Local oil and gas companies are encouraging young students to pursue a career in science, technology, math or engineering fields in a proactive effort to replenish their workforce.
Fletcher Technical Community College students Andrew Duet (from left), Kayla Metrejean, Jess LeCompte, Tina Levron, Imran Fazil and Maci Mire work Friday in the lab at the BP Integrated Petroleum Technologies building on the school's Schriever campus.
Chris Heller/Staff A 2014 industry report indicates that up to 150,000 hours of valued work experience may be lost if eligible baby boomers retired this year. Baby boomers make up about 50 percent of the workforce.
Because of the need, Fletcher Technical Community College and South Central Louisiana Technical College have developed three STEM-focused summer camps for students from third to eleventh grades, said Nicol Blanchard, who serves as regional camp coordinator.
"It's about changing their mindset early on to get them excited about math and science," Blanchard said, noting kids' adaptability at that age.
Financed by state and industry grants, the camps will include presentations, tours and hands-on workshops to give students a well-rounded impression of the industry, she added.
"The camps make the idea of working in the oil and gas industry more interesting and fun," Blanchard said.
For instance, students can learn about liquid density and oil extraction by putting an egg into salt-filled water or by building their own rock formation, she said.
"It teaches them how to work with the details and practicalities of an oil refinery," said Anthony Baham, chief workforce development officer at South Central Louisiana Technical College. "Sometimes, we can take ordinary things like gas for granted and not know where they come from."