Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Access to energy and mineral resources is essential to support the United States' high standard of living, economy, and security. Energy in the U.S. comes from a variety of sources, including fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), nuclear energy, and renewable sources (solar, wind, and geothermal). Nonfuel minerals are necessary for the existence and operation of products and services used by people every day and are provided by the mining industry. However, as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age, the nation is facing the loss of many experienced energy and mining workers in industry, academia, and the government. At the same time, the current educational system is not producing enough qualified workers to fill current and future jobs, which increasingly require science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Some innovative solutions are being pursued, but more action is needed if the nation is to maintain a skilled workforce able to supply its energy and mineral needs.

Key Messages

  • Community colleges are providing important new pathways for supplying the energy and mining workforce by providing direct alignment among their programs of study, the credentials they bestow, and industry education and skill requirements.
  • With a direct alignment to industry education and skill requirements, the success of education programs can be measured by successful attainment of employment and advancement opportunities in the energy and mining industries.
  • Ensuring that the United States has the educated and skilled workforce necessary for the success of the energy and mining industries requires a strong partnership among business, education at all levels, and the government.
  • Technical research leads not only to innovation—the lifeblood of industry's business success—but also to better education and educators.5. Students mostly do not stay in STEM courses in K-12 that would prepare them for STEM postsecondary education or employment.
  • Students mostly do not stay in STEM courses in K-12 that would prepare them for STEM postsecondary education or employment.
  • Although the federal (and other) databases provide an abundance of information on the energy and mining workforce, such as employment estimates and demographic information, the data currently available for addressing the energy and mining workforce are not sufficiently consistent, comprehensive and up-to-date for these rapidly evolving, technology-infused industries and they do not exist at a sufficient degree of granularity.
  • To collect and analyze the data needed for effective energy and mining workforce decision making and policy making, it is critical to foster the collaboration of government data-gathering agencies with industries that gather data.
  • Federal agencies involved in the energy and extractive industries are facing high retirement rates and there is an acute need to replace the departing federal workforce.
  • Because of the relatively restrictive personnel processes that federal agencies must follow and the relatively higher compensation offered by industry, it is difficult for federal agencies to hire and retain the employees they need.