World of opportunity in career and technical education: Energy

Technician installing solar panels on the roof of a house

The employment outlook within many career paths related to Career and Technical Education (CTE) has shifted greatly over the last several decades, altered by changes in technology and economic conditions. Through all of this change, energy has remained an indispensable sector. As CTE fields from information technology to healthcare to hospitality grow and transform, energy grows with them because it provides the power on which they all depend.

One aspect that almost all energy fields have in common is a robust demand for employees that will only increase in the near future. Like many other CTE sectors, this is due in large part to a rapidly retiring workforce. Fifty-five percent of the energy workforce may leave their jobs by 2023, and almost 75 percent of energy employers are already reporting that they are having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill open positions.  The second reason, however, is demand driven by growth. Fields such as natural gas and solar are providing an increasing share of America’s energy and will seek more workers in order to expand even further.

The energy occupations that will most need to be filled in the near future include engineers and skilled utility technicians. Chemists, welders, and HVAC technicians and installers will also see a high demand for their services. Energy jobs are attainable for those with specific industry certifications, postsecondary certificates, associate degrees or apprenticeship experience. Forty-seven percent of employees at a sample shale well held jobs that required less than a four-year degree. Even though required education varies, energy jobs make use of academic skills such as science and math, employability skills like the ability to communicate and follow safety procedures, and technical skills such as engineering expertise and for some, accounting and financial proficiency. The wages in energy jobs vary widely, but many are above the national median and some are well above. Jobs within the oil and natural gas industry offered an average wage of $107,000 in 2012.

As with other CTE fields, internships and other work-based learning experiences benefit students aiming for careers in energy. One example of this is Oxnard (CA) High School’s Green Technologies Academy, where students take classes in subjects including Engineering Design & Development and Environmental Science and participate in internships that involve tasks like creating a mock power company. Another is Fletcher Technical Community College (LA)’s Integrated Production Technologies Center, which was created in partnership with BP and allows students to gain skills needed for deepwater oil production, which include aptitude in mathematics, computer applications and process diagrams and systems.

For more information on employment projections and careers within the energy field, see the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE)’s Energy Sector Sheet, which is the source of all the facts in this blog. To find out more about the growing employment opportunities in other CTE sectors and learn about specific strong CTE programs that prepare students for career in those fields, check out ACTE’s other Microdocs and Sector Sheets.


About the Author
LeAnn Wilson

LeAnn Wilson

LeAnn Wilson has served as the executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) since her appointment in 2013, after having served as ACTE’s chief financial officer since 2005. Through her leadership role, Wilson has gained a deep appreciation for the work that America’s career and technical education (CTE) professionals do every day to equip their students with the skills they will need to keep our country strong, and she has strived to raise awareness of CTE among policymakers and the public. She has demonstrated exemplary leadership during her time with ACTE, including the development of sound institutional financial strategies to ensure long-term organizational stability and growth. Wilson has served in a variety of financial positions during her career, including 16 years in nonprofit association environments. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Maryland, College Park, and currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, Terry, and two daughters, Kelly and Samantha.