On June 9-10, 2014, the Gulf Research Program of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council held a workshop in Tampa, Florida, to examine opportunities for activities in the area of education and training that could be supported by the Program. The workshop brought together representatives of a very broad range of stakeholders, including:
- business-education partnerships
- chambers of commerce
- career and technical education
- community colleges
- competency-based training providers
- environmental engineering
- environmental restoration and conservation
- federal and state governments
- organizations working to expand the representation of minorities underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
- research universities
- workforce training providers
This report summarizes the presentations and discussions of the workshop as a source of input to the formulation and development of the Gulf Research Program (see Box 1-1). The workshop planning committee’s role was limited to planning and convening the workshop, and this report has been prepared by the workshop rapporteurs as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. The views contained in the report are those of individual workshop participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all workshop participants, the planning committee, or the National Research Council.
Within the broad area of education and training, the workshop focused on middle-skilled workers1 those whose jobs require considerable skill but not an advanced degree. Nationwide, one-third of the projected job growth for 2010-2020 will require middle-skilled workers. The educational paths to these jobs include career and technical education (CTE), certificates and associate’s degrees from community colleges, apprenticeship programs, and training provided by employers.
These jobs are “extremely important for the nation as a whole,” said Bob Duce, the chair of the workshop planning committee and a member of the Gulf Research Program Advisory Group, “as they are for the Program that we are undertaking in the Gulf of Mexico.” In particular, all three of the areas specified in the Gulf Research Program’s mandate−community and public health, environmental restoration and monitoring, and safety in the offshore oil and gas industry−depend heavily on middle-skilled workers.
However, the scale of their demand is different for each area, Duce added. In the five Gulf states−Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas− about 1.5 million middle-skilled people work in the health industry. In the oil industry, an order of magnitude fewer do—about 150,000. In environmental restoration and monitoring, the number drops by another order of magnitude—to about 15,000 middle-skilled workers. “But all three areas are very important,” Duce said.
Following a review of the discussions of the workshop’s breakout groups in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 summarizes a provocative keynote presentation by Mark Schneider, vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research and the president of College Measures, on the financial returns to different kinds of degrees and certificate programs. His conclusion is that many kinds of associate’s degrees and certificate programs, including many of those being examined at the workshop, can provide new program graduates with middle-class wages and opportunities for future job advancement.
1Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl. 2013. Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020. Washington, DC: Center on Education and the Workforce.
BOX 1-1 The Gulf Research Program
As part of agreements resolving criminal charges against the companies held responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—BP Exploration & Production Inc. (BP) and Transocean Deepwater Inc. (Transocean)—the National Academy of Sci ences (NAS) was asked to establish a new science program focused on oil system safety, environmental resources, and human health in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. outer continental shelf regions that support oil and gas production. This program known as the Gulf Research Program, is to be supported by $500 million paid by BP and Transocean between 2013 and 2018, with the funds to be expended over the 30 years between 2013 and 2043.
To guide the creation of the Gulf Research Program and propose an initial set of activities, the NAS appointed an Advisor Group of 25 volunteers with extensive expertise and familiarity with the region. The Advisory Group met to discuss the charge established by the settlement agreements, held public meetings to gather input from individuals and organization in the Gulf region, built relationships with other organizations, and identified needs that align with the Program’s assigned mandate. It also articulated a vision and identified both short-term and long-term opportunities for the Program.
The settlement agreements directed the Program to have activities in three broad categories: education and training, environmental monitoring, and research and development. The workshop in Tampa focused on the first of these three areas Subsequent workshops in New Orleans covered the latter two.a All three workshops were designed to contribute potential opportunities to the strategic vision established by the Advisory Group.
The 30-year duration of the Program gives it an opportunity to support short-term, medium-term, and long-term projects Furthermore, projects at different time scales can interact with each other, producing richer results than would otherwise b the case. In addition, the Program has an opportunity to create synergies by bringing together people from different sector and workforce areas.
BOX 1-2 Examples of Middle-Skilled Jobsa
Health Professionals and Community Health Workers
- Registered nurses
- Emergency medical technicians and paramedics
- Occupational health and safety technicians
- Home health aides
- Occupational therapy aides
- Geological and petroleum technicians
- Derrick operators – oil and gas
- Rotary drill operators – oil and gas
- Petroleum pump system operators and refinery operators
Environmental Restoration and Monitoring
- Environmental science technicians
- Forest and conservation technicians
- Forest and conservation workers
a Examples are representative occupational titles drawn from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational and Employment Statistics (OES) survey.
BOX 1-3 Goals of the Workshop
• Discuss the current state of education and training pathways for the Gulf region’s middle-skilled workforce in the hydrocarbon and environmental restoration industries and in the health professions.
• Identify the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that successful middle-skilled workers in these sectors need.
• Discuss the programs, activities, and frameworks needed to build capacity in the Gulf region’s middle-skilled workforce over the coming years.
• Identify perceived gaps between the knowledge, skills, and attitudes instilled by current education and training programs and those needed by employers in the near-term and in future years.
• Identify the types of education and learning research and evaluation activities that are needed to close perceived gaps.
Chapters 3, 4, and 5 summarize the talks given by three successive panels of presenters. Chapter 3 examines the question of what the Gulf of Mexico workforce looks like today and how it is likely to change in the future. Chapter 4 discusses the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that Gulf-based middle-skilled workers need to be successful. Chapter 5 then concludes this summary by looking at opportunities to build capacity in the Gulf region’s middle-skilled workforce.
On the second day of the workshop, participants split up into three breakout groups to identify barriers and potential opportunities in each of the workforce areas being examined by the Gulf Research Program− oil system safety, community and public health, and environmental restoration and monitoring. The main points made by reporters for each of the breakout groups are summarized here as an overview of the issues discussed at the workshop. These observations are not conclusions of the workshop participants as a whole, but they reveal some of the key issues for the Gulf Research Program to take into account in the area of education and training.
First, the breakout groups discussed obstacles to the development of the middle-skilled workforce in the hydrocarbon industry, environmental restoration and monitoring, and community and public health; including the following:
- Today, the public health workforce is not integrated with the other two sectors discussed at the workshop, because no holistic system links the supply of community and public health workers with the demand for their services within the oil and gas industry and the environmental restoration industry.
- The educational system is variable across the region. Curricular and achievement standards can often differ by state or even by county or city.
- The requirements and expectations of the educational system differ from those of industry. This is particularly the case in the health care sector, where different jurisdictions can have differing requirements.
- Poor communication between academia and employers contributes to the differing requirements and expectations each sector holds.
- A lack of coordination within workforce development and training hinders the ability to bring the workforce to scale. Without knowing what others are doing, regional efforts are hamstrung by their isolation.
- Funding is typically not available to train people for employment opportunities that will develop in the future. Jobs in areas such as coastal restoration are going to open up, but funding may not be available to prepare workers for jobs that have yet to be developed.
The breakout groups also discussed potential opportunities for the Gulf Research Program in education and training for workforce development in oil system safety, community public health, and environmental restoration and monitoring; including the following:
- The identification of core competencies would enable the further development of education and training programs that offer stackable credentials, with a neutral third party to accredit such programs. A stackable credential is a degree, certificate, diploma, license, or other credential that can be accumulated by an individual over time as they move along an educational and career pathway.
- A systematic approach could be established to generate curricula that could be shared and transferred among educational institutions.
- Methods could be developed to assess and evaluate results of education and training programs.
- Recent findings from the science of learning, and best practices of the military in tracking and assessing, could be leveraged to improve education and training.
- Modernized curricula could diversify and enhance the hireability of graduates for current and future opportunities. Earning certificates, mastering employability skills, and learning about job market opportunities can all improve hireability.
- A broad conversation among sectors and stakeholders, especially within the private sector and among educational institutions, could build and strengthen links between groups.
- Regional and statewide convenings that bring together industry, educational institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and governments could identify the scale, skills, and numbers of workers needed in the middle-skilled workforce. The private sector could then invest in training programs to help develop the skilled workforce that companies need.
- Today, too many students do not know the range of options that are available to them. Community education via local, nonprofit, and nongovernmental organizations could inform the potential workforce regarding current and
upcoming training, education, and employment opportunities.
- Within the offshore oil and gas industry, a study to identify noncertified offshore positions and which of those should be certified (such as sub-sea technicians or drillers) would provide information needed to develop methods for providing necessary credentials
- In the area of public and community health, a focus on total worker health would help retain workers. Evidence-based practices can foster an effective and productive workforce through activities involving individuals, their families, and communities, which will have implications for productivity, culture, and resilience.
- Many public health or community health workers will require upgraded skills to implement and sustain these practices. If core competencies were developed that cut across all three sectors discussed at the workshop, along with core competencies and specialty competencies within each sector, educational institutions could offer certificates for achieving these competencies. Such a system would in turn facilitate the movement of workers from one sector to another.
- An assessment of the capacity of the educational health system could inform the development and implementation of a plan that recognizes the workers already within the system and those who need to be trained.