The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

March 21, 2013

U.S. mining, energy sectors face workforce shortage

The United States isn’t producing enough qualified workers to meet the future needs of the mining and energy sectors, from coal digging and gas drilling to solar and wind power, a new report says.

The report released Thursday by the National Research Council urges new partnerships to tackle the problem of retiring Baby Boomers who cannot readily be replaced. That includes a retooling of higher education to produce more young people competent in science, technology, engineering and math.

The report predicts a “bright present and future” for energy and mining jobs, with continuing demand for workers and good pay for those who are hired. But it says some industries already face labor shortages and others soon will because the nation’s colleges and universities aren’t cranking out graduates with the skills that growing companies need.

Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration data, for example, show 46 percent of the workforce will be eligible to retire within five years, but there are too few younger workers in the pipeline to replace them.

The oil and gas industry, meanwhile, has a workforce that’s currently concentrated at both the older and younger ends of the spectrum, the report says, “creating a gap in experience and maturity” in between and making it difficult to replace retiring leadership.

The report recommends several wide-ranging solutions, including outreach efforts to improve both the public’s understanding and perception of energy-producing industries such as oil and gas.

Negative perception driven by concern over pollution, environmental damage and health issues, it notes, “dissuades some from pursuing careers.”

It also notes that universities are seeing a faculty shortage that could affect oil and gas, mining and geothermal employers.

“Unless this is corrected,” the report says, “the nation risks losing its capacity to provide new science and engineering professionals for the workforce.”

The independent, nonprofit National Research Council is the main operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences. The nearly 400-page document was authored by 14 experts from universities, government and the private sector.

It warns the higher education community that the traditional routes to degrees “do not adequately align” with industries’ needs and notes “they are increasingly not affordable and accessible” for prospective students.

Community colleges are proving to be the best vehicle for delivering the technician-level, skills-based education the energy and mining industries need, the report says, offering programs ranging from one-year certifications to two-year associate’s degrees.

Schools and employers should form more partnerships like those, the report said, and federal agencies should consider more research funding to schools to help drive technological innovation and develop faculty.

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • twv play 2 Season’s curtain call

    Tonight is the last chance to see Theatre West Virginia Act II’s production of “Hatfields and McCoys,” a 17-show season many thought would never happen.

     

    August 2, 2014 2 Photos

  • Alpha says reducing coal stockpiles could prevent layoffs

    An Alpha Natural Resources spokesman said Friday that the company is “hopeful” that coal stockpiles can be sold in the next few months so the company can avoid laying off more than 1,100 surface coal miners and other support personnel by mid-October. 

    August 2, 2014

  • Congress quick-fix: Highways funded through mid-2015

    Hours before the federal government was set to reduce payments to states for road and bridge projects, Congress approved a temporary fix late Thursday night that would maintain funding through the middle of next year.

    But in some ways, the damage already had been done.

    August 2, 2014

  • makeawish Selling stars: A dollar helps grant a child's wish

    Make-A-Wish and the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association (OMEGA) are partnering to sell “wish stars” at grocery and convenience stores throughout the state. You can get a star for $1 through the month of August. All money raised will go to making children’s wishes come true.

    August 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • W.Va., 11 other states, ask Supreme Court to declare new EPA rules illegal

    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Friday that West Virginia led a bipartisan group of 12 states that are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to declare illegal a settlement agreement in which the EPA promised to issue its now-pending rule concerning existing coal-fired power plants.

    August 1, 2014

  • Ebola outbreak moving faster than control efforts

    An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 700 people in West Africa is moving faster than efforts to control the disease, the head of the World Health Organization warned as presidents from the affected countries met Friday in Guinea's capital.

    August 1, 2014

  • Oak Hill man arrested for selling drugs to police officers

    A Fayette County man is in jail after his arrest Thursday evening for several drug offenses, according to a press release from the Fayette County Sheriff's Office.

    August 1, 2014

  • Suspect arrested, faces felony charges following shooting incident

    A Mercer County man was arrested and arraigned on felony charges Thursday after a domestic altercation led to a shooting incident in the Montcalm area of Mercer County.

    August 1, 2014

  • pittsburgh rally 5,000 rally in Pittsburgh against EPA Clean Power Plan

    The echo of people chanting, “Hey, hey, EPA, don’t take our jobs away” could be heard in downtown Pittsburgh Thursday. The voices came from about 5,000 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) members and their families, along with other unions such as the Boilermakers and the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International (IBEW), marching through the streets.

     

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo 3 Stories

  • Alpha plans to idle coal workers

    Approximately 1,100 employees at 11 Alpha Resources-affiliated surface mines, preparation plants and other support operations in southern West Virginia got notice late Thursday afternoon that their jobs could be in jeopardy.

     

    August 1, 2014