Equity in EnergyTM is an initiative designed to include and expand the participation of individuals in underserved communities, which includes minorities, Native Americans, women, veterans, and formerly incarcerated persons, in all the programs of the Department of Energy. Equity in Energy also seeks to infuse and expand participation in the private energy sectors in our nation’s economy to ensure America’s energy independence.
On June 25th and 26th, stakeholders in the energy community gathered in the Pacific Northwest for the Equity in Energy: Stakeholder & Lab Engagement. During this event, representatives from businesses and educational institutions along with local students from the Richland, WA area met with officials from the Department of Energy for discussions on the main pillars of the Equity in Energy initiative.
Chancellor of Washington State University (WSU) Tri-Cities, Sandra Haynes, Ph.D. kicked off the engagement with an overview of WSU Tri-cities programs and expressed her support of the Equity in Energy initiative and the importance of creating and fostering an equitable learning environment. Next, Paula Linnen, Executive Director of External Affairs at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) recounted a moment when she truly realized the importance of representation in outreach. Paula was talking to a group of young students and after playing a video about PNNL, a young girl expressed wonder to her at seeing the women scientists, and discovering that she too could be a scientist. Additionally, Office of River Protection/Richland Operations Manager, Brian Vance shared information about the Hanford Future Workforce Initiative, which works with local schools and organizations, provides academic scholarships, offers leadership-training classes, and builds mentor relationships.
The day continued with panel discussions moderated by the Honorable James E. Campos, director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, and featuring Dr. Haynes, Director of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education at PNNL Evangelina Galvan Shreeve, President of Columbia Basin College Dr. Rebekah Woods, Associate Vice President for Academics Administration at Walla Walla Community College Dr. Scott Ligman, and Executive Director of Washington State STEM Education Foundation Deb Bowen. The panel explored the strategies DOE is using to strengthen and expand STEM capability in the youth. They discussed capturing student’s attention by showing the real world applications of STEM, and encouraged professionals to engage with the community.
Director Campos also moderated the Equity in Energy Roundtable featuring President and CEO of American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) Paula Glover, Director of the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs Kevin Frost, Director of the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization Charles Smith, and Acting Division Director of the Earth Systems Sciences Division at PNNL Diana Shankle. The conversation centered on the importance of education to succeed, and creating a culture of knowledge and acceptance in school and work.
The day concluded with a job fair with approximately 150 people participating, including high school and college students seeking internship opportunities for next year, and local veterans and recent college graduates seeking information about employment with both Hanford contractors as well as the DOE. Representatives from veteran’s organizations, educational institutions, Washington state agencies, Hanford site contractors and the DOE’s Office of River Protection and the Richland Operations Office, and others networked, provided information, spent one-on-one time with the attendees. Overall it was a success
The second day held, at WorkSource Columbia Basin began with a meeting between Tri-Cities minority businesses, community leaders and Directors Campos, Smith and Frost. They described their experiences in the difficulty to win and maintain business contracts at Hanford and PNNL, along with the need for stronger advocacy by the DOE to encourage more interactions with small and minority businesses.
The day concluded with a roundtable discussion of Workforce Readiness for Formerly Incarcerated Persons. Earl McDowell, consultant in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, moderated the discussion with Director Campos, Dean of Corrections Education at Walla Walla Community College at Washington State Penitentiary Brent Caulk, Workforce Development Specialist at Washington State Correctional Industries Calvin Thorpe, as well as Education Services Administrator Loretta Taylor and Reentry Systems Administrator James Harms from the Department of Corrections Washington State. Director Campos explained how the Department of Energy, and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity in particular, is working to develop and implement a sustainable initiative that strengthens the employment capabilities for formerly incarcerated persons, and to promote energy job awareness. Roundtable such as these are essential in establishing critical linkages to connect programs and energy jobs with the formerly incarcerated population.
A huge thank you also goes to our panelists and moderators for contributing their time and expertise, and to Washington State University – Tri-Cities and WorkSource Columbia Basin for hosting.