On Tuesday, November 19, the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity continued the dialogue on Capitol Hill about the national need to engage minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, energy economic development, and climate change through the Minorities in Energy Initiative. Seven members of Congress, senior government officials, executives, community organizers, entrepreneurs, and leaders from academia and industry gathered for the Congressional Forum on Minorities in Energy. The Forum was generously hosted by the Office of Congressman Bobby Rush, an honorary Ambassador for the Minorities in Energy Initiative. Congressman Rush was the first voice the Department of Energy heard from regarding the urgency to expand minority participation in the energy sector. 

“We need committed Americans to lend their voices to further the engagement of underserved communities in the overall energy sector,” said Congressman Rush.

The caliber and passion of the speakers at the forum made it clear that minority engagement is a national security imperative and an important component to the United State’s economic growth. The Minorities in Energy Initiative is both internally focused on increasing participation of minorities and minority businesses in the Department’s activities and externally focused on building capacity of minority communities to participate in energy sector careers and business opportunities. Partnering with diverse stakeholders across professional disciplines is a strategic means of achieving these goals through coordinated outreach.

Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), a former science teacher and representative of Silicon Valley, spoke about the language of learning and the need for science professionals to share their personal stories to engage others in STEM fields.  “I know that including minorities in STEM fields is essential to furthering America’s innovative and entrepreneurial legacy,” said Congressman Honda. “The need for STEM workers continues to grow, and to continue to remain competitive on the world economic stage we need to tap into the talented workers from all backgrounds. This is why I believe that the Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy Initiative is an important step towards encouraging minorities to become part of the science and engineering workforce and retaining them in their chosen careers.”

Congressman Joe Garcia (FL-26), honorary Ambassador for the Initiative and the former Director here at the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, said “the energy sector should reflect the diversity of the American public, as all Americans will be a part of the solution to big energy challenges that face our country today. I am pleased with the commitment shown by the Energy Department and distinguished Congressional, and private sector leaders, to address this issue.  It is because of this work, however, that we now have a space and a duty to demand even more.  The Minorities in Energy Initiative is critical to focusing attention on where it needs to be most - on underrepresented minorities that have the most to gain from increased inclusion and engagement in the energy sector.”

Congressman Ben Ray Luján (NM-3), noted the workforce crisis that the country will be in if STEM diversity is not addressed. “I believe the Minorities in Energy Initiative by the Department of Energy will prove valuable in creating a continuous dialogue between the Department of Energy and the diverse perspective of stakeholders within our energy economy,” Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico said. “By working together we can continue to engage communities of color, and as we do so, we will see a greater involvement in our energy future that can help lead the way toward a stronger economy and healthier communities.”

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) had strong support for the Department of Energy and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity for increasing attention on these issues . “I wish to commend the Department of Energy for hosting the Congressional Forum on Minorities in Energy on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013,” said Congresswoman Johnson. “The energy industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country and STEM education is the key to ensuring our workforce can enter these fields. When we look at the changing demographics and compare that to the workforce needs of the future, it is very clear that in order to grow our domestic talent pool, we must place an emphasis on graduating more women and minorities in the STEM fields."  

Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA-2), who has visited more Department of Energy National Laboratories than any other Congressional member, said “for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global marketplace—and maintain our lead in science, energy, and technology— the country must make it a priority to train and educate the next generation of scientists, workers, and entrepreneurs. With minorities set to make up large part of America’s future workforce, we must ensure that they have the high-tech skills the nation will need to keep its competitive edge.  I congratulate the Department of Energy in its effort to create a pipeline for minorities in the energy industry, and look forward to working alongside them in this effort.”

Together, with these committed lawmakers, Ambassadors, and Champions of the Minorities in Energy Initiative, we can expand engagement of diverse Americans in every area of the energy field.