Vision of the Future

Why API supports STEM education for Latinos

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When Amanda Eversole joined the American Petroleum Institute (API) in October 2018, it was nearing its 100th birthday. Formerly Managing Director and Head of Public Affairs at JP Morgan  Chase, she took on the role of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the nation’s largest energy trade association, which represents the oil and natural gas industry. She and the new President and CEO Mike Sommers defined API as a principle-driven organization and asked questions like “Who are we? What do we stand for?”

According to Eversole, what emerged was “not just a vision of the culture we have today, but the culture we aspire to be in the future.” A key part of this was the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to the core mission to “promote safety across the industry globally and to influence public policy in support of a strong, viable U.S. oil and natural gas industry.” At API, DEI is not just inward-facing, in terms of the organization itself, but also focused on its 600 members. These range from giant multinationals like ExxonMobil to smaller, independent companies, each with its own unique corporate culture. Eversole embraced the challenge of engaging the members and providing them with the resources they need to implement DEI in their own organizations. 

“It’s not just a few programs,” Eversole told LATINO Magazine. “We took the opportunity to challenge ourselves and embody these principles in everything we do. My role is to ensure we set our ambitions high enough to create sustainable, long-term results.”

API provides information sharing on best practices between companies, many of which have been on their own DEI journeys for years. This includes strengthening supplier diversity programs by reaching out to minority owned businesses. Recently, API sent members its second annual Supplier Diversity Survey. The results will be available in the first quarter of 2022 and will be used to establish benchmarks and help build capacity.

API also hosted the board of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) at its headquarters in Washington, DC. Composed of 260 Latino chambers around the country, the USHCC represents the 4.65 million Latino small businesses. This is the fastest-growing segment of U.S. small businesses, having grown 34% in the last ten years, according to the SBA. Through its long-established external diverse stakeholder program Energy Action Alliance, API has partnered with a number of Latino organizations such as League United Latin American Council (LULAC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), Society Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) on workforce initiatives and shaping the industry’s efforts on sustained diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“I personally have a bias for action,” says Eversole. “One of the things we offer is economic opportunity. We have a shared interest in ensuring that these economic opportunities are available to anyone who wishes to engage with our industry.”

Another key component of API’s mission is ensuring that its member companies have a diverse pipeline of talent. Between now and 2040, its projected there will be 1.9 million jobs in the energy sector. But there are many misperceptions about the industry, Eversole admits. While the energy industry impacts the lives of most Americans, whether at the gasoline pump or through natural gas to heat homes, far fewer live in oil-producing states. And the image of jobs available is still that of just drilling for oil.

The reality is far different, says Eversole. API members are on the cutting edge of hi-tech. Jobs which were once performed in person, such as inspecting pipelines, are now performed by drones or remotely. New technologies such as carbon capture, which reduces emissions by storing chemical waste, are improving air quality. Clean energy will be a tremendous vehicle for economic development in the years to come.

How to change this perception, especially among young people?

“We need to talk about what positions are available, now and in the future,” says Eversole. “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. Many jobs in energy now leverage technologies that didn’t exist a few years ago. It’s exciting and we need to give people an opportunity to participate in the industry.”

API members are competing with Silicon Valley and its “cool factor” for the best qualified college graduates. But there’s an important difference. Eversole describes those in the energy industry as problem solvers, and they’re working on solving the generational problem of climate change.

“This connection with purpose can be very meaningful,” she says. “The opportunity to be part of developing solutions for climate change is very important for young people today.” 

That’s why API promotes STEM education, particularly among Latinos and other people of color. Through its partnership with Discovery Education, API supports the STEM Careers Coalition, which “addresses the STEM workforce and inspiration gap by bridging industry and classrooms at unprecedented scale.”

Nearly 54% of the 1.9 million projected jobs in the energy industry will be filled by people of color, according to a study by IHS Global commissioned by API. To help fill this pipeline, API supports Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) by providing free access to its library of industry standards, a tremendous resource for students.

“We are global standard setters and we help develop best practices,” concludes Eversole. “It gives students a leg up in the talent pipeline.”