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Harnessing the Power of Talent in Energy

When the BBC World Service wanted to explore issues shaping the U.S. presidential election, it put a focus on Texas and the economic landscape for the energy sector. For insight, the program, Business Matters, turned to Katie Mehnert, founder of ALLY and Pink Petro and recently named ambassador for the U.S. government’s Equity in Energy initiative. In a conversation with presenter Rahul Tandon, Mehnert discussed this tumultuous year, the price war, the pandemic, and more.

For starters, she explained, it’s important to speak about energy, not just oil.

“If you look back to the 1980s, oil was huge for Texas,” Mehnert said. “But I would say in 2020, all energy is important to Texas. Obviously, the economic vitality and the growth of the region is inextricably tied to the energy industry. Houston is the global brain trust. I think we have 4,600 energy companies just in the Greater Houston area. And a quarter of a million workers are directly employed in the industry with multiples of that being indirectly employed. So it is absolutely critical.”

Katie Mehnert, CEO and Founder Pink Petro

As the COVID-19 pandemic set in earlier this year and a price war involving Russia and Saudi Arabia erupted, oil prices plummeted and job losses followed, Mehnert explained. (It’s something many speakers at this year’s Energy 2.0 Summit saw coming.) But solving this problem requires taking a much bigger look at what’s been happening in energy, particularly oil and gas, going back much further.

“Several decades ago we stopped hiring in the energy sector”

“The last bust of the 80s created that kind of environment,” Katie said. “Unfortunately, what that’s done is it’s created almost two generations — a mega-generation — of workers that we don’t have. So if you look prior to the pandemic, we’re really short in terms of talent and pipeline.” As older workers have retired, they have not been replaced at adequate levels, she said.

The industry will need to not only bring people back to work, but also help them in “transitioning their skills into other areas of the energy sector,” including power, solar and wind, she said. Similarly, the sector needs to hire people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

“We need to harness the power of talent, and we’re not doing that,” Mehnert said. When asked specifically about young Texans, she said they “need to know that they’ve got options in energy.”

Katie Mehnert, CEO Founder of PInk Petro

See the energy workforce study by Pink Petro, the University of Houston Energy, Robert Gordon University, the Petroleum Equipment and Services Association (PESA) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).

Mehnert also gave listeners a broader picture of her state. “Texas is very diverse. The economy is very much linked, directly and indirectly, to energy. There’s a lot of opportunity here and the business environment is extremely favorable… It’s one of the few states without a personal state or corporate income tax, which makes the cost of doing business very competitive.”

“The oil business isn’t disappearing anytime soon”, she added.

Still, “I think the pandemic is a very good indicator that, you know, we’re seeing lowering demand, lowering use. We’re all starting to ask ourselves, ‘Do I need that?’” Traffic and demand will pick up, but “we should all be asking ourselves how we can use energy more efficiently.”

Listen to the full program here, or skip ahead to Katie’s interview at timecode 8:19.

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Diversity, Inclusion, and Ally-Ship

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