By Robert Connelly
Speakers stressed the need to be prepared for new jobs in the oil and gas industries Monday during the first “Women in Energy Summit” in Ohio.
Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor addressed the crowd of between 150 and 175, some of whom were female high- school students, during her keynote address at the Joyce Brooks Center at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, 7300 N. Palmyra Road.
Taylor highlighted things that she and Gov. John Kasich have accomplished since taking office in 2011, including balancing the budget and lowering unemployment by some 4 percent. “I have witnessed firsthand the positive improvements energy has brought” to Ohio, Taylor said.
She shared a recent conversation she had with a banker in Monroe County, about 140 miles south of Youngstown. She said the banker told her, “Nobody around here needs a loan. They all make their purchases with cash.” The banker was referring to many residents’ receiving payments through lease contracts with oil and gas companies.
She also spoke as a parent of two children, wondering if she had pushed a four-year degree too much upon her two boys. “Degrees are important ... but we want to make sure you have the opportunities to do what makes them happy.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, who hosted the summit, spoke of the women in his own family and had strong comments on the future of energy in the country. “I believe that energy is the next great horizon of American exceptionalism,” he said.
Rhonda Reda, executive director of Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program and Foundation, talked about overall industry education. She continued to emphasize the need for schools to focus on their STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
“Most of the jobs in our field are going to be hands-on,” Reda said. She cited statistics from the World Economic Forum that said the United States ranks 52nd in math and science globally. “We’ve got to build the foundation now. ... STEM is so important,” Reda said.
She also talked about the need to refocus schools on math and science fairs, but she said those programs have faced budget cuts over the years. “This is where we get the best and brightest minds in the country,” she said.
When asked if the summit will be back next year, Johnson replied, “We’ll see what the reception is to this one. We’ll do some stats afterward. ... This is not our grandfather’s industry anymore. This is an industry that is going to be a job creator for both men and women, and we need to make sure they know about it.”