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Careers in Energy Week puts emphasis on future workforce

Monday begins Idaho Careers in Energy Week.

The idea is to increase emphasis on the importance of much-needed energy-sector jobs — the ones fueling many eastern Idaho communities.

A lot of the folks in those energy jobs right now will be retiring soon, and that means there will be a real need.

The hope is, the new generation of workers will come from eastern Idaho programs at Idaho State University and EITC. But even before students hit higher ed, there’s a push to get them interested.

“I want to be an engineer,” said 11-year-old Spencer Worley.

Worley is a 6th grader at Mountain Valley Elementary School in Ammon. He said he already has his eye on the future.

“Math can help me with engineering because when you’re building something it’s important to know the measurements and everything,” said Worley.

At Mountain Valley, preparing young people for lives full of math and science is a focus. Science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM learning — gets a lot of attention at the school.

“You have to know lots of science, so the science is really helping, and the hands on activities,” echoed Worley’s classmate Gavin Christensen.

Christensen said he has his eyes set on a job at the Idaho National Lab someday.

“You’re helping the world be a better place, and it’s fun at the same time,” said Christensen.

Many Idahoans agree.

Over 45,000 people work in the state’s energy sector. That represents 7-percent of Idaho jobs. Energy sector work represents about 10 percent of wages state-wide.

Idaho Department of Labor regional economist Will Jenson said that highlights the industry’s importance to Idaho.

“We’re hoping that by educating the youth about some of those occupations, and that there’s a stronger need for those here in the United States, that we’ll be able to take back some of the technical expertise,” he said.

Jenson said getting through to kids like Spencer and Gavin is important as the current workforce starts to age.

He said if there’s no interest, employers will look elsewhere.

“Then those high paying jobs would go to people outside the area,” said Jenson.

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