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ORAU Member Universities Explore Current Trends and Future Opportunities for Educating the Energy Workforce

Assistant Director from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Provides Keynote

March 15, 2010

ORAU President Andy Page, Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal research and development for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and ORAU Acting Vice President of University Partnerships Dr. Dick Toohey

ORAU President and CEO Andy Page (left) and ORAU Acting Vice President of University Partnerships Dr. Dick Toohey (right) welcomed Kei Koizumi (center), assistant director for federal research and development for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, to ORAU’s 65th Annual Meeting of the Council of Sponsoring Institutions. Koizumi provided the keynote address for the three-day workshop, which focused on exploring current trends and future opportunities for Educating the Energy Workforce.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—During its 65th Annual Meeting of the Council of Sponsoring Institutions, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) hosted a three-day workshop highlighting the needs of the U.S. energy industry for a well-qualified workforce. The meeting facilitated discussion regarding the workforce needs of the nuclear, renewable, and fossil fuel sectors, as well as the needs of national laboratories and the federal government.

“Today’s energy workforce finds itself in the unique position of having to respond to a number of challenges including the impending retirement of millions of baby boomers over the next five to ten years, an accelerated amount of federally funded research with an emphasis on clean energy, and the overall enhancement of America’s global competitiveness,” said ORAU President and CEO Andy Page.

In response to these challenges, this year’s workshop—Educating the Energy Workforce—focused on reassessing ways to cultivate new talent and on ensuring that industry knowledge is transferred to the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“When you consider that our nation’s colleges and universities conduct one quarter of all federally funded research, and that the rest is performed by federal agencies and the private sector, all of which rely on the universities to supply them with highly skilled, scientific and technical talent, it becomes clear that academic institutions have an enormous impact on our nation’s science and technology enterprise,” said Dr. Dick Toohey, ORAU’s acting vice president for University Partnerships.

“If for no other reason, it is imperative that our member institutions be well-informed about what industry leaders are seeing and experiencing in each of their sectors.”

Attendees of ORAU’s 65th Annual Meeting of the Council of Sponsoring Institutions heard from a number of energy industry experts, including Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal research and development for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Koizumi discussed the Obama Administration’s mission for providing federal investments in science and technology (S&T), and specifically, how those efforts will increasingly focus on the need to address climate change, sustainable development and clean energy sources.

“If we are going to get through to the clean energy of the future, we need to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Koizumi. “Just as we can’t get there with the knowledge we have now, the same is true that we can’t get there with the workforce we have right now.”

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy advises the President, leads S&T policymaking and coordinates interagency S&T efforts, including federal research and development (R&D) investments. The President announced last April plans to expand the nation’s potential for scientific discovery by doubling the budgets of three key science agencies—National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, and National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories. Also, the 2011 budget proposes substantial increases in fundamental research support for other agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA.

Recognizing that increased funding will lead to more research, more research will lead to a greater need for scientific and technical talent, and growing demand for a highly-skilled workforce requires a significant investment in education, this ‘domino effect’ emphasizes the importance of energy industry and academic partnerships. Future graduates will enter a workforce that is intensely focused on advancing energy efficiency, promoting climate change research, investing in clean energy technologies and reducing the carbon impact of technologies currently being used.

“To enable all of this, we know it’s not enough just to fund R&D and link to policy goals,” said Koizumi. “We also need to make sure we have Americans who are well educated.”

In an effort to impact students long before they reach the university setting, the Obama Administration narrowed in on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by identifying STEM literacy, the quality of math and science teaching, and the expansion of STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups as three key priorities for the coming decade.

As a national resource, ORAU has built partnerships with federal program sponsors, the academic community, and the private sector to design, implement and operate science education programs with demonstrated impacts on the educational achievement and career aspirations of students and educators. ORAU is also a key partner in Tennessee’s bid to win President Obama’s Race to the Top competition. The state was announced as one of 16 finalists for phase 1 of the competition on March 4.

In addition to Koizumi, other workshop speakers included Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides, manager of industry infrastructure for the Nuclear Energy Institute; Dr. Richard A. Bajura, director of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University; Dr. Robert T. McGrath, deputy director for science and technology at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Dr. James B. Roberto, director of strategic capabilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Dr. Michelle Fox, senior analyst for advanced learning technologies and workforce development at the U.S. Department of Energy; Dr. Paul A. Hanle, Biotechnology Institute president; Dr. Gerald DeVault, director of nonproliferation and nuclear security at Y-12 National Security Complex; Dr. John W. Poston, professor of nuclear engineering at Texas A&M University; and Dr. Kenneth D. Lewis, dean, College of Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Tech at South Carolina State University.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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