, Fort Valley
State’s CEDP, Penn State University’s AfricaArray, and the Greater Houston Partnership Energy Collaborative. (Medium Term)
2.3 In pursuing Shared Recommendation 5, these same example programs should be examined and considered for models and lessons that might successfully be applied in this context. (Medium Term)
The nuclear power industry is an important component of the energy portfolio of the United States. It currently provides 20 percent of the electricity used in the United States and it is expected to remain a major and integral part of the national energy system for the foreseeable future (Figures 2.13, 2.14). The U.S. nuclear industry is composed of four interrelated sectors—nuclear power plants, nuclear fuel facilities, nuclear waste facilities, and nuclear decommissioning activities (MIT, 2010). Each of these has its own initiation or construction phase, operating phase, and termination phase, with special workforce training, skills certifications, and licensing requirements. The U.S. nuclear power industry and its workforce are discussed in this section of the report.
Industry Overview and Profile
Value to the U.S. Economy
Nuclear power plants provide a large part of the electricity generated in the United States. In 2009, nuclear power plants provided 799 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electrical energy—20 percent of the total electrical energy generated domestically (EIA, 2011c). U.S. nuclear power capacity in 2009 was 101.0 gigawatts (GW). In 2010, the status of all U.S. nuclear units was 104 operable units (with electricity net generation of 807.0 billion kWh—still 20 percent of the U.S. total) and 28 permanently shutdown units (EIA, 2011c).
The nuclear power industry has four sectors: nuclear power plants, nuclear fuel facilities, nuclear waste facilities, and nuclear decommissioning activities. Each sector has its own workforce requirements and opportunities, as discussed below.
FIGURE 2.13 New construction at an existing two-unit nuclear power plant. SOURCE: © Southern Company, http://www.southerncompany.com/nuclearenergy/photos.aspx.
FIGURE 2.14 U.S. nuclear fuel cycle ranges from the mining of uranium ore through the processing to make usable fuel for the nuclear power plant to subsequent storage of spent fuel, and/or reprocessing, disposal, and recycling. SOURCE: IAEA (2012a).
FIGURE 2.15 In a pressurized light-water reactor system, the reactor core produces heat which is carried by the pressurized water in a coolant loop to the steam generator. This heat in the steam generator, in turn, vaporizes the water in a secondary loop into steam which turns the turbine generator to produce electricity. Unused steam is condensed into water, which is pumped back to the steam generator. The reactor core is cooled by water circulated by electrical pumps. SOURCE: EIA (2012g).
Size and Employment
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) estimates that there are 120,000 workers employed in the total U.S. commercial nuclear industry. This workforce includes direct employees of nuclear power plants, as well as contractors (Berrigan, 2010). Figure 2.17 shows the nuclear industry employment distribution by age and the total employment over time, indicating that the total employment for 2009 (excluding contractors) was 57,200.
Appendix B contains a detailed description of data for the nuclear energy workforce from federal data sources (BLS). Nuclear electric power generation is the only nuclear-energy-related activity that is associated with a unique NAICS code. Table B.15 in Appendix B gives the 2010 average annual employment by sector (private and federal, state, and local governments) for this industry, and Table B.16 gives the average annual employment for 2005-2010. According to the BLS data (BLS, 2011d), employment in the nuclear electric power generation industry across all sectors is 56,778, with about 93 percent in the private sector—the remaining workforce is in the federal government (2.4 percent) and local government (5 percent). Employment increased for 2005-2009, but fell below 2005 levels in 2010 because of declines in local government employment (see Tables B.18, B.19, and B.20 in Appendix B). If government employees are not included, the nuclear industry employment (excluding contractors) data from the NEI and the BLS are in good agreement.
BLS employment projections, demographic information, and employment
FIGURE 2.16 In a boiling water reactor system the reactor core generates heat which is absorbed by pure water that is moved through the core to produce a steam-water mixture. The steam is separated from the water and directed to the turbine to turn the turbine generator to produce electricity. Unused steam is condensed to water and pumped back to the reactor. As with the pressurized light-water reactor system, the reactor core is cooled by water circulated by electrical pumps. SOURCE: EIA (2012f).
information by occupation are not available for the nuclear electric power generation industry.
Nuclear Power Market Trends
From 1957 through 1990, the number of nuclear generating units and their electricity generation capacity grew rapidly, reaching a peak of 112 units in 1990, representing about 20 percent of the electricity generated in the United States (Figures 2.18, 2.19). Subsequently, the number of units declined and leveled off in the late 1990s to the current level of 104. Nuclear power’s share of the U.S. total has hovered around 20 percent over this latter period, as indicated in Figure 2.19, which shows the nuclear share of total electricity net generation for 1957-2010, reflecting the trend in generating units in Figure 2.18.
The U.S. nuclear power sector is in a transformational state and significant new developments are taking place, which bring significant uncertainty to efforts to predict the future of nuclear power plant construction. For more than 30 years, no new nuclear power plants have been constructed. However, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) recently approved licenses permitting the construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant complex in Georgia, the first license approvals since 1978; one reactor is expected to go into operation in 2016 and the second in 2017 (Hargreaves, 2012). The USNRC
FIGURE 2.17 Nuclear industry employment distributions by age for 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009. SOURCE: Berrigan and McAndrews-Benavides (2011).
subsequently also approved a license to build and operate two new nuclear reactors at the Virgil C. Summer plant in South Carolina (Downey, 2012). Nuclear power plants are all subject to federal safety regulations and, to varying degrees, state utility commission economic regulation.
The U.S. nuclear power industry has learned many lessons over the years and now has achieved very high performance reliability, and until recently, fairly high public acceptance that now may be waning due to the recent nuclear power plant accident at the Fukushima site in Japan (Cooper and Sussman, 2011; Pappas, 2012). Operating plants are producing good financial returns for their owners. Because they release negligible greenhouse gases during normal operation, electric utilities have again become interested in building new nuclear power plants, and in maintaining nuclear power as an important contributor among their energy sources.
Impediments to the construction of a large number of new plants in the United States are the high capital requirements of a large plant and the current lack of a means of removing and permanently disposing of or storing spent nuclear fuel from the plants. However, there are a number of activities under way to safely store spent fuel away from plant sites that can meet an interim (decades) storage requirement (Nesbit, 2012). Still unknown is the full impact of the disaster in Japan, arising from the unanticipated, combined destructive forces of a huge earthquake and tsunami on four nuclear power plants at the Fukushima site, giving rise to a severe nuclear power plant accident. The worldwide response has been mixed. Several countries, including Japan, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, have declared their intentions to phase out or not build any new nuclear
FIGURE 2.18 Operable nuclear generating units, 1957-2010. NOTE: Units holding full-power operating licenses, or equivalent permission to operate, at the end of the year. SOURCE: EIA (2011c, Fig. 9.1, p. 282).
plants. The U.S. response has been more measured, with an emphasis on lessons learned, but not an outright rejection of nuclear power. Economic considerations continue to be the greatest obstacle to new nuclear plant commitments, provided that the USNRC develops an acceptable response to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruling that found the USNRC’s Waste Confidence Decision and Temporary Storage Rule to be unacceptable (NRDC, 2012). This might take several years.
The future for construction of new large (1,000-megawatt (MW) electric) nuclear power plants in the United States has become much less favorable because of the rapid fall in natural gas prices since 2009, along with the increasing glut of produced gas arising from newly developed domestic gas-bearing shale formations and oil well drilling spurred by high oil prices. Also, the historically high costs of large nuclear power plants have not improved in the few new plants that have been under construction in Finland and France (Davis, 2011).
Therefore, the anticipation of a new near-term nuclear power renaissance has dimmed somewhat. However, a rising interest in small, modular nuclear reactors has been developing (Kelly, 2011). Furthermore, most existing U.S. nuclear plants have obtained or are in the process of obtaining license amendments to operate for an additional 20 years beyond their current license of 40 years, and some may operate for even longer times.
Whatever the future holds for new nuclear power plants, there will be many job opportunities in other sectors of the nuclear power industry that may not be directly affected by the progress of new nuclear power plant construction.
FIGURE 2.19 Nuclear share of total electricity net generation, 1957-2010. SOURCE: EIA (2011c, Fig. 9.2, p. 284).
The EIA (Reference case) has projected the nuclear power net summer capacity and total electricity generation through 2035 (see Table 2.4). In the Reference case, nuclear power capacity is projected to expand by 15.8 GW (8.5 GW for new units and 7.3 GW for power uprates at operating plants) from 2010 to 2035. This expansion includes the recently approved Vogtle and Summer reactors. Generation from nuclear plants is projected to increase by 10 percent over this period; however, the nuclear share of total generation is expected to decline from 20 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2035, with increased shares for natural gas and renewable sources. The Reference case projects that 6.1 GW of capacity will be retired by 2035, with most coming after 2030. As Table 2.4 shows, capacity decreases somewhat after peaking in 2025, due mainly to plant retirements (EIA, 2012a).
As described below, the NEI projects the demands posed by assuming that the current nuclear share of the U.S. electricity supply will continue. This scenario is more aggressive than the EIA’s Reference case assumptions, requiring construction of 20-25 new nuclear units by 2030 (Berrigan, 2010).
Employment Status and Opportunities in the Nuclear Power Industry
Operating Nuclear Power Plants
On average, nuclear plants directly employ 400 to 700 people, and a standalone single unit may directly employ as many as 1,000 people. In addition to
these employees, there are many vendors and contractors called upon to support operations, which may add up to an additional 1,000 workers or more with various skills and competencies. The NEI estimates that there are 120,000 workers employed in the total U.S. commercial nuclear industry. NEI surveys indicate that 38 percent of nuclear utility employees (or 21,600 employees) will be eligible to retire within the 5-year period of 2009-2014, and over the same 5-year period, there may be a need to replace an additional 10 percent (or 6,000 workers) for other reasons (Berrigan, 2010). The important issue of nuclear workforce aging is described in detail below.
New Nuclear Power Plants
A rejuvenation of nuclear energy would produce an increasing demand for skilled labor at all levels. An analysis by the National Commission on Energy Policy indicates that development of a nuclear power plant requires 14,360 person-years per GW (1,000 MW) installed (NCEP, 2009). Such jobs include skilled crafts (e.g., welders, pipefitters, masons, sheet metal workers, carpenters, ironworkers, electricians, and heavy equipment operators), along with project managers, engineers, and construction supervisors (Berrigan, 2009).
If the current nuclear energy share of 20 percent of the U.S. electricity supply continues, construction of between 20 and 25 new nuclear units by 2030 would be necessary, requiring 287,200-359,000 person-years of labor. These plants also would need 8,000-17,500 permanent full-time workers to operate them, along with additional supplemental labor to handle maintenance and outages (Berrigan, 2010).
Smaller (one-tenth the capacity) alternative modular designs for nuclear power plants (far less costly than the standard 1,000-MW baseload designs) are now attracting considerable attention, and some designs offer not only much lower capital costs but also less frequent requirements for spent-fuel removal.
Construction cost estimates for new large plants, however, are very high and uncertain. Cost estimates for small modular reactors (SMRs), while considerably lower, are even more uncertain. One study found that assuming a 100-MW SMR costing $500 million to manufacture and install would create nearly 7,000 jobs and in operation would provide 375 jobs. However, first production would not occur until 2015 and would peak in 2030. Thirty to nearly 40 SMRs per year might be produced. Already three large utilities have signed an agreement to acquire the necessary approvals for commercial use of one particular design in the United States (EPI, 2010; World Nuclear Association, 2012b).
Apart from the recently approved licenses, 10 applications are under consideration by the USNRC for a total of 16 large power reactors (USNRC, 2011a). The likelihood that all of these will actually be built in the foreseeable future is generally considered to be small. Only a single, 2-unit site has construction occurring.
TABLE 2.4 Nuclear Power Electricity Generating Capacity and Generation (EIA Reference Case).
|2009||2010||2015||2020||2025||2030||2035||Annual Growth 2010-2035 (%)|
|Net summer capacitya (GW)|
Electric Power onlyb
Cumulative unplanned additionsd
|Total electricity generation (billion kWh)|
a Net summer capacity is the steady hourly output that generating equipment is expected to supply to system load (exclusive of auxiliary power), as demonstrated by tests during summer peak demand.
b Includes plants that only produce electricity. Includes capacity increases (uprates) at existing units.
c Nuclear capacity includes 7.3 GW of uprates through 2035.
d Cumulative additions after December 31, 2010.
e Cumulative retirements after December 31, 2010.
SOURCE: EIA (2012a, Table A8, pp. 148-149 and Table A9, pp. 150-151).
More than 40 percent of existing U.S. nuclear power plant licenses will expire by 2015 (USNRC, 2012). While many power plants will renew their 40-year operating licenses for an additional 20 years, a small number will be closed and decommissioned at the end of their licensed period.
Under the present system, every nuclear power plant licensed by the USNRC is authorized to collect a fee from the electricity customers to cover the cost of decommissioning. The USNRC estimates that decommissioning can cost $350-400 million per plant, but there have been cases well in excess of that amount. As a result, many plants do not have sufficient funds set aside and are delaying final closure, opting for “SAFESTOR” (a system to monitor and maintain the shutdown plant in a safe manner). Some states have funding, but not the workforce.
To date, there have been 21 commercial reactor plants decommissioned or placed in SAFESTOR, and all but 7 still have spent fuel on site (USNRC, 2011b). There are 13 large plants in the decommissioning process as of April 2011; 10 of those will be in SAFESTOR, in line for future decommissioning. These then could provide $4 billion to $8 billion dollars in future work, requiring specially trained blue-collar and administrative personnel. Moreover, in most cases, the spent fuel is still stored on site, and special facilities must be constructed to monitor and maintain these facilities safely. Note that this is a long-term, continuing, and growing business and the current workforce is aging and must be replaced, adding to the overall need for a workforce with varying levels of nuclear training.
Several new large facilities for the enrichment of uranium for fresh nuclear fuel are under construction or under serious consideration. These facilities are intended to meet domestic nuclear power plant requirements and to supply possible markets among the more than 430 nuclear power plants in operation worldwide with uranium and enriched uranium fuel (World Nuclear Association, 2012a).
This will have a positive impact on the mining industry, although most natural uranium is mined outside of the United States. Advanced facilities needed to enrich the uranium to fuel grade are in various stages of being built in the United States. They represent significant capital investments and huge workforce requirements. Although the workers may not necessarily be nuclear specialists, they will be skilled technical workers, requiring additional training. These projects will be done with private funding, some DOE loan guarantees, and in some cases, overseas money. Examples of new facilities that are under contract or in various stages of development are described below.
URENCO USA (formerly the National Enrichment Facility) is a $1.5 billion centrifuge enrichment facility that began operation in June 2010 in New Mexico, and construction continues. Phase 1 capacity will be reached in 2012, and at eventual full capacity, the facility is expected to produce enough enriched uranium for fuel to provide about 10 percent of the nation’s electricity needs (URENCO, 2012; World Nuclear Association, 2012c). The French nuclear giant AREVA has announced the construction of an advanced enrichment plant to be built in Idaho. The Eagle Rock Uranium Enrichment Plant also will use centrifuge technology, and it has received a DOE loan guarantee of $2 billion. However, AREVA has announced a suspension of work on the project until 2013 or 2014 (Mufson, 2012; World Nuclear Association, 2012c). General Electric Energy has teamed with Hitachi of Japan (GE-Hitachi, GEH) in a program to develop an entirely different enrichment concept, using laser-beam technology to enrich uranium to fuel quality. This project will proceed in phases, building sections at a time and testing each one to obtain the optimum performance. The Global Nuclear Fuel’s (GNF’s) Wilmington, North Carolina fuel fabrication facility has now completed
the first phase of testing with technology validation continuing. GNF is a partnership of GE, Hitachi, and Toshiba (World Nuclear Association, 2012c).
The United States Enrichment Company (USEC) in Piketon, Ohio, is to provide enriched uranium for fabrication into fuel elements in U.S. reactors. In addition to building and support facilities, this plant will utilize 11,520 special high-technology 43-foot-tall centrifuges and a wide range of specialty support equipment. This large manufacturing and construction effort will require highly trained workers and special installation equipment. New financial problems have developed and the project has been put on hold; its future is now uncertain (Mufson, 2012; World Nuclear Association, 2012c).
These projects represent private or non-U.S. funding, roughly estimated to be on the order of $10 billion to $12 billion for construction and manufacturing alone. Much of the investment money will be provided by foreign sources to create American jobs. These projects represent a potentially substantial job market for skilled workers, and they are located in areas where unemployment is high. In addition to the jobs created in building each facility, new transportation, supply, security, and civil support jobs will be needed.
Storage and Disposal of Low-level Radioactive Waste
The means of disposing of spent commercial nuclear fuel under congressional statutes was to be at a site in Nevada, operated by DOE, but that is now seriously in doubt, and other possible alternatives are to be explored (BRC, 2012).
Storage and disposal of radioactive waste has focused mostly on high-level waste in the form of spent fuel. Such activity is to be carried out by the DOE but is funded by the nuclear utilities that collect from their ratepayers a percentage of nuclear generation rate costs and set the money aside to pay for waste disposal. There is a vast amount of low-level waste produced in the United States by operating commercial power plants, research facilities, hospitals, universities, and many industrial companies, which must be disposed of in some manner. Today the methods of choice are burial in landfills or storage in vaults. In many instances, valuable materials and equipment that become only slightly radioactive are summarily disposed of at considerable expense. There are a number of commercial disposal sites (notably in Texas and Utah) that receive low-level waste that have proven to be profitable ventures. Rather than setting aside land for low-level waste dumps and not recycling material and equipment that could be salvaged for future use, a new industry and new technology could offer the potential for finding ways to safely and effectively decontaminate materials that may have been exposed to radioactivity.
It is difficult to estimate how many new jobs will emerge, but based on the number of companies entering the field of waste handling, the number could be sizable. Also, much research is being done to develop new ways of transporting and storing wastes. Design and fabrication of shipping casks, remote handling tools, robotics and crawlers, shielding materials, and chemical decontamination
systems is a growing business. These activities will require technicians and engineers with credentials similar to those in other nuclear power activities, but with additional training in radiation protection and chemical technology at the community-college level.
Berrigan (2010) provides a comprehensive overview of the nuclear supply chain and the opportunities that it represents for U.S. companies. The following discussion draws from this source.
Construction of new nuclear power plants domestically and internationally has been absent for the past 30 years. As a result, the U.S. nuclear supply chain has diminished. With the potential for increasing interest in nuclear energy, there may be an opportunity to reenergize the U.S. nuclear manufacturing sector. This could be done with investment in state-of-the-art factories and processes, which would supply the special components necessary for nuclear applications.
Currently there are 62 nuclear power plants being built around the world (IAEA, 2012b), and 160 plants are on order or planned and another 329 projects proposed (World Nuclear Association, 2012d). In light of this level of activity, some U.S.-based suppliers have begun increasing their staff and capacity, and developing more manufacturing facilities. Also, the number of U.S. nuclear suppliers has increased substantially over the past few years. According to Berrigan (2010), “in excess of 15,000 new U.S. jobs have been created to date due to new nuclear plant activities.” The potential demand for specialized goods and services creates substantial prospects for U.S. manufacturers, with the world market representing potential orders of “over $400 billion in equipment and services over the next 15 years,” according to NEI estimates (Berrigan, 2010).
Information obtained by the NEI from companies managing three of the five leading U.S. nuclear projects indicated that they will purchase 60-80 percent of commodities and services from U.S. suppliers, and they already have purchased $2 billion of services and equipment from U.S. firms. They also have set labor and procurement goals of 75-90 percent of U.S. content, representing about $50 billion for the initial set of new nuclear plants (Berrigan, 2010).
Expansion of worldwide nuclear energy also has been of direct value to U.S. companies and workers. As of August 2010, U.S. companies had received export orders of more than $2.5 billion for services and equipment (Berrigan, 2010).
Employer Needs and Challenges
The Aging Workforce
NEI surveys indicate that 38 percent of nuclear utility employees (21,600 employees) will be eligible to retire in the 2009-2014 period, and 10 percent
(6,000 workers) more may also require replacement for other reasons (Berrigan, 2010).
The aging of the nuclear workforce is evident in Figure 2.17. above, and highlighted in Figure 2.20. As Figure 2.20 indicates, the total potential workforce loss from retirement and other attrition could be as much as 48 percent of the total direct industry employment. Moreover, this is only a 5-year time horizon.
Other Workforce Challenges
Other workforce challenges faced by the U.S. nuclear industry are the basic education and skill levels of the youth that form the pool of potential future workers, the insufficient number of students entering engineering programs to adequately support the projected coming needs, the potential for an insufficient number of educators to meet the demand for properly prepared future workers, and the inability to fill nuclear workforce vacancies with foreign workers. Education and training are discussed in the following section.
In many of the energy sectors, it is possible to employ noncitizens when U.S. citizens are not available in sufficient numbers to meet industry demand. However, U.S. citizenship is required for most employment in the U.S. nuclear industry. This means that it is not possible to fill shortfalls in skilled U.S. workers with noncitizen workers. Therefore, it is crucial to educate and train U.S. workers in sufficient numbers to satisfy anticipated demand.
Education and Training
From technicians to degree program educators, job requirements in all sectors of the nuclear industry are highly demanding. For example, math is a very significant challenge for aspiring technicians.
Most blue-collar jobs in the nuclear industry tend to require a strong high school level background in the fundamentals of applied mathematics and applied science. These are areas of weakness in many U.S. high schools. According to a report of the National Energy Technician Education Summit (ATEEC, 2011), a system for correcting this problem is “collaboration among middle schools, high schools, and community colleges to improve students’ science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.”
The commercial nuclear industry is heavily involved with training new nuclear power workers. It is involved with 43 community colleges, more than 30 universities, 25 university research reactors, more than $90 million in federal grants, the National Academy for Nuclear Training (NANT), and 28 state energy consortia (Berrigan and McAndrews-Benavides, 2011).
The commercial nuclear power industry has created a program to systematically provide the higher education needed to prepare the next-generation nuclear workforce. This program has been developed to satisfy the workforce needs of the existing fleet of 104 operating reactors and also to be scalable to satisfy the
FIGURE 2.20 Nuclear generation 5-year attrition. NOTE: Potential retirees are defined as employees who will be older than 53 with 25+ years of service, or older than 63 with 20 years of service, or older than 67 within the next 5 years. SOURCE: Berrigan and McAndrews-Benavides (2011).
workforce needs of new nuclear plants as they are built. The program has provided continuing support for university nuclear engineering programs and their infrastructure, and it also has centered on developing the Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program (NUCP; Berrigan, 2010; Berrigan and McAndrews-Benavides, 2011). These same programs can serve to prepare workers for other aspects of the nuclear industry, such as decommissioning, uranium enrichment and fuel production, and storage and disposal of nuclear wastes.
The NUCP is designed to be a systematic approach to education, using community colleges in key locations to offer a standard curriculum that is industry recognized and that is organized to meet the needs of the nuclear industry for new employees in key disciplines (Berrigan, 2010). Approximately 75 percent of the technical nuclear power plant staff with academic degrees have degrees from 2-year community college programs.
There are three components to the NUCP: (1) quantifying the industry needs and the supply of graduates from partner programs, (2) defining the curriculum, and (3) implementing the proper number of programs on a regional basis. The NUCP uses 43 community colleges across the United States. The courses they offer include radiation protection; operations; electrical, mechanical, and instrumentation and control maintenance; and chemistry. The NUCP leads to associate degrees; the program map is shown in Figure 2.21 (Berrigan, 2010; Berrigan and McAndrews-Benavides, 2011).
The nuclear industry also works with the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) in order to leverage programs and sources across the utility sector, such as the 28 state energy workforce consortia (Berrigan, 2010; Berrigan and McAndrews-Benavides, 2011). The CEWD is a nonprofit consortium of electric natural gas and nuclear utilities and their associations, and it addresses the workforce needs of the energy generation, transmission, and distribution industry. This is a broader base than is addressed in this report, which focuses on the energy generation footprint. However, it is helpful to note the important approaches used by CEWD in their industry’s workforce education and career pathways activities.
The CEWD and the Department of Labor have developed an Energy Competency Model for the energy generation, transmission, and distribution industry as a tool to provide a consistent definition of the competencies needed to perform work in the energy industry. (The NEI, a CEWD cofounder, worked with the other CEWD members on the model’s development and it aligns with the NUCP.) It is designed to build from basic skills to more industry- and career-specific competencies (CEWD, 2010). Educational programs using this model will provide industry-accepted, stackable, transferable credentials, allowing the student to build to higher levels of professional performance and to be able to transfer with those skills to other jobs. The model is discussed further in Chapter 7 and is shown in Figure 7.5 of that chapter. The CEWD also has an entry-level Engineer Competency Model that has been vetted by the nuclear industry.
Someone with an interest in joining the entry-level nuclear workforce typically would take the CEWD curriculum in high school or as a preparatory class for their community-college NUCP program. They would complete their 2 years of nuclear-specific NUCP education and be hired by a nuclear utility, where they would finish their preparation with site-specific training prescribed by the guidelines of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO, an industry organization for self-regulation; E. McAndrews-Benavides, NEI, personal communication, 2012).
The nuclear industry also has led the development of two new competency models for mid-career professionals (one for individual contributors and one for supervisors). They are applicable to all energy sectors and soon will be added to the CEWD Web site (E. McAndrews-Benavides, NEI, personal communication, 2012).
Engineering jobs in the nuclear power industry include civil/structural, electrical, materials, mechanical, nuclear, computer, instrumentation and control, fire protection, systems, and project management (NEI, 2012).1 According to NEI survey data, the demand for engineers by degree for the commercial
1 Other careers (professional, technician, and skilled trades) are also listed here.
FIGURE 2.21 Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program map. SOURCE: Berrigan and McAndrews-Benavides (2011).
nuclear power industry is: 47 percent mechanical; 20 percent electrical; 10 percent nuclear; 4 percent civil; 3 percent chemical; 1 percent health physics and radiation, 12 percent other disciplines, and 3 percent uncertain. Also, additional nuclear engineers would be accepted if they would work in systems engineering, design engineering, and in the operations department. According to the NEI, the nuclear industry’s educational needs include: stable nuclear engineering programs; mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers with both nuclear and power knowledge; stable federal grant opportunities for education programs; strong nuclear technology programs; and adoption of the CEWD pathways model by each state (Berrigan and McAndrews-Benavides, 2011).
NANT includes the training and educational activities of all U.S. nuclear companies that are members of the NANT and the INPO. The NANT Educational Assistance Program awards 125 scholarships annually to outstanding juniors and seniors in nuclear-related majors, and 20 fellowships to a group of institutions with graduate programs whose deans have submitted proposals.
Engineering and applied science jobs in the nuclear industry face a potential worker shortfall because the pipeline of students entering engineering is not adequate to support the projected needs. University enrollments in power and energy engineering courses are increasing, except for electrical power engineering, which is declining. However, correction of this shortfall will depend upon the availability of qualified faculty to provide the power engineering courses.
According to an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power and Energy Society Report, there are fewer than five very strong university power engineering programs in the United States. A very strong program is defined as one with the following: four or more full-time power engineering
faculty members; research funding per faculty member that supports a large but still workable number of graduate students; a broad set of undergraduate and graduate courses in electric power systems, power electronics, and electric machines; and sizable undergraduate and graduate student enrollment in those courses. The general lack of research funding has created difficulties; faculty members in existing classical power engineering programs find it difficult to meet university expectations, and engineering deans find it difficult to justify adding new faculty (IEEE PES, 2009).
However, these considerations do not apply to nuclear engineering programs, which have seen significant increases in DOE funding for university research programs. Several universities have launched new or have expanded existing nuclear engineering programs, because undergraduate enrollment in nuclear engineering has been growing over the past 10 years or so. Some of these students will go on to earn graduate degrees and become faculty members. Others with advanced degrees will likely seek employment in government-funded programs dealing with technical matters outside of nuclear power plant operations. However, for many nuclear power sector engineering jobs, engineers with electrical, mechanical, chemical, and systems engineering degrees can meet the industry’s needs if provided with additional instruction in nuclear topics (e.g., through a certificate program).
Conclusions and Recommendations
2.9 Future jobs that can be created over the next several decades by the U.S. nuclear power industry include commercial nuclear power plant construction and operation; uranium fuel enrichment, processing, and manufacturing; treatment and disposal of low-level waste; and decommissioning of shutdown power plants and other commercial facilities and materials. There also will be jobs in the U.S. supply chain that provides commodities, components, and services to the U.S. and international nuclear industries.
2.10 Within the current changing environment, forecasting the future of nuclear power plant construction is difficult and uncertain.
A. A scenario in which nuclear power would continue supplying 20 percent of the U.S. electricity holds the potential for 287,200-359,000 person-years of labor for building new nuclear power units, and 8,000-17,500 permanent full-time jobs to operate them, with additional supplemental jobs for maintenance and outages (Berrigan, 2010).
B. Other nuclear construction scenarios would yield smaller employment projections.
C. There will be many jobs in other sectors of the nuclear power industry that may not be directly affected by the progress of new nuclear power plant construction.
2.11 The workforce is aging, with the prospect of significant numbers of retirements within the next few years. Losses from retirement and other attrition will require replacement with skilled and properly trained and educated workers. Such losses cannot be recovered with noncitizen workers because citizenship is required for many jobs in the nuclear power industry. Moreover, the current pipeline for providing future U.S. nuclear workers is inadequate to meet expected needs.
2.12 The commercial nuclear industry has established a network of educational programs to create and reinforce the infrastructure needed to develop the next generation of the nuclear workforce.
2.13 Satisfying the skilled workforce requirements of developing activities in the U.S. nuclear energy sector will require correcting the weaknesses already identified in the U.S. educational system in STEM subjects at all levels, and strengthening the support for university-level research, which is requisite for ensuring the sources of educators capable of providing technical instruction at the associate and bachelor’s levels.
2.14 Increasing support for university-level research would further ensure this source of educators capable of providing technical instruction at the associate and bachelor’s levels. Stabilizing federal grant opportunities would strengthen educational programs.
The following recommendation should be initiated as quickly as possible, and it is expected to be fully operational in the medium term. The recommended action is expected to continue for the long term.
2.4 While there certainly are highly motivated and disciplined young people, there may not be enough with these traits/personal skills to fill the jobs that already exist but remain empty. In pursuing the Shared Recommendations, training programs that involve stackable, industry-recognized credentials should be considered as an excellent approach to address this problem. (Short Term)
In addition to these recommendations, the Shared Recommendations for Chapter 2 (at the end of the chapter) also apply for the nuclear industry.
The Importance of Minerals
The Center for Strategic Leadership, U.S. Army War College addresses the importance of minerals to the U.S. economy and national security and introduces the evolving global aspect of minerals supply and demand which is paramount to mining and the mining workforce:
“The vitality of a powerful nation depends upon its ability to secure access to the strategic resources necessary to sustain its economy and produce effective weapons for defense. This is especially true for the world’s two largest economies, those of the United States and China, which are similarly import dependent for around half of their petroleum imports and large quantities of their strategic minerals.” Center for Strategic Leadership, U.S. Army War College (2011).
Minerals are essential for the existence and operation of products that are used by people every day. Virtually all forms of modern communication, transportation, energy provision, food processing, housing, and national defense require minerals and the materials developed from them (Table 2.5). In addition to the convenience and security offered by these kinds of products and the minerals they contain, minerals also support the economic standard of living in the United States (NRC, 2008b). The USGS estimated that the overall value added to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012 by major industries that consumed processed nonfuel mineral materials was $2.4 trillion. This contribution represented about 15.3 percent of the total U.S. GDP of $15.7 trillion in 2012 (USGS, 2013).
The USGS has monitored import reliance for decades and these data have shown an increase in the number of minerals for which the United States depends primarily or completely on foreign suppliers of the raw material (Figure 2.22). The emergence of rapidly growing new economies over the past several decades has also created competitive demand for the world’s mineral supplies, resulting in commodity price escalations and fluctuations. The same period has seen an expansion of the number of locations of mineral production centers throughout the world. Whether or not the minerals in the products used every day in the United States are mined in the United States or abroad, research and innovation are important:
- To identify new mineral sources and develop and implement efficient mining practices in the context of environmental and social concerns for and impacts from mining;
- To identify potential mineral substitutes for products in which a particular mineral may become difficult to obtain;
TABLE 2.5 Common or Essential Products and Some of Their Mineral Components.
|Product||Selected Mineral Components|
|Cadmium, gallium, germanium, indium, selenium, tellurium|
|Cobalt, rare earth elements (neodymium)|
|Rare earth elements, nickel, cadmium, lithium|
|Zinc, iron ore|
|Copper, gold, palladium, platinum, silver, tungsten|
Cell towers, transmission
|National defense and automobiles|
Specialty steels and alloys
|Chromium, cobalt, columbium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, tantalum, titanium|
Screen displays, magnets
|Rare earth elements, gallium|
|Platinum, rhodium, rare earth elements|
Optoelectronics, integrated circuits
|Gallium, platinum group metals|
SOURCES: USGS (2006, 2013), NRC (2008a,b), Bleiwas (2010), Wilburn (2011), MII (2012a,b,c).
- To develop knowledge in areas of recycling of mined products along various points of the mineral supply chain; and
- To qualify teaching faculty to educate and train workers to enter the mining field in a range of capacities to ensure the safety of both workers and the environment.
The present and future availability of a skilled workforce and its ability to meet the mineral security requirements of the United States are viewed in this context.
This section reviews the general mining sectors and their geographic distribution and scale; the current composition and demographic characteristics of the mining workforce within these sectors; information on future projections for consumption of mining products; and mining sector employment needs and
FIGURE 2.22 U.S. net import reliance for selected nonfuel mineral materials in 2011. U.S. import dependence has grown significantly during the past 30 years. In 1978, for example, the United States was 100 percent import dependent for seven mineral commodities. In 2000, the United States was 99-100 percent import dependent for 14 commodities. In 2011, mineral imports accounted for the supply of greater than 50 percent of U.S. apparent consumption of 43 mineral commodities. Of those 43, the United States was 100 percent import reliant for 19 mineral commodities. SOURCE: USGS (2013).
challenges. The section finishes with an overview of approaches to mining workforce development.
Distribution and Extent of Mining Activities in the United States
The mining industry, broadly defined, includes production of minerals on which the nation is largely self-reliant (such as sand, gravel, aggregate, and coal), global commodities for which the United States imports significant portions of its supply but nonetheless has some domestic production (metals, such as copper), and mineral products on which the United States is largely or completely reliant on imports (such as chromium, tungsten, cobalt, and the rare earth elements). The mining workforce can be grouped into one of four sectors:
- Building Materials: Including sand and gravel, crushed stone, and dimension stone, and extends to asphalt for paving and limestone for cement;
- Energy: dominated by coal, but includes uranium;
- Industrial Minerals: including phosphate used for fertilizers and clays used in bricks and tiles;
- Metals: including economy-based metals such as iron, nickel, copper, and zinc, as well as specialty metals including molybdenum, gold, platinum, and rare earths with their specialized technical applications.
Although the general skill sets required by the workforce across these sectors have some broad similarities, there are differences, including the geographical distribution of employment opportunities, the markets the sectors serve, the operation scales, and rules and regulations that play significant roles in the ability of these sectors to meet their workforce needs at all levels.
For example, information from the USGS (Figure 2.23) shows thousands of mines, plants, and processing centers for minerals representing each of the mining industry sectors across the United States. More common mineral commodities with generally adequate local or domestic supply, such as building materials (sand, gravel, and crushed stone), are mined in all 50 states and are typically located near metropolitan areas and transportation corridors. The annual capacity of these mines is directly proportional to the population they can efficiently supply when considering transportation costs and competition. In contrast, mines providing mineral commodities, such as most industrial minerals, coal, and metals, are discovered and located in more unique geological settings. In the broader context, the links between these raw material production facilities—the direct exploration, drilling, and production—and their manufacturing counterparts are important to recall. Any issues that affect personnel at these production facilities, including their immediate direct and indirect support and management personnel, can lead to major issues in the continued operation of the production
facilities with resulting impacts to those farther “downstream” (refining, smelting, processing).
The Mining Workforce
The mining workforce within each of the four sectors works within one of three complementary groups: in government agencies, which are responsible for permitting of activities and research; in academia, where basic and applied research is conducted and the skilled workforce is developed; and in the mining industry itself, which evaluates a broad spectrum of potential mineral resources that result in extraction and production of raw and processed mineral materials. The federal data used to describe the workforce in this section do not differentiate among these groups, and rather tend to identify the workforce associated directly with production at the mine. However, the skills and education needed to enter the professional workforce in either government or academia are discussed here. Chapter 5 specifically addresses the topic of the government workforce in mining and energy.
Data on the U.S. mining workforce derive primarily from one of three federal sources: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH often employs the detailed data collected by MSHA in developing its occupational safety and health research and programs for the mining industry. However, at the close of 2012, NIOSH released the first comprehensive survey of the mining population conducted in 20 years, based on data that NIOSH collected in 2008 (McWilliams et al., 2012). These data complement the BLS and MSHA data and are reviewed briefly in this chapter. Labor projections for mining are available from the BLS and Energy Information Administration (EIA); the EIA employs BLS data to generate its labor projections.
The MSHA data and BLS workforce data show slightly different counts in various parts of the mining workforce (see below). Appendixes A and B describe in detail the federal data sources used for this study, the data gleaned from these sources, and the limitations of the BLS and MSHA data. Briefly, the federal data sources rely on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) taxonomy to identify the industries within mining. However, the NAICS structure is somewhat restricted in the way it allows examination of the mining workforce. For example, certain NAICS categories do not differentiate among oil and gas, coal, and hard-rock mining labor descriptions, and outsourcing of energy- and mining-related activities to contractors is also not fully captured in the NAICS taxonomy, potentially leading to undercounting of certain parts of the workforce (see also Appendixes A and B). Furthermore, potential technological developments that may decrease the numbers of workers required at certain kinds of
FIGURE 2.23 Locations of mines in the United States where coal and 74 types of nonfuel mineral and material resources are mined and processed. The map represents 1,965 nonfuel mines and processing sites (including metal and nonmetal mines), 1,832 active coal mines and 487 coal processing facilities, and 8 active uranium mines. Not shown is the distribution of ~10,000 sand and gravel, and stone mines. SOURCES : McWilliams et al. (2012), Kramer et al. (2013).
mines are not readily included in official projections of future mining workforce needs, although Woods (2009) suggests that technological advances, in general, may increase mine productivity and result in employment declines in the mining industry over time.
To place the differences among these federal data sets and the projections made from them in a broader context, the committee sought data and information for comparative purposes from additional sources, including university researchers, professional associations, and government data from Australia and Canada, each of which has robust domestic mining industries.
Size, Employment, and Characteristics of the U.S. Mining Workforce
The data discussed in this section focus on primary mine production. Primary production includes exploration, mine site development, mining (extraction of the mineral commodity), minerals processing (milling, washing, grading, and concentrating),); and metals production (smelting and refining). McWilliams et al. (2012) further delineates the NIOSH mine worker population into four broad categories: administration/professional (including engineers, geologists, safety experts, management); maintenance (including trades people such as electricians and mechanics); production (extraction of material from the mine, including mineral processing); and service/utility positions. Although the general categories are
applicable across the four mining sectors, the details in the kinds of training and scale of the workforce at a mine within these categories will vary considerably depending upon the material being produced, for example, at a sand and gravel quarry operating above ground versus an underground metal mine.
Although not represented at this level of specificity for mining in any data set, government agency involvement with the mining industry is important to acknowledge and includes the following primary workforce fields (see also Chapter 5):
- Permitting and regulatory,
- Health and safety,
- Federal and state land administration, and,
- Research and data compilation.
The U.S. mining workforce is relatively small. For example, MSHA, which tends to report the highest employment numbers for the mining industry among the federal data sources, describes a mining workforce of approximately 392,700 for 2008 (representing about 0.25 percent of the U.S. workforce; summarized by Brandon, 20122). Table 2.6 summarizes the 2008 employee counts by mining sector as drawn from the data sets of five different sources. This comparison was based on 2008 data because 2008 is one of the few years for which labor data are reported from each of the main public data sources. More current data are available from MSHA and BLS, but not for the same year. The degree to which the differences in the 2008 data sets are representative of all years is unknown. The differences among the various sources arise from what each source is counting and what each source reports for headcount.
MSHA head-count data for the mining sector from 1983 to 2010 indicate that mining employment has declined, most notably in coal (Figure 2.24). Contractor head count, on the other hand, has increased from 6 percent in 1983 to 30 percent in 2008. Table 2.7 provides a summary of the MSHA and BLS mining workforce employment data for 2008 and 2010, to examine the effects of the economic recession. Although the BLS data exhibit an undercount, both the MSHA and BLS data show a comparable percentage decline in mining employment from 2008 to 2010, similar to national declines in employment associated with the onset of the economic recession in 2008. This pattern was also observed in other countries with strong mining industries. Canada, for example, also reported a decline in employment in the mining industry over a similar time period, but indi-
2 The Brandon (2012) report was the product of collaboration among the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME), National Mining Association National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association and Industrial Minerals Association-North America specifically as a contribution to this study and includes data collated from federal and private sources.
TABLE 2.6 Comparison of Employment Source Data from Public Sources for 2008.
|2008||Coal||Sand & Gravel||Crushed Stone||Non-metal||Metal||Contractor Support*||Total|
a Data were compiled by NIOSH and include all employees and contractors in the benefaction process. MSHA contractors work at but are not employed by the mine. MSHA data may over count contractors who are employed at more than one mine (Brandon, 2012).
b Data are based upon workforce population data collected by census. Data do not include contractors who do not identify themselves by one of the NAICS codes (Brandon, 2012). “Nonmetal” category includes the workforce in the sand and gravel, and the crushed stone categories.
c Data are based upon BLS data. The sand and gravel category also includes some nonmetal (industrial mineral) labor. The crushed stone (aggregate) industry and most of the nonmetal industry are not included in EIA analyses.
d Data were collected by a national survey of the mining population.
SOURCES: Brandon (2012) for summaries of MSHA, BLS, and EIA data; original data sources include McWilliams et al. (2012) for NIOSH, Woods (2009) for BLS, EIA (2011a,b) for EIA.
cated an increase in mining employment beginning in 2011 (Natural Resources Canada, 2012).
A detailed description of data gleaned for this study for the mining workforce from federal data sources (BLS and MSHA) is provided in Appendix B. The descriptions below summarize mining employment data for coal mining and for mining activities other than coal mining. References for the following two sections include BLS (2011a,b, 2012a,b), and MSHA (2011a,b).
Coal Mining Employment Data
For coal mining, the unique NAICS codes reflect coal mining activities and support activities for coal mining. The support activities are similar to activities performed by coal mining operators, but are performed on a contract or fee basis. In Appendix B, Table B.20 shows 2010 average annual coal mining employment by sector (private and federal, state, and local governments), and Table B.21 provides an historical view of average annual employment across sectors for 2005-2010. Employment in these two coal mining activities totals 89,252 for 2010; all in the private sector. Since 2005, coal mining employment has grown at an annual rate of 1.9 percent, representing an increase in employment of about 8,000 for 2005-2010. Coal mining did not experience a decline in employment during the recent recession (see Figure 2.24). Table C.30 in Appendix C provides
FIGURE 2.24 Cumulative U.S. mine labor by mine sector over time. Data from MSHA (2011a). SOURCE: Brandon (2012, Fig. 7, p. 9).
TABLE 2.7 MSHA and BLS Mining Workforce Employment Counts for 2008 and 2010.
SOURCES: BLS (2011d), MSHA (2011b); presented in Brandon (2012, Table B1, p. 24).
2010 private sector employment estimates for the 20 largest occupations in the coal mining industry (excluding support activities).
Demographic information for the coal mining industry workforce is provided in Table C.28 of Appendix C. The data indicate that this industry has few women and little racial and ethnic diversity, compared with the U.S. workforce. Women compose 6 percent of the workforce and Black/African Americans and Hispanic/ Latino workers each constitute less than 0.5 percent. The median age in this industry is 46.4 years (older than the U.S. workforce), with slightly more than 51 percent aged 45 or older.
The MSHA data indicate a total operator employment of 89,209 and total contractor employment of 46,324 (total 135,533). The comparable 2010 BLS figure (based on BLS, 2011d) is 89,252. The data suggest that the BLS figures may be undercounting nonfuel mining employment. The undercounting may be due in large part to limitations associated with the NAICS taxonomy that result in the undercounting of contractor employment. In particular, if a mining contractor engages in more than one activity and the primary activity is not the provision of mining services, the NAICS code for this establishment will not fall under mining and the corresponding employment will not be included as part of mining.
TABLE 2.8 Top 10 Industries in Employee Earnings.
|Rank||Industry||Average Earnings ($/hr)|
|1||Computer and electronic products||32.12|
|3||Mining and logging||27.34|
|9||Beverages and tobacco products||23.51|
NOTE: “Mining” in “Mining and logging” includes the oil and gas industry. Estimates for March 2010. SOURCE: BLS (2010).
Specific details of the coal industry, including workforce information, are summarized in Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research (2008).
Mining Employment Data Other Than Coal Mining
The NAICS codes used by BLS that are unique to mining other than coal mining reflect the activities of metal ore mining, nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying, support activities for metal mining, support activities for nonmetallic minerals (except fuels) mining, and primary metal manufacturing. In Appendix B, Table B.17 shows 2010 average annual employment by sector (private and federal, state, and local governments) for each of these activities, and Table B.18 offers an historical view of average annual employment across sectors over the period 2005-2010. Considering the first four of these NAICS codes (excluding primary metal manufacturing), which deal with the extraction of resources, the total employment across these NAICS codes for 2010 is 128,048.
Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying is the largest of these four industries, followed by metal ore mining. Although employment declined in all of the nonfuel mining industries for 2008-2010, metal ore mining and support activities for nonfuel mining had annual growth rates of more than 4 percent for 2005-2010. Tables C.21 and C.22 in Appendix C show average annual nonfuel mining employment for 2005-2010 for the private sector and local government, respectively. Tables C.25 and C.26 in Appendix C provide 2010 employment estimates for the 20 largest occupations in the metal ore mining and nonmetal mining industries, respectively.
Demographic information for 2010 is available for a subset of the nonfuel mining workforce (see Table C.23 in Appendix C). For the nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying industry, compared with the overall U.S. workforce,
TABLE 2.9 Comparison of Mean Annual Salaries Among Selected Skilled and Semi-skilled Occupations in Mining and Other Industries, May 2011.
|Occupation||Mean Annual Salary ($)|
Forestry and Logging
|General and operations managers||90,240|
Oil and Gas Extraction
|General and operations managers||151,880|
Mining (except Oil and Gas)
|General and operations managers||111,170|
|General and operations managers||120,020|
Construction of Buildings
|General and operations managers||121,180|
Oil and Gas Extraction
|Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers||124,600|
Mining (except Oil and Gas)
|Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers||84,110|
|Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers||102,610|
Federal, State, and Local Government
|Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers||84,960|
Oil and Gas Extraction
|Electrical and electronics engineering technicians||78,480|
Mining (except Oil and Gas)
|Electrical and electronics engineering technicians||60,890|
|Electrical and electronics engineering technicians||63,590|
Construction of Buildings
|Electrical and electronics engineering technicians||51,400|
Forestry and Logging
|Crane and tower operators||41,700|
Oil and Gas Extraction
|Crane and tower operators||57,430|
Mining (except Oil and Gas)
|Crane and tower operators||45,800|
|Crane and tower operators||57,350|
Construction of Buildings
|Crane and tower operators||52,860|
NOTE: Each NAICS title did not necessarily have entirely comparable occupational categories. The occupations selected are for general comparison only and include a range of education and training levels. SOURCE: BLS (2011b).
women compose a relatively small percentage of its workforce. This industry also employs few Blacks/African Americans and Asians, but Hispanic or Latino workers represent 12.5 percent of this industry (compared with the overall U.S. workforce at 14.3 percent). Comparable data were not reported for the metal ore mining industry. An important note is that the nonfuel mining workforce is older than the U.S. workforce. Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying has a median age of 47.8 and metal ore mining has a median age of 43.4 (compared with 42.0 for the U.S. workforce); 57.3 percent of the nonmetallic industry and 51.4 percent of the metal ore industry are 45 years of age or older.
The MSHA data show employment of 225,643 in 2010, with 160,146 reflecting employment at nonfuel mining operators and the remaining 65,497 reflecting employment at nonfuel mining contractors. As noted previously, the comparable BLS figure (from BLS, 2011d) is 128,048, suggesting that the BLS figures are undercounting nonfuel mining employment.
Mineral Consumption Market Patterns
The production of mineral commodities links closely to the standard of living in a particular jurisdiction, as well as the demand for the raw materials and the prices those materials command (Woods, 2009). Rising standards of living in emerging economies and increasing human population, generally, have been accompanied by increased metals and industrial minerals use (Rogich and Matos, 2008). As a developed economy, the consumption of mineral commodities in the United States is high and has increased with population growth. This is also true for developed economies globally. Menzie et al. (2003) summarized work that examined the ties among population, GDP, and mineral consumption in the 20 most populous countries. These authors suggested that rapid growth in mineral consumption would occur over the subsequent two decades, due particularly to increased growth in consumption in developing countries. In one example that reviews per capita consumption of major metals such as iron (and coking coal to produce iron), copper, nickel, and aluminum, marked increases in consumption occur concomitant with increase in per capita income (Rio Tinto, 2012; Figure 2.25).
In Canada and Australia, the positive relationships observed among growth in population, GDP, and mineral demand are being met with increased mineral production and increased employment in the mining industry (Lowry et al., 2006; Natural Resources Canada, 2012). New mining employees are also needed to address the anticipated retirement of many workers in the mining sector (Lowry et al., 2006). In the United States, high metal prices due to demand on the world market for various products have encouraged some U.S. mining companies to increase production at existing mines and to restart production at others. Demand in the country is also anticipated to increase for sand, gravel, and crushed stone (Woods, 2009). BLS analysis suggests, however, that the continued expansion of the demand for both metal and nonmetal mine products may be tempered by longer-term stabilization of prices and the strength and stability of the industries that use these products (Woods, 2009).
As an energy source, EIA historical data and projections indicate that domestic coal production is expected to decline through 2015, after which production is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 1.0 percent through 2035 (Figure 2.26 and Table 2.10). Through 2015, low prices for natural gas, increasing coal prices, a lack of electricity demand growth, and increased generation from renewable sources are expected to restrain coal production in the United States. Tied to
FIGURE 2.25 Consumption of major metals and coking coal increases in concert with increasing income. Also shown is the percent of global population with respect to per capita income. The U.S. population is the yellow peak at the extreme right of the diagram. SOURCE: Rio Tinto (2012, p. 40). Used with permission from Rio Tinto.
this growth in production, coal mining employment is expected to grow at least through 2018 (Woods, 2009).
Employer Needs and Challenges
BLS projections for private-sector employment are available for a subset of the nonfuel-mining-related NAICS codes—metal ore mining, nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying, and primary metal manufacturing. These projections are given in Table B.19 of Appendix B. In nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying, employment is expected to increase by 11,600 between 2010 and 2020, but it is expected to decline by 8,300 in metal ore mining, resulting in a net increase of 3,300 jobs in nonfuel mining. BLS projections for coal mining are shown in Table B.22 of Appendix B, which indicates that, by 2020, private-sector employment in the coal mining industry (excluding support activities) is expected to decrease modestly to 77,500. Other analyses of the future mining workforce using a variety of data follow.
A study of workforce challenges in the coal industry by the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research (2008) made workforce projections for the coal mining industry out to 2030. Their projections estimate the total number of U.S. coal miners to be 92,301 in 2020, and 112,487 in 2030. The projection for 2020 employment in the study is somewhat higher than the more recent BLS projection, potentially due to undercounting of the total employment in the BLS data,
FIGURE 2.26 Coal production by region, 1970-2035, Reference case (quadrillion Btu). SOURCE: EIA (2012a, Fig. 118, p. 98).
TABLE 2.10 U.S. Coal Production, Reference Case (Million Short Tons per Year).
|2009||2010||2015||2020||2025||2030||2035||Annual Growth 2009-2035 (%)|
East of Mississippi
West of Mississippi
NOTE: Includes anthracite, bituminous coal, subbituminous coal, and lignite. SOURCE: EIA (2012a, Table A15, pp. 160-161).
as discussed previously (Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, 2008). In comparison, EIA projections indicate that total employment in coal mining could be 86,517 in 2020, 115,651 in 2030, and 128,608 in 2035 (EIA, 2011b).
The domestic mining industry faces several challenges in attempting to anticipate and meet future workforce needs, even under conditions of very modest growth. The most critical issue is the aging of the workforce as it relates to the mining industry and mining-related faculty at institutions of higher education and a paucity of candidates to replace them. Foreign competition for U.S. talent in the mining industry and a current lack of perceived need for new workers in the domestic mining industry exacerbate the problem of the aging workforce.
Because of the net loss of mining-related faculty over the past decades, the nation’s capacity to teach mine engineering professionals in the higher-education system is compromised. The general mining workforce confronts a comparable issue, but the immediate problem is probably less acute.
The mining workforce has been aging faster than the U.S. workforce since 1978, with the mining workforce being 6.5 years older than the U.S. workforce by 2008 (see Figure 6.4 in Chapter 6). The challenge of replacing large numbers of experienced, retired workers in any industry is widely discussed. In addition to confronting the replacement of at least some of the large, anticipated number of retiring mine workers, the mining industry and safety and health professionals confront the additional challenge of ensuring the safety and health of both new, less experienced workers, as well as the older, more seasoned mine workforce (see Chapter 6; see also Fotta and Bockosh, 2004). Moreover, more than half of the present workforce will have retired by 2029 (Brandon, 2012), creating a skill and knowledge gap if not addressed by the education and training system.
Additional factors that may dissuade potential employees from joining the U.S. mining workforce present challenges to employers in the private and public sectors and touch in different ways upon those with professional degrees, those in skilled trades, and those who work directly with mineral production. These recruitment challenges are particularly important as the mining industry seeks strong leadership to address the changing global dynamics in the minerals industry, while seeking innovative ways to increase safety, and efficiency within the context of increasing environmental and social concerns directly linked to mining.
The labor-intensive nature of the work, the remote locations and challenging physical environments of some mines may be considerations that influence all potential workers to different degrees. The cyclical nature of the industry and the legacy of disruptions to the local environment experienced by some communities in historic mining districts may be factors for all workers, but could potentially have greater influence on those with advanced degrees who may have a broad range of options in the job market. Finally, because minerals are a global commodity, factors that affect mining in other parts of the world can have an effect on the domestic mining workforce. In addition to the market influences discussed above, professional-level talent, in particular, may seek the best professional opportunities that also offer the most competitive compensation, whether in the United States or overseas.
Mining Workforce Development
Mining workforce development is considered important, especially in light of the likely gap in skilled workers resulting from the combination of growth of the overall industry and a large group of workers entering retirement age. The competency lattice in Figure 2.27 (based on committee experience) shows the
development of technical and social competencies within the blue boxes and the approximate age of an individual at these stages of development (arrows on the right side of the figure). Important points to note are the following:
- Professional competencies are built on a platform of personal competencies learned from childhood.
- Topical workplace competencies, including work habits, typically begin developing with the first opportunities for internships in the late teens.
- Industry competencies begin accruing with graduation from a university and the first few years practicing disciplines learned at the university, say by age 25.
- Specific expertise is typically evident 8 to 10 years out of the university.
- Competencies continue building over a working career.
- Current recruiting focuses on developed and proven talent. Virtually all companies are focused on this diminishing talent pool.
This view of workforce development also demonstrates the time factor in expanding the U.S domestic workforce and in replacing the retiring baby boomers. It also presents a potential opportunity to identify unique workers at an earlier stage of development, enabling possible acceleration in filling gaps generated by retiring, highly skilled workers. The distribution of the workforce by industry subsector and levels of education and training has been compiled by a member of the committee (L. Freeman, Table 2.11) for comparison with the competency lattice.
The way in which engineering and science professionals develop through their professional careers is illustrated in Figure 2.28. Some 70 percent of graduating mining engineers begin their careers in production-related jobs. Having established this practical base, they move on to fill other roles in the industry. For example, a mine safety inspector for the government would clearly gain invaluable skills with some previous work experience in mine production. Although this figure was developed for mining engineering, it serves as a conceptual proxy for the development process for other engineering and science professionals in the mining industry.
“While market responses may eventually cover some of the apparent gap between the short-term demand for workers and the supply of new hires, the time lag of market responses, the very large number of anticipated workforce openings, and the need for technology innovation entail larger commitments than the market alone is able to address and suggest the need for government engagement in the matter of professional training.” (NRC, 2008a)
FIGURE 2.27 Competency lattice. SOURCE: Courtesy of Leigh Freeman.
An average of approximately 125 bachelor of science (B.S.) degrees in mining engineering has been awarded annually for the past 25 years from U.S. colleges and universities (Figure 2.29). SME estimates the sustaining B.S. graduation rate to be 300 to 350 per year. The number of accredited mining and mineral engineering programs has also declined, from 25 in 1982 to 14 in 2007 (SME, 2007, 2011).The number of faculty has also declined, from approximately 120 in 1984 to 70 in 2007. This translates into an average of 5 faculty at each of the 14 programs, each awarding 9 B.S. degrees per year. Relative to other engineering disciplines, these programs are small and may be more vulnerable to financial pressures experienced by universities. Furthermore, the major proportion of the current technological leadership in U.S. institutions of higher education is approaching retirement without an obvious source of qualified replacements.
These statistics for mining engineers serve as a proxy for graduates of other mining-focused disciplines, such as mineral processing, extractive metallurgy, economic geology, exploration geophysics, and geochemistry for which statistics are not available. Demographics for these specialty disciplines appear to be similar to those of mining. Importantly, the majority of workers at a mine are in skilled trades and in production, where the training and education are not received at 4-year institutions. Community colleges and trade schools are important components of the overall development of a qualified workforce in the mining industry. The training at these and other institutions is addressed in more detail in Chapter 7.
University faculty in mining engineering is also aging, and it is expected that a large number will be eligible to retire by or around 2020 (Poulton, 2012). Although these retirements are not mandatory, anticipated loss of at least some of
TABLE 2.11 Distribution of the Mining Workforce by Industry Subsector and Levels of Education and Training, Relative to the Competency Lattice. The first column contains the required education/training in year and the first row of data indicates the distribution of total jobs (in thousands) across the industry subsectors.
|Coal||Metals||Industrial Minerals||Sand & Gravel||Crushed Stone||Contractor Support||Consultants||Government||Education||Total Workforce|
|Required Education/ Training (yrs)|
NOTE: Total jobs data are from MSHA. For simplicity, levels of education and training are denominated in terms of time reflecting an approximate interval necessary to earn a degree or level of necessary competencies, which may be recognized by a formal certificate. Changes in required training/education levels: more complex equipment and automation will require higher levels of maintenance and operating skills. Increasing social complexity (social license and multicultural workforce) will require more training/education. SOURCE: Courtesy of Leigh Freeman.
FIGURE 2.28 Progression of degreed professionals in the mining industry over time. SOURCE: Brandon (2012, Fig. 12, p. 15).
FIGURE 2.29 Number of mining engineer B.S. graduates from accredited U.S. programs (1974-2009). SOURCE: Brandon (2012, Fig. 15, p. 19).
these senior faculty members in the coming decade, combined with low doctorate production, may place some programs in danger of losing faculty positions. This situation at universities has been exacerbated to some degree by the relative absence of consistent federal research funding to support graduate programs at mining schools since the closure of the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1995. However, the increased attention in recent years by Congress and federal agencies, such as the USGS and DOE, to the issue of critical minerals and materials has renewed
interest in minerals issues. One example of this increased interest has been the establishment (January 2013) of a Critical Materials Energy Innovation Hub by the DOE.3 The Critical Materials Hub, led by Ames National Laboratory and a team of six university research partners, other national laboratories, and several industry partners, will have continued support for an initial period of 5 years to focus on mineral processing and material manufacturing and engineering issues. Although the Hub will not address the primary supply of minerals through mining research or the development of primary mineral resources at new or existing mines, the kind of partnership the Hub represents, supported by the federal government in partnership with industry and research institutions, is a constructive model to examine in the effort to renew U.S. expertise in minerals and mining, or earth resources engineering. A model for new centers for interdisciplinary research in earth resources engineering to address the research challenges in this field, to attract new students to these programs, and to develop the professional expertise that will be required by the mining industry, is described in more detail in Chapter 7. Global research in the minerals sector today is otherwise dominated by Australia and Canada. AMIRA and Mining Technology lead the way in Australia,4 and CMIC leads in Canada.5
Innovation in key areas of the process of mining and exploration could potentially enable a smaller workforce to provide a larger supply of minerals and metals (from domestic and global sources). Upstill and Hall (2006) looked at the pattern of innovation in the global minerals industry, including structure and drivers for change. These authors found that the global minerals industry ranks highest among all industry sectors in research and development expenditures. Specifically, they observed that conventional studies on research and development expenditures fail to include design activities and engineering development, continuous improvement by equipment manufacturers, and expenditures for mineral exploration. Four principal areas of innovation suggested by the authors include minerals exploration, mining/extraction, mineral/metal processing, and environmental innovations. These four innovation areas are viewed in concert with continued work in improvements in worker health and safety. An example of the effects of innovation on productivity is presented in Box 2.6.
Impediments to innovation are borne across industry, government, and academia and may include varying investment levels in research (both government and industry), decrease in the capacity of universities to conduct research in these
4 Australian Mineral Industry Research Association. See www.amira.com.au/ Mining Technology, Australia. See http://www.miningtechnologyaustralia.com.au/lead-focus.
5 Canadian Mining Innovation Council, http://www.cmic-ccim.org/en/about/cmic_about_us.asp.
areas, and a tendency to focus on short-term profit margins rather than long-term investments in research and their benefits. An important recommendation from the NRC (2008a) report on critical minerals suggests that a very important role can be played by federal agencies—including the National Science Foundation, Department of the Interior (including the USGS), Department of Defense, DOE, and Department of Commerce—to develop and fund activities that would encourage innovation related to critical minerals and materials and increase the understanding of global mineral availability and use. The report notes that, absent such federal efforts, the nation may not be able to anticipate and react to potential restrictions in the mineral markets.
Public Policy and Regulation
A stable, competent, innovative workforce is the foundation of secure access to strategic resources. Borrowing from a well-established Australian vision advocating policy as it relates workforce:
“A productive workforce needs to be a skilled workforce. The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) advocates building an uninterrupted, sustainable education and training pathway to increase workforce participation, workforce diversity and workforce skills, regardless of the business cycle in the industry. The MCA is developing and implementing national strategies to ensure the adequate supply of skills to the industry and to increase minerals industry labour productivity by: Advocating public policy and institutional capacity building for improved delivery in the tertiary education sector – both the university sector and the vocational education and training sector (VET) – in minerals industry related areas.” (MCA, 2012, p. 3)
An early example of the recognition of policy to support minerals supply was the formation of Land Grant Colleges in 1862 to provide sustaining financial support for the development of talent and research in applied sciences and engineering (Morill Act of 18626), and the Mining Law of 18727 to facilitate access to federal lands for mineral extraction.
The effectiveness of these monumental policies to support the domestic minerals industry as a foundation for the growing U.S. economy has eroded over many decades, while the importance of a stable mineral supply to the U.S. economy and national security has remained.
Today some of the most populous countries in the world with emerging economies institute policies to secure mineral resources. Their goals are consistent
Impacts of Innovation
Throughout most of the 20th century, the United States was the largest copper producer in the world. Chile is now the largest as a result of decades of exploitation of competitive-grade copper deposits. In the period between 1970 and 1985, U.S. copper output declined by nearly a third and its share of production from the western world dropped from 30 percent to 17 percent. This drop in production was accompanied by a 70 percent drop in employment. A revival in the U.S. copper industry was subsequently spurred by innovation, and by 1995, output was 72 percent above its 1985 level.
The revival of the U.S. copper industry is attributed primarily to innovations in work productivity related to technological innovation at individual mines. This finding is significant because it suggests that changes in understanding the specific mineral endowment (deposit) was not as decisive as factors relating to the productivity of the workforce at the mine.
One of the most important innovations was the technical development of the solvent extraction/electrowinning (SX/EW) process. The SX/EW process is oriented specifically toward the recovery of copper from low-grade ores such as waste piles of copper ore minerals that typically accumulate at a mine site. The implementation of this technical process resulted in a competitive advantage for historically important copper-producing companies and countries that had developed fairly substantial waste piles of previously unexploited and unrecoverable (from an economic viability standpoint) copper ore.
In essence, waste rock associated with a century of mining was converted from a liability to an asset. This development allowed the United States to sustain domestic copper production in spite of the fact that many of the richest domestic deposits had been substantially depleted.
From a public policy standpoint, Tilton (2003) suggests that such innovations shift the role of government
“from ensuring that society gets its fair share of the wealth created by mining . . . to creating an economic climate conducive to the innovative activities of firms and individuals. In short, public policy focuses more on how to increase benefits flowing from mining and less on how to divide them.” (Tilton, 2003)
SOURCE: Tilton (2003).
U.S. efforts of the late 1800s and early 1900s, although their policies vary substantially. Global change in minerals policy by large emerging economies has put the supply of critical minerals to the United States at risk. The influence of politics and policy on mineral availability ranges from the regulatory regime in a given country to global geopolitics, global trade, and diplomacy. The rare earth elements have been a recent example of this kind of interplay (Box 2.7).
Renewed Interest in Development of Domestic Deposits of
Rare Earth Elements: The Influence of Export Restrictions
The United States has relied essentially on imports to meet its needs for rare earth elements (REEs) since the mid-1990s. REEs have widespread applications for advanced technologies and renewable energy. It is reported that China has 37 percent of the world’s REE deposits, but it has provided 97 percent of the world supply until recently. Because of the low pricing of REEs from China, the costs to pursue the process of permitting a new REE mine in the United States had been difficult to overcome (Brandon, 2012; additional background information on China’s REE industry and its implications is provided by Hurst, 2010.) In mid-2011, China placed major restrictions on the export of REEs, which spurred more widespread interest in identifying and developing U.S. REE resources. For example, Molycorp, Inc. reopened the Mountain Pass REE mine in California in 2011 (Brandon, 2012). However, new REE deposits will potentially take years to identify and develop.
Conclusions and Recommendations
2.15 Using BLS data, the total employment for nonfuel mining is estimated to be about 128,000, and about 89,300 for coal mining (totaling about 217,300). MSHA data show total employment for nonfuel mining to be about 225,600, and about 135,500 for coal mining (totaling roughly 361,100). (The BLS data undercount employment, largely because of limitations associated with the NAICS taxonomy that result in the undercounting of contractor employment.)
2.16 Employment projections are limited. BLS projections for private-sector employment for the NAICS codes of metal ore mining and nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying indicate a net increase of 3,300 jobs by 2020. BLS projections also indicate that private-sector employment in the coal mining industry (excluding support activities) is expected to decrease modestly by 2020.
2.17 Other projections estimate the total number of U.S. coal miners will be about 92,300 in 2020 and about 112,500 in 2030, and the EIA projects that total employment in coal mining could be about 86,500 in 2020, 115,700 in 2030, and 128,600 in 2035.
2.18 Natural resources remain a critical component of the U.S. economy.
2.19 The various stakeholders have diverse, sometimes conflicting, interests:
- Governments seek security of resource supplies and employment for citizens.
- Government agencies conduct permitting and regulation oversight functions that must balance economic, environmental, and social imperatives, especially in developed economies.
- The workforce seeks employment, but with an increasing sense of balance with social/family components, especially in developed countries.
- The mining industry seeks growth and profitability, employing and distributing its financial and technical capital in risk/reward environments it deems prudent.
- Universities support departments that can generate substantial grant money and other sources of funding, and that can attract high-quality students.
2.20 Increased global demand for resources has created a shortage of many minerals and metals, as evidenced by a step-change in prices.
2.21 A talent crisis for professionals and workers is pending, and already exists for faculty, driven by two main factors—an aging workforce and international competition for talent. Both will precipitate fundamental changes in the cost of talent at all skill and education levels, but particularly for those positions requiring the most highly trained or educated practitioners.
2.22 Innovation in the mining business, broadly including the technology, science, and social domains, will be necessary to minimize the negative impacts of increased global demand for many minerals and metals, an aging workforce, and a pending talent shortage. This applies equally to industry, government, and educational institutions.
2.23 Significant stakeholders, including industry participants, academic institutions, and the government, could focus attention on issues relating to the discovery, cost, and supply of minerals and metals, and create an atmosphere of enthusiasm, stirring creativity. Such an effort could result in a renewed focus and interest in the industry, spurring increased enrollments in mining and geology departments at universities.
2.24 Shifting domestic U.S. demographics alone are expected to create a workforce shortage that is unlikely to be offset by increasing efficiencies. Australia, with similar trends as the U.S., offers strong evidence for an emerging shortage here.
2.25 Mining is important. Mining jobs are regionally distributed, generally well paying, and available across the full spectrum of job skills and educational requirements. Mining products form the foundation of the economy and add significantly to the GDP, and many are critical for national security. Information provided by the federal government, and particularly the USGS, for the collection, summary, and analysis of data and information related to mining in the U.S. economy, including
commodity availability, production costs, and the supply of important and critical minerals through the full mining cycle are important to understanding the evolution of minerals and mining. Such data and information are also critical to the analysis of mining jobs and the mining workforce.
Although federal offices are applying their resources to collect and analyze reliable mineral data and information, the complexity of the global mineral market and the speed with which minerals, mining, and mineral products evolve are expected to require the collection and provision of increasing amounts and types of data with greater speed. The positive effects of this kind of enhanced information could be envisioned, for example, with respect to the way in which BLS classifies mining jobs. Currently, BLS does not use classification codes that allow nuanced descriptions of mining jobs that accurately reflect the variations in and evolution of the mining industry that might otherwise be informed by a more detailed federal analysis of the complex global character of minerals, mining, and mineral products.
Collection and provision of the summary kinds of detailed, reliable information noted above could most effectively be envisioned as being derived from a central federal source, such as the USGS, which has an established history of this kind of data collection. Such a federal entity would be a valuable BLS collaborator, serving as a source of comprehensive mining data and information that could assist the BLS in defining and updating classification codes and in informing BLS data collection, analysis, and projection efforts.
Some issues are critical and acute, requiring immediate solutions. Industry is most capable of a quick response by providing financial and leadership support to address short-term solutions until government and educational institutions are aligned to address medium- and long-term solutions. (Short term is defined as 2 years or less, medium term as 2-5 years, and long term as more than 5 years.)
2.5 The committee recommends that industry leadership consider that these solutions could be facilitated by a fact-collecting and advisory entity (nonlobbying) composed of leadership from all extractive sectors, including metals, coal, industrial minerals, aggregates, and also possibly relevant governmental and educational institutions. Ideally, this entity would have an international perspective as well. (Short Term)
2.6 Such an entity could also help in the development of industrywide competency models, facilitating better alignment of educational and training programs with industry needs. (Medium Term)
With respect to higher education for “professions at risk,” including mining engineering, extractive metallurgy, and economic geology (including geochemistry and mining geophysics), the teaching faculty for mining in the United States is insufficient to meet current and future needs. The system to replace these critical faculty is unsustainable and in need of major change.
2.7 Industry should consider providing financial and leadership support to sustain a critical teaching capacity until medium- and long-term solutions can be developed and implemented. (Short Term)
A holistic view of the workforce across all extractive industries in the context of competencies clearly indicates that the majority of workforce issues are served by a similarly educated and trained workforce, with STEM education as a foundation. With few exceptions, the training and educational capacity can be adapted to the changing needs of the extractive industries and government.
2.8 The committee recommends that industry and educators develop metrics and track training and education capacity at all levels to simply develop a comprehensive and talented workforce in the context of a “competency lattice.” (Short Term)
2.9 Industry and educators should work together to develop a workforce capable of supporting the minerals sectors to serve the entire U.S. economy, including addressing all anticipated scenarios. (Medium and Long Term)
In addition to these recommendations, the Shared Recommendations for Chapter 2 (below) also apply for the mining industry.
The following recommendations apply across the mature industries in this chapter, and they address a range of actions that are complementary. As noted in Chapter 3, they also apply across the emerging industries in that chapter. These “shared” recommendations are more general than the industry-specific recommendations presented in the various industry sections of the chapter because they can be applied across all of these industries. They also indicate that these industries share many common issues and basic solutions.
All of the Shared Recommendations should be initiated as soon as possible, and they are ordered and labeled in terms of when they would be expected to become fully operational. All are expected to continue for the long term. Short term is defined as 2 years or less, medium term as 2-5 years, and long term as more than 5 years.
Shared Recommendation 1: To address the growing demand for trained workers, industry, potentially with government support, should take an active part in developing the workforce of the future by working closely with educational institutions at all levels. Active involvement could include, but would not be limited to, developing a curriculum that trains individuals to be “job ready” upon completion of their certification or degree. This effort would benefit from being a national initiative and having a local/community focus. In pursuing this initiative, it would be important to consider, encourage, and emulate existing educational success stories, such as the programs supported by the National Science Foundation at community colleges, and the Truckee Meadows Community College program. The other educational success stories noted in Chapter 2 that are focusing on minority outreach also would be instructive for this broader initiative. (Short Term)
Shared Recommendation 2: To ensure that there are enough faculty now and in the pipeline, who are qualified to work and teach at the cutting edge of technology, the committee recommends that the government and industry consider entering into partnership to provide joint support for research programs at U.S. universities, with the goal of attracting and better preparing students and faculty, promoting innovation, and helping to ensure the relevance of university programs. (Short Term)
Shared Recommendation 3: The committee recommends that the industrial parties who are working with educational institutions on workforce education and training, along with the Department of Education, urge educators to encourage students to seek STEM disciplines, and to consider realigning education in the K-12 curriculum to emphasize STEM education, with existing and future educators being better trained in STEM disciplines. (Short Term)
Shared Recommendation 4: To provide a needed enhancement of the workforce, the committee recommends that industry and educators pursue efforts to attract nontraditional workers (who predominantly are minorities and women) into the energy and mining fields. This initiative would benefit from being a broad, national initiative and having a local/community focus. In pursuing this initiative, it would be important to consider, encourage, and emulate existing educational success stories, such as those with a focus on minority outreach (noted in Chapter 2). (Medium Term)
Shared Recommendation 5: Industry and educators should also pursue efforts to attract more of the traditional workforce into the energy and mining fields. This initiative also would benefit from being a national initiative and having a local/community focus. Educational success stories, such as those highlighted in this report, could also offer insights for this initiative. (Medium Term)