Updated May 16, 2023 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on expanding the STEM workforce in Houston

On Tuesday, May 16 in Houston, Texas, Axios Local Texas bureau chief Bob Gee and Houston reporter Shafaq Patel hosted conversations examining ways to expand the local STEM workforce. Guests included Rice University president Reginald DesRoches, Houston Advanced Research Center president and CEO John L. Hall, and ALLY Energy CEO and founder Katie Mehnert. A View from the Top sponsored segment featured American Chemistry Council president and chief executive officer Chris Jahn and Chevron Phillips Chemical president and chief executive officer Bruce Chinn.

Reginald DesRoches highlighted the importance of diversity in educational learning environments.

  • On valuing diversity inside and outside of the classroom: “For us to be competitive, to continue to recruit the best students to Rice and the best faculty and staff to Rice, we have to be diverse. And on the flip side, when we think about how we educate our students, they’re only in classes typically 12 hours a week. The learning that takes place is largely outside the classroom, and that learning is really when you bring groups of people with different backgrounds, different experiences, different challenges, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different talents together in the classroom, outside the classroom, that’s when people really, truly learn.”

John L. Hall discussed how current efforts to include historically underrepresented populations in today’s emerging clean energy economy exist in contrast to historic inequities that excluded minorities from Texas’ energy economy.

  • On Texas legislature laws that excluded African Americans and Latinos from political processes: “As a result, these groups were denied the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process with regard to our government and also every other sector in the economy. There is a direct relationship between political power and economic opportunity. For the next 100 years and beyond, the oil and gas industry with the highest jobs of any sector in the economy developed but without the inclusion of African Americans and Latinos. The clean energy transition that we are now in the midst of is starting differently, at least right now.”

Katie Mehnert emphasized why developing the STEM pipeline is particularly important for Houston as a leader in energy production.

  • On developing Houston’s talent pipeline: “It’s important for Houston because Houston is the energy capital of the world, and let’s hope we remain the energy transition capital of the world and Texas, too. There are a lot of jobs that come as a result of that … But I will tell you from a nationwide perspective, it can become a security issue if we do not have enough talent available to meet the needs of these projects. We hear the 2050 goals, we hear the 2040 goals, we have 2030 goals. To meet those net zero targets, we’re going to need people. We’re not going to AI our way out of this.”

In the View from the Top segment, Chris Jahn explained the role a strong workforce plays in advancing sustainability goals and making progress in the energy transition.

  • “We need scientists and engineers to make that happen. And as we move forward as an industry to drive that progress, we really need to be bringing a lot of folks into the industry. Younger generations in particular are really interested in sustainability.”

Thank you to the American Chemistry Council for sponsoring this event.

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