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Director Dot Harris presents Chris Smith, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy, with a professional achievement award at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards conference this February. Photo Credit: Nancy Jo Brown/106FOTO

Director Dot Harris presents Chris Smith, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy, with a professional achievement award at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards conference this February. Photo Credit: Nancy Jo Brown/106FOTO

Earlier this month, I joined Chris Smith, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy, on stage in Washington DC at the Black Engineers of the Year Awards (BEYA) conference to present him with BEYA's Professional Achievement award, recognizing the work of Acting Assistant Secretary Smith and his team in the all-of-the-above energy strategy of the United States.

When accepting his award, Acting Assistant Secretary Smith said that we all have a role in encouraging the next generation of engineers. We're working hard at the Energy Department to do just that. Careers in STEM are critical to the future competitiveness of the American economy, but there is a large interest and achievement gap in the United States in STEM. 

Currently, minorities—particularly African Americans—claim a disproportionately small share of the high-tech, high-paying jobs in the industries inventing and producing the new energy technologies that will propel American innovation and provide a foundation for future prosperity.  According to the Department of Commerce, the demand for STEM-related jobs grew three times faster than the demand for all other jobs in the past decade.

When Americans of all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds are at the table pursuing discovery, invention, and innovation—whether as small business owners, energy entrepreneurs, policy makers, or in STEM careers—the whole country benefits. 

Everyone should join efforts like BEYA's and Acting Assistant Secretary Smith's to bring this diversity to the table in STEM careers, ensuring that our country has the resources it needs to compete in the global marketplace.