Middle-schoolers learn about STEM | PostIndependent.com

Middle-schoolers learn about STEM

Grand Hank, master scientist and TV personality, interacts with students during the Grand Hank Show during Tuesday's Student STEM and Empowerment Conference at the Rifle CMC campus.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

For the first time on the Western Slope, 126 students from Parachute-to-Carbondale-area schools were given a day Tuesday to explore STEM-based careers.

Members of the Colorado Petroleum Council and Rocky Mountain Energy Forum came to the Colorado Mountain College Rifle Campus to encourage young men and women to pursue oil and gas careers, in particular.

“We wanted to partner with industry to offer this opportunity for students to be exposed to STEM in a different way,” said Carole Boughton, CMC Rifle president.

According to an API study by RAND Corp., jobs that require STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills and training currently compose 20 percent of U.S. jobs. The natural gas and oil industry projects more than 1.9 million new job opportunities by 2035.

Boughton said that students from Eagle, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, De Beque, Parachute, Rifle, Silt and New Castle were all in attendance.

The STEM and Empowerment Conference was an all-day event for students and included presentations from national master scientist and TV personality Grand Hank, and workshop sessions introducing students to careers in the industry in new and interactive ways.

“Introducing kids to our industry is critical, and the fact that these kids are here on summer break is telling,” Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley said.

Bentley also spoke to the importance and need for more women and minorities in the industry.

“The reason we started is because there is huge opportunity in the industry and great workforce change coming up,” she explained, adding, “60 percent of scientists, engineers and technology specialists will retire within the next 10 years.”

One of our goals is to diversify the industry, she added.

According to Bentley, research shows that the biggest obstacle to women pursuing careers in natural gas and oil is simply a lack of knowledge about the opportunities available and the career paths open to them.

“Like other industries, we need to make a real effort to diversify,” she added. “There are people of all parties and backgrounds working in the oil and gas industry.”