The cover story for the August/September issue of American Gas magazine titled, “Working through Differences,” explores how a diverse workforce can encourage innovation and overcome cultural barriers, especially as women and minorities begin to make up a large part of the energy workforce.
A report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute indicates that by 2035, the energy workforce, with its retirements and expanded growth in the industry, will create 1.9 million direct jobs. More than a half million of these new jobs are projected to be filled by minorities over the next decade and a half.
Fostering a dynamic and inclusive work environment starts with attracting talented and diverse employees. To that end, Con Edison of New York has set the groundwork for new diversity and inclusion strategies in 2015. Recently, the company has helped area colleges with large minority populations align its courses with industry needs and even helped found Energy Tech, a grade 9 to 12 career technical school in Queens, New York that focuses on STEM classes. Con Edison has also worked with National Grid to create a natural gas boot camp for returning veterans looking for entry-level work and mid-level mechanic positions. It has also sponsored internships for college and high school students with 114 co-op students hired in 2015.
In addition, Nicor Gas has been working on bringing more women into the engineering field. The company recently hosted the Society of Women Engineers at its Naperville, Illinois office to discuss why women are still vastly underrepresented in the engineering field, and even more so in the gas and oil industries. Cultural shifts at companies where diversity is woven into the fabric have been a key component in developing a successful method to embracing change in the workplace.
Take for example Public Service Electric and Gas Co., who have partnered with other New Jersey utilities and organizations to offer a career awareness program, developed by the Center for Energy Workforce Development, called Women in Sustainable Employment Pathways. This program helps participants prepare for fields in the trades that they may not have seen themselves in previously. Women work on resumes, team building, conflict resolution, networking, interviewing and applications throughout a 40-hour course and then interview for a desired position at the end of the program.
One advantage of having an inclusive workforce is improved customer service when dealing with an increasingly diverse customer base. This lends itself to fostering different perspectives among leadership and ultimately leads to better solutions for ratepayers. Please let us know in the comments below how your company is implementing ways to create a more inclusive and diverse work environment.