Exploring Careers in Energy: Working toward a Brighter Future

Do you know there are millions of jobs in the energy field? They encompass everything from power generation to renewable, solar, and biomass. Learn about career opportunities in Maximum Employment Matters.

Video Segments

Webinar Transcript

Amy Vaughn: Welcome to today's Maximum Employment Matters webinar. Our discussion for today focuses on careers in energy. I'm Amy Vaughn from the St. Louis Fed, and I'll be facilitating today's call. Before we get started, allow me to cover the logistics on slide two. If you haven't already done so, click on the webinar link you received after registering. This option offers a few benefits. You can watch the slides as they are advanced. You can type questions to us, download the session materials, or even choose to listen to the audio through your PC speakers.

Please note that the webinar performance is dependent upon your connection, so if at any time you're having problems, just pick up the phone and dial the toll-free number. To ask questions today, you can submit them at any time by clicking on the Ask Question button in the webinar tool. Be sure to keep your mouse handy throughout the webinar, as we will be asking you to participate in a polling question a little later.

And one additional note, the views expressed in this presentation are those of the presenters and not the official opinions of, nor binding on, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta nor the Federal Reserve System. Now with that out of the way, I'll turn the call over to the host for our program, Julie Kornegay from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Julie Kornegay: Thanks, Amy. Welcome and thank you for participating in today's Maximum Employment Matters webinar. Today we'll be exploring careers in energy. We have an outstanding lineup of presenters, also from the Atlanta Fed, allow me to introduce Gail Psilos from our New Orleans Branch. And we're excited to have our industry experts Rob Sunderland of Southern Company and Stevie Toups with Turner Industries with us also. Slide four.

Before we get started, I wanted to provide a brief overview about why these programs are important to us at the Federal Reserve. Oftentimes when we speak with people, they share their information about challenges in their industries and what they're facing when it comes to recruiting candidates. And through this webinar series, we have to capture, communicate, and build awareness of labor trends and career opportunities throughout the Southeast. These types of programs are at the core of the Fed's mission. The Federal Reserve has a dual mandate of price stability and maximum employment. We hope that through these programs, we can inform and better prepare the workforce of tomorrow. Next slide.

By informing the audience of industry trends, we hope that this will lead to an increase in human capital. This information can be used in education and training to produce more skilled labor. And a skilled labor force attracts new industry, which brings with it high-paying jobs and produces more consumer spending and tax dollars, ultimately increasing our standard of living.

Now on slide six, our program today will focus on the areas within the Federal Reserve or what we call the Sixth District. The Sixth District represents most of the Southeast and is a good indicator of the U.S. economy as a whole.

All right, slide seven, please. So I'm excited to introduce our first speaker, Gail Psilos, who's with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Regional Economic Information Network. She is director in the New Orleans Branch and works closely with our Energy Advisory Council. She's going to give us an overview of the energy industry. Gail, thank you for joining us this afternoon.

Gail Psilos: Thank you, Julie, and good afternoon everybody. Next slide. As Julie mentioned, we're in the Sixth District of the Federal Reserve, and that's the Atlanta Bank's District. And you can see the map has six branch offices showing, so this is representative of the gross domestic product of these six states, mirror that of the entire United States. So when our president, Raphael Bostic, goes up to Washington, DC, to the Federal Open Market [Committee] meetings in Washington, his brethren around the table listen very, very carefully to the information he provides for monetary policy deliberation. I'm going to give you a big-picture overview of how the energy industry touches so many parts of our lives today and the breadth of career opportunities available to your students. The Federal Reserve really listens to business leaders like Mr. Sunderland and Mr. Toups for grass-roots economic information for monetary policy input. Next slide.

As you can see by the next slide, from the moment you wake up in the morning until the moment you go to bed, the things you wear, from your makeup to your sneakers to the lights you use, the vehicle you drive, the fuel in your vehicle, the fertilizer on your plants and lawns, the fidget spinners your kids play with, and the pacifiers that babies use, the bottles of milk, water, detergent, and bleach, and so on and so on, are all made from oil by-products. Next slide.

The blue-collar jobs of yesterday are gone, replaced by the need for highly skilled careers. Today, as you can see Lucy and Ethel, they would be required to have computer technology skills to run the machines that are making and packaging the chocolate. They would have to run the diagnostics on the machines if they malfunctioned, and they'd have to analyze them and know how to get them back up and running as quickly as possible, rather than just eating the profits. Next slide.

Advancements in technology today have every industry looking at the way they do business in today's world. They're looking at innovation, cutting-edge technology in an environment that competes on a global playing field. Businesses are looking at a workforce and looking for a workforce at every level to help them compete. And there are many careers out there offering something for everyone. The utilities industry is not just about power lines and transmission. It's about renewable solar battery storage, electric and natural gas transmission, home energy efficiencies, analytics, engineers, linemen, and so much more.

The energy industry is about careers in construction, building, and maintaining billion-dollar refineries and utility plants, liquid natural gas plants, off-shore and on-shore oil rigs, pipe for pipelines. And all this for small businesses who need workers to provide the materials to help the industry build, and operate, and support them. The electricians, welders, plumbers, mechanics, engineers, plant managers, analysts, pipe fitters—all worthy highly skilled career paths.

Baby boomers are retiring today in many, many numbers. Millennials and Gen Zers will dominate the workforce and are already beginning to do so. The millennials already outnumber the baby boomers, according to the census. Julie, I'll let you take it from here.

Kornegay: Oh, great, thanks, Gail. So that was really helpful. And if you have questions for Gail, please click the Ask Question button in the lower-left section of the webinar window, and we will do our best to get to as many questions as possible at the end of the program. Amy, I think we're ready for our poll question.

Vaughn: Great, thanks, Julie. So if you are on the webinar, I'm pushing that polling question out to you now. So get your mouses out and click the best answer. How many Americans does the energy sector employ? Your options are one million, three million, five million, and over six million. So again, you have four options for how many Americans does the energy sector employ. I'm going to leave that up just a few more seconds to give everyone a chance to vote. I'm going to stop that now and show the results. And that takes just a second, but wow, overwhelmingly the majority of people picked over six million. Julie, what do you have to say about that?

Kornegay: Well, our audience is very well-informed because, yes, the answer is D. And if you could go to slide 13 for me, I thought I would take a minute to go through some of the highlights from the Department of Energy's 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report. They found that the traditional energy and energy-efficiency sectors employ approximately 6.4 million Americans. These sectors increased in 2016 by just under 5 percent, adding over 300,000 new jobs or roughly 14 percent of all jobs created in the country. On our next slide...

The report analyzes four sectors within energy. The first two sectors make up what we consider the traditional energy sectors. That's going to include electrical power generation and fuels as well as transmission distribution and storage. The last two represent nontraditional sectors, and those are energy efficiency in motor vehicles. So all right, next slide, please.

Our first sector I want to look at quickly is electric power generation and fuels. And this directly employs more than 1.9 million workers. And I've included a chart that breaks out employment by sub-technology. As you can see, the big three are oil petroleum, solar, and natural gas. The report also includes some really interesting workforce characteristics. Like did you know that electric power generation employs more women compared to the fuel sector? I did not know that. In fact, generation is generally more diverse than fuels, employing more individuals who are Hispanic, Asian, and African American. The fuel sector, however, has more employees that are 55 years of age and older. So we see these trends across each of the sector's sub-technologies. All right, next slide, please.

Our second traditional sector is transmission, distribution, and storage, often referred to as the grid. This sector is a bulk transfer of electricity from the power plant to the centers of demand. And the sector employs about 2.3 million workers. The largest employers in this area are utilities and construction. And the balance of those workers aren't represented on this chart, but they work in retail industries, such as fuel dealers and gas stations. All right, slide 17, please.

So we've covered the traditional energy sectors. Now, let's take a look at nontraditional or energy efficient. The Department of Energy has identified energy-efficient products as the third category, with 2.2 million Americans employed in whole or in part in the design, installation, and manufacturing of energy-efficient products and services, adding 133,000 jobs in 2016. Energy-efficiency employment represents a sizable portion of the national energy economy. A majority of employees work at construction firms installing or servicing energy-efficient goods and related services, and just under one-fifth work professional and business services. And as you can see in the graph, Energy Star appliances, including high-efficiency HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning] and traditional HVAC, have the largest number of workers. All right, slide 18.

Our nontraditional work sector in the motor vehicle and component parts industry employs just over 2.4 million workers. And this number is virtually flat from 2015. About 38.5 percent of employment in this sector is in manufacturing. 37.8 percent of employment is concentrated in repair and maintenance. And 21 percent of workers support this sector through wholesale trade. And this includes transported parts and supplies via air, rail, water, and truck. At least 710,000 jobs in motor vehicle sector are focused on increasing fuel economy and transitioning to alternative fuels. And they're exciting times for motor vehicles, and I'm interested to see where this sector goes in the next few years. Because we're currently seeing a dynamic shift toward renewables.

Case in point, Volvo recently announced that beginning in 2019, all cars produced will be electric or hybrid. And General Motors put out a press release saying that they believe the future is all electric, making ambitious strides to increase their electronic offerings. And yes, yesterday if you watched the news, SpaceX launched a rocket that put the first electric car into space. So I guess the sky is no longer the limit.

All right, so our last slide shows what the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] Occupational Outlook Handbook indicates as salaries for some of these sectors we have looked at today. This slide looks at median wages from different careers in the energy sector. And as you can see, there's a wide range in income. The orange line is the trends line, and it represents the median annual wage of $37,040. And as you can see, all but one of the jobs listed have wages over the $37,000 mark. The one job that's under, it's the material moving machine job, which has a GED preference and on-the-job training available. But other jobs that are above the trends line are power plant operators, line installers, electricians, wind turbine technicians, plumbers, pipe fitters, steam fitters, and solar require high school with some type of industry-specific credential or a two-year degree. Of these, solar installers are projected to grow about 105 percent over the next 10 years.

So the two highest-paying positions on the list are going to be your petroleum engineers and environmental engineers. They both require bachelor's degrees. And this is by no means a complete list of all the jobs in energy. I just thought I would put a few of these out there to illustrate what opportunities are available in this area. But I'm going to let our next guest continue where I'm leaving off and focus on power generation and utility sector. So next slide.

I'm excited to welcome Rob Sunderland as talent acquisitions operations manager for Southern Company. Rob is a key member of the leadership team that sets the organization recruiting strategy and operational infrastructure across Southern Company systems. Rob manages the recruiting operations, centralized strategic sourcing functions as well as prehire assessment and relocation services. Rob, delighted to have you this afternoon.

Rob Sunderland: Julie, thanks for the invitation and the nice introduction. For those on the line, whether you're teachers, students, others just wanting to learn more about our industry, I appreciate you joining in and taking the time to invest in the learning experience. You've heard through Gail and Julie this industry is not only a large employer, but an employer that typically pays good wages, offers good benefits. And even more exciting is it's an industry that's going through a lot of change, and a lot of innovation is coming into our day-to-day operations. Put that all together, I couldn't think of a more exciting time, if I were a student or someone looking to make a career change, to really explore what the energy sector has to offer. I'll talk more about the utility sector, since that's the business of Southern Company. And our next speaker, Stevie, will talk more on the construction phase of our industry.

We're primarily an electric utility and a natural gas distribution company. In essence, we're responsible for keeping the lights on, make, move, and sell electricity, or move the natural gas into the different customers that we support. It's a little ironic in that this webinar was supposed to be delivered back in August of 2017, but during that month the United States, Puerto Rico was impacted tremendously by hurricanes. And it caused this industry to really help a lending hand to all of our partners across the United States to get the lights back on in those communities that were impacted by the storms. Hence, we had to cancel this webinar and push it to today. But it just shows the importance of this industry and the electric utility specifically about keeping those lights on. A long history of a hundred years being in this business, primarily in the Southeast, but recently we've expanded across the United States.

But with 32,000 employees, this is a company that really cares for its employees, develops them, grows them, and offers more than a job, really offers a career. One of the staff on that infographic you see…our average employees spend 17 years with our company. That's unique in today's world. If that is of interest to you, this industry affords those opportunities. But in those 17 years, the typical employee might have upwards of five to 10 different types of jobs. Again, another unique characteristic of this industry.

Let's move to the next slide. We're seeing all sorts of headlines in the labor market. What is going on with the workforce? We have record unemployment rates. There's low engagement and enrollment in STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] programs, the highest number of unfilled jobs, retirement, baby boomer. The bubble is hitting some of our workforces. The career interest of millennials, the declining health of the labor force, anywhere you go today, you can read or see these types of headlines that are out there.

At Southern Company we wanted to make sure that we had programs and initiatives in place to address some of these impacts that we're seeing as an employer. From our viewpoint, our focus area is really awareness of our industry and the types of jobs that we have, getting engaged with the education system to ensure that skill development is aligned with the types of jobs that we have to offer, and making sure our employees are engaged in the community where we serve, so that we can better the community and better the lives of every individual that we touch.

What you see on the right side of the screen are examples of things we're doing. A few I might highlight. In the K through 12 grades, you'll see us participate with programs like First Robotics, getting the excitement and the awareness of STEM careers at that age we find is extremely important to ensure that they will continue to focus on those studies as they move further in their education. The technical college programs, we have a variety of jobs.

We'll talk about that in a few slides, but putting in certification programs, degree programs that ultimately prepare workers for the types of job we have is something we take very seriously, put a lot of time and effort into it. Having summer camps for students in the middle school and high school levels. Again, focusing on those STEM opportunities and exposing them to our jobs becomes a strong initiative of ours. Beyond the students, we also will hire high school students, college professors to come and internship with us, where they can see our jobs firsthand and take those learnings back into the classroom and help spread the word of what we have to offer as a company.

Let's go ahead and move to the next slide. I think anytime someone is looking for new employment or to change positions, it becomes a very stressful situation for all involved. This slide is to depict what we see on our side of the desk in terms of the job applicants looking at positions in our industry. Now, the numbers you see on the right, I'll speak to them, but it's really just an example of a typical job that we may post out on the internet and elsewhere and the amount of attention and attractiveness that it delivers in the form of applicants. So you'll see at the top, there's just tremendous competition for these jobs. A lot of talent exists, with maybe upwards of 400 or more applicants applying to one position.

At that point you've really got to look at the skills and the quality of the applicants. What we're seeing is between 10 and 15 percent of those that apply really, really possess those core qualifications and skills that we need for the jobs at hand. At that point, we begin to implement some assessments that get at basic math, reading comprehension, mechanical concept skills. Those types of assessments really impact the number of applicants that we see. What it's depicting here is about half of those that take the assessment ultimately pass it.

From there, we hold our interviews, extend offers, and it finally concludes with a preemployment screening, which is a background check, a drug test. And unfortunately, we want to hire these individuals, but not all of them can pass those screenings with a 5 percent fail rate. What you see here then is what starts with a lot of individuals ultimately gets down to one hire. That's the type of competition that each of us are up against any time we look for a new position or enter into a new role.

Let's move to the next slide. For our company, we have a variety of jobs that require all types of skills, work environments, educational environments. What I've got depicted on the top part of the screen are those where we hire most of the individuals into, whether it's engineering, our nuclear plant operations, working with our transmission and distribution systems, or information technology. Other professional jobs like accounting or finance, human resources, the list is very broad. When you think about 32,000 employees, there is almost a job for every type of individual that meets their individual desires and expectations and interests. I think it's important to depict that with our industry changing, it's critical that the employees stay fresh with skills, with their competencies, that they never stop learning, and that they're always open to change.

So if you're a high school student out there today or a college student out there, when you accomplish that degree or receive that diploma, the learning doesn't stop there. You've got to continue to learn to stay relevant in today's workforce. We focus on some skills beyond those technical skills. They're depicted on the bottom half of this page. Personal effectiveness is a big item that our hiring managers look for as they're interviewing and selecting candidates for opportunities. That simple dependability and reliability of an employee is paramount. Think about if you're working on a project, other teammates are relying on you. That ability to just show up on time and be there every day is a skill set that we really appreciate and value and look for in those candidates.

Beyond that, when you get into the academic competencies, I mentioned earlier, math, reading comprehension, writing, the ability to listen and communicate with others, still very important in today's workforce. The workplace competencies, you see some listed there. The one I've highlighted at the bottom, working with hand and power tools. There's a lot of students today that have never been exposed to power tools or hand tools, don't know how to leverage them and use them in a setting. Many of our jobs require that capability. We will train and develop those skills, but ultimately individuals need to have the interest and the desire to get into that type of work.

The last column here is really highlighting what's coming in the future, what's emerging, what are we already seeing penetrate our workforce. And the one that I've highlighted the most is that of innovation. You look at our company, we're starting to use drones to do inspections. We have a smart grid application that goes out, and ultimately how can we fix problems with our electric distribution system without having to send individuals out there to correct it? In some ways you can do that through technology.

You heard earlier, there's a big push and a big focus on renewable energy, whether that's wind, solar, biomass, other types of renewable products. But that requires a different skill set and comes with different challenges. If you're in the customer service arena, you're seeing the onslaught of automation and the ability of machine learning to help resolve customer issues. And finally, technology is in everyone's hands, and we're all having to leverage it in our jobs. So that ability to be innovative, to think differently, to look forward, look ahead, and ultimately help the business accomplish its goals through innovative products is something that I think everyone is looking for today. Next slide.

Earlier on that application slide, I spoke to some of our pre-hire assessments. This is an example of what many of our employees may take when looking and applying for a job in our power plants or on our line crews. What you can see here is really a diagram. It's got some missing parts. It's got dimensions. And ultimately, the questions that are asked on the right side of the screen require that basic math skill. Keep in mind, these tests are timed, and there's no technology that's allowed inside of the test. So again, basic math concepts are important in our jobs today. Hence, why what you're learning today in a classroom is very important to stay focused on and continue to learn. Next slide.

One other example of an assessment, this gets at mechanical concepts. So as gears move, as you're pulling trailers up a slope, what's the impact on that? Again, things you might be learning in the high school level really come into play for a number of our jobs. Just trying to reinforce the importance of staying focused on your schooling and learning the knowledge that they're sharing with you. And the next slide.

I bring us back to really these key talent categories. At this point, I'm showing a lot of the educational requirements and starting pay figures that you can see across the board. Ultimately, you can see some require the four-year degree; others don't. Education is paramount, but having that work ethic, having that desire to succeed, and being innovative and working well with others really comes into play with all of our jobs. And across the spectrum, you're seeing again good paying jobs with good benefits and a career that you could spend as much time as you want with us. Upwards of 17 years is our average.

I think as you're looking to make decisions with your education, a few things that should really come into that picture and help you with formulating your answers to the questions, where do jobs exist? You're learning today just how big the energy industry is, employing over six million individuals. What kind of work will I be doing? Listening to today's session, networking with other individuals, doing your research on the internet really will help kind of illuminate the type of work one could do in our industry. What does the future look like? I think we've painted a nice picture of the types of challenges and change in innovation that's rampant across the energy sector.

And then ultimately, what schooling is required to get there? Don't discount the two-year associate degree. Clearly, a lot of our jobs look for that type of educational background. But if going further into the four-year education, a lot of our jobs are in those STEM-focused areas. The engineering is a great place to look to invest further education in.

And the last slide, I've hit on this kind of throughout, and Gail hit on it earlier. Everywhere you go, energy's involved. You think about waking up in the morning, just on the electric and natural gas side of it, that alarm clock needs to go off. You like that warm shower. We've got to charge your cell phones. We need to put fuel in our car, got to cook our meals. When you're without that power, you really realize it. Why not join an industry where you can make a difference, and you provide a product and service that is so paramount to today's life? And you can be that real first responder when there are crises and needs to get involved and give back to the community.

Hope you learned a little bit more about the utility sector. I appreciate your time. Julie, back to you.

Kornegay: Thanks, Rob, that was really helpful. I've learned so much about the energy industry over the last few months, so I want to thank you for sharing your insight this afternoon. And if you have questions for Rob, just click that button, the Ask Question button in the lower-left section of the webinar window. All right, next slide.

So our final presentation this afternoon comes from Stevie Toups. He is executive vice president of Turner Industries. Turner is one of the largest privately held industrial contractors in the nation with 56 years of experience and employing 20,000 people annually. Mr. Toups also serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Energy Advisory Council. Stevie, thank you for joining us today.

Stevie Toups: Thanks, Julie. Looking forward to it. I appreciate everyone dialing in and listening in to us. Obviously, those of us on the call, it's easy to pick favorites. We love the industry. We love energy. And so it's fun for us to talk about. So you're hearing from the cheerleaders of the team.

Look at this first slide, and it's a quick snapshot of Turner Industries. This is the company you heard Julie mentioning, we're privately held. We're owned by one family and have been for just under 60 years. But it really speaks to the opportunities in the industry. And what I want to share with you is I want to answer the question, are things…what does it look like for the next couple of years? How do you get here? What are the paths to get here? What do we do? Why is this so good? And I think we'll all be open for questions after that.

Now you know, this is the Sixth District of the Federal Reserve. And with a bunch of those being SEC [Southeastern Conference] schools, I have to be partial and reach out to the LSU [Louisiana State University] energy class that's online. I promised to give them a Geaux shout-out, so hello to our friends at LSU. But hello to everybody on the line.

Let's look at the next slide. It'll be slide 31. It's a graphic or a picture representation of what it is that we do here at Turner. You know, you can picture, Rob talked to you about utilities and energy. Julie and Gail talked about the things that are made. We make the things that make the things, if you will. If you look at an energy power plant, a nuclear plant, a refinery that makes gasoline and oil, or a chemical plant that makes plastics, we build things that look like that. Steel, concrete, wiring, pipe, not hospitals and schools and houses and things. Those are different type of contractor. So we're what's called an industrial contractor. And you can look, you can see a picture of a plant. You can see a picture of a shop where we bring a fleet of 3,000 vehicles back to one spot. And you know, when you think about that, you think, oh, yeah, yeah, you know, you're working on cars. Do you know, we have a fleet of cranes that cross really the Sixth District and into Texas, what we call the Gulf Coast?

Today's cranes are not your dad's construction cranes. What I mean by that is, in order to operate a crane and be able to work on a crane, the first thing you have to do is be able to establish a Wi-Fi connection with that crane. So it can talk to your laptop or your handheld and tell you what it's doing. It'll also text you, and call you, and tell you it's time for maintenance, check my cable, change the oil. Some of these things are so fascinating because they're so big. And what they lift is so critical, you have the machines actually talking to you. Now, the industry buzzword for that is really internet of things, nothing to be intimidated by. It's just making equipment talk to you, much in the same way that your Bluetooth headphones talk to your phone.

So continuing around the picture, you see pictures of us moving big things, and you see a crane lifting the cat cracker or the head off of a large unit. These are big, big events. They happen, but it's interesting…it's so interesting to watch them. We were fortunate. We were able to lift the space shuttle. We were the only crane that had the space shuttle on our hook. It's just, things in this business most people don't get to see.

So Julie, let's move on. Let's look at slide 32. This is a snapshot. You heard Julie mention six million people in energy, and everybody got that question right. Well, look. I'm going to make it a little bit more confusing. That talked about people in transmission. It talked about people with utilities. It talked about people in the energy sector. The people that build the things that those people make is another seven million people. Of those seven million people in the construction business, one out of four own their own business. No other industry gives you that kind of opportunity.

The expected growth, if you look out for the next few years, the question you'd ask me then would say, wow, you know, with seven million people in it, is there a spot for me? Or is this some place I should guide my students toward? Absolutely. You're looking at almost 1.2 million new people in the business in the next 48 months. That's going to be an exciting, exciting time. So if you look at the graph on the bottom-left side, it just talks about…the red looks at total all occupations. This is a percent change in employment or a number of increase. But look at all the opportunity in the construction business. From laborers, which is the entry-level part, to the trades you move up to the executives, the people in the management team. There's opportunities above and beyond everybody else. And the little graph on the top right just shows, hey, you know what? As an industry, we're moving in the right direction.

Let's go to the next slide, Julie, which will be number 33. This is the snapshot for us of the Gulf Coast. This encompasses…certainly encompasses this Sixth District, but it doesn't include power generation. It doesn't include the work. I'm not trying to overlap on what Rob's been talking about. This is a totally different sector. And the only thing I want you to watch on this graph with tiny little numbers that are a little bit hard to see is, look where the graph jumped in 2014 and 2015, where you went from 100 million work-hours a year to 150 million work-hours. And then look out through 2022. It seems to just go up and down, up and down, ever so small. We've created a new normal, a new normal of activity, a new amount of work that's being had by everyone. There's a new amount of opportunity in this business where people with a skilled workforce, the people with the ability to do advanced manufacturing, a new normal, a new level of activity, a new level of opportunity. Just don't forget that.

As we go to the next slide, which will be slide 34, it's a quick snapshot of how you get in this business. How do you do this? How do you get to where we are? Well, there's really any path. And I say that not flippantly. I mean that from…as you look from middle school to high school, no matter what you do, no matter how you learn, or no matter how you like to learn, there's an opportunity to the top seat in this industry. Take, for instance, the bottom path. And it's not the bottom path, it's the one that's on the bottom of the picture, the university degree. Traditionally, you know, people think you go to high school, you get a four-year degree. You move on, you graduate maybe in construction management. You become assistant project manager, move into project management. And if you're inclined, you move into senior management and ultimately one of the executive offices if you are fit, if that's what you want to do.

But the path is the same way if you went to a community or a two-year technical college. The opportunity's great. You go, you get a skill set. You can go back. You can go work in the field. You can go back and get a four-year degree. I realize this is my opinion, and the disclaimer at the beginning of this said this is not the opinion of the Federal Reserve. But when it's my opinion, I can tell you, this is the coolest business out there. There's no other business you can get into and jump around as you get bored, change, continue doing the same thing, continue to increase your skill set. Look at that top line. If you just need to get out and want to start making money, you get an apprenticeship. You become a craft professional, superintendent. You move into the project management rank, you move into senior management, same path, same chief executive office. Tremendous, tremendous opportunity in this business.

Go on to the next slide, slide 35. And it's a quick snapshot of what…I tried to take…Rob mentioned the key talent categories. If you remember what he was looking at, the key talent categories were where there's opportunities within his company. Go to the next slide. What I look at is, we can take people from any of these curriculums, any of these fields, and there's a spot for them in our job. Information technology. See, you would not think it, but a little industrial construction company down in South Louisiana was named one of the top 10 uses of technology in the field in the nation this year. People don't realize just how cool some of this stuff is. We like to think of ourselves as Google on the bayou, doing really interesting cutting-edge things. But people from the nuclear arena, people from the power market, people building gas plants, people work in plants, operators in plants, people in engineering: all those fields can work in our industry.

Now, I noticed I don't have military and co-ops and internships circled because that's where our people come from. That's where we had the opportunity to grab people coming back from the military, who've taken that route, who finished college, who finished an internship, who've done a co-op. Those people can come. This is just an attempt to show you there's opportunity in this business really no matter where you turn or whatever your passion is.

One more slide, slide 37. This is a quick snapshot to show you that the world is changing. If you think back to 1973, 70 percent or over two-thirds of the job opportunities out there didn't require advanced education beyond a high school diploma. There were opportunities out there for you to get a high school diploma, hit the ground running, and go out there and start your own business or start working for somebody. That's changing. As you look over time, you can see the brown slides decreasing to where ultimately 2020, two years from now, the projection is that where that was, 72 percent of the workforce, the opportunities are now 36 percent. They're cut in half. That's tremendous. It shows that where if you look in 1973, 21 percent of the opportunities required a bachelor or associate's degree or some college, that's better than doubled. It's now 54 percent of the opportunities out there.

This industry affords a way for someone to enter and leave and continue a life of learning, a life of making themselves better at any point. If they have the money and they want to go to school, great. If they don't and they want to work for a while, great. If they love working, you want to make a ton of money and work around the world, they can do it. If they want to go back to school, and go all the way and get a degree, that's great. They can also stay with the companies and end up in that top bracket of getting a master's degree or more. There's just no other industry…let me rephrase that, in my opinion, this is a wonderful opportunity, a wonderful industry that you can do anything you want at any level.

And speaking of anything you want at any level, the next slide shows you—and I think Rob touched on some of this—when you think of construction, you may think of people swinging hammers or welding things. We do that. We do a lot of that. But at the same time, we're looking at virtual reality (VR), auto AI [artificial intelligence], VR, where you can hold a laptop or a handheld up to an empty room, and it'll show you what that facility's supposed to look like. If you're unclear what a valve looks like, you can now look up on a laptop and see what that valve is going to work, how it works, how it actuates, and how you'll put it in.

We're using drones that can fly through pipelines and look for things, rather than sending people into it, rather than putting someone at risk. We can send people in. Look at that picture in the middle center. That's nothing like you've ever seen. That's the new hard hat that has, very similar to Google Glass, a projection capability onto the safety glasses all built in, the safety retention, communications inside of it. And you would say, oh, Stevie, yeah, that's really like pie in the sky, Star Wars kind of stuff. It's really not. I've seen them. They're here. We have them in our Houston office. These are things that are happening today. So it's not that technology's not there. I'm showing that no matter what you feel like your bent is, or what you feel your career path is, there's an opportunity here in the greatest business.

Look, my last slide just answers a question, where are we on the top of the list? You go on to slide 39, it just shows, last year the U.S. News and World Report put out a list of the best jobs, and they categorized it by industry. Obviously, if you take construction it's going to line up in a massive, massive list of a bunch of different things. But look inside construction.

Construction manager, electrician, plumber, these are skills that no one can take away from you. If you know how to manage a project, you're good at any business. You could work here for a little while, tell me it's miserable, and move on and go to work for Rob at Southern Company, or go on, and you'd be useful anywhere you turn. An electrician or a plumber is someone who has the ability to connect their brain and their hands and coordinate what they're doing. And in the worst downturn, they're always going to have the ability. They're always going to have someone that needs them.

So my presentation was to hopefully convince you that this is a fantastic business, tell you a little bit about what Turner does. But there's a whole bunch of companies like Turner. There's big ones, small ones. And I hope that a bunch of people get out there and start their own and create fantastic competitors because we love fantastic competitors. To everybody, have a great afternoon. Julie, we're going to send it back to you.

Kornegay: Great, thank you so much, Stevie. I'm constantly amazed at how technology is changing industry, and I appreciate both you and Rob giving us your perspective. So now, we have arrived at our Q&A segment for today's program, and we've got lots of questions rolling in. But I'm going to lead off with the first one, and it is for Rob. What are your favorite questions to ask during the interviewing process, and what information are you trying to gather?

Sunderland: Great question, Julie, and you know, there's really two I'd bring out. And I think a lot of employers ask very similar questions. One is around leadership, tell me about a time when you held a leadership position. I think as an individual answering that question, we all immediately go to, when did I hold a position with a group, with an association, or where did I have responsibility for others? But you can break it down even more simply than that, especially if you didn't have one of those roles. What we look for is, where did you see a problem? How did you take ownership of that? And how did you work through it? That is a core example that everyone should have when answering a question around leadership, in my opinion.

The other one we talk a lot about is teamwork. And so often, I think, when I was a student, there were those teammates that just didn't carry their weight on a project. And it felt like myself or someone else was having to pick it up for them. What we look for in an answer is not so much, you picked up the workload for others, but rather, how did you include others and bring them into the project and get them involved? Those are a couple examples, I hope, and maybe some tips on how you could look at answering those questions a little differently than maybe you thought in the past.

Kornegay: All right, that's very helpful, thank you so much. Let's see, Stevie, I was talking with a representative in the health care industry the other day, and she mentioned that she had seen an increase in folks that stop showing up for work. She said they'd just leave the organization without offering any type of notice. Do you see that in your area? And if so, what are the ramifications for that type of behavior?

Toups: You know, you hate to think that you do see it, but you always do. And I think every business has it. The thing to know and the thing that many job applicants and a lot of employees don't realize is, as employers we keep track of that. For us and working in a facility, it's very good to have a team that works together in harmony, knows each other. And so you spend a lot of time training people, putting them through safety training, putting them through the right training, to put them with a team, get them mixed up, get them fit right. And sometimes if someone leaves for more pay or whatever the reason without telling their employee…I'm sorry, employer, that hurts the team. It jeopardizes their safety. It jeopardizes their productivity. So in many instances, if someone were to leave without telling us, Julie, we have a not-for-rehire list.

So here we are the largest employer in the state and the 26th largest contractor in the U.S. And we actually have a list of people that cannot go to work for us. And many, many contractors do. Because from a safety standpoint, we can't have them jeopardizing anyone's safety at the job. We can't have them jeopardizing the productivity of delivering a project on time for our customers.

Kornegay: Wow, that's really interesting. So Rob, do you guys have a similar structure with rehire policy, or could you speak to that?

Sunderland: Yeah, we do, you know, very similar to what Stevie said there. I think my advice to anyone, if the opportunity isn't right for you, don't just walk away from it, you know. Go and have that difficult conversation with your supervisor and let them know what you're doing and why you're doing it. To just walk away and really not give any insight or intelligence into it, I know it's a hard conversation. It's confrontational. But it will help prevent burning any bridges, is the old saying, in case you run into that person later in life in an interview with another company.

Kornegay: That's great advice. Thanks, thank you so much. All right, we have lots of questions coming in. So let me see. What are some of the trends that you met that may impact future job opportunities in energy? And let's see, who…is there anybody that wants to take that one?

Toups: This is Stevie, I'm happy to take it. I think Rob and I have the same, probably ended up having the same answer. What can impact future…what trends can impact job opportunities in industry in the future? Well, if someone decided that we didn't need power anymore, then obviously Rob would not have as many jobs as he needs. Same thing with gasoline, or plastic, or leather, or chemicals, or anything that we work to build for our customers. I think in the industry world…I'm sorry, the energy world, what industry delivers to people is high demand. People want houses. They want cars. They want power.

And a lot of people have said, well, my electric cars are going to do away with all need for refineries. We're not going to need refined gasoline anymore. Well, you know what? Electric cars need electricity. That electricity's made at a power plant. That power plant's going to run on coal, nuclear power, or it's going to run on gas, natural gas. The natural gas, the refining of that natural gas, or the refining of some of those processes are going to come out of the people that refine hydrocarbons, the big oil and gas companies. And the people that are going to make the power are going to be the big power companies like Rob works for and a lot of Rob's compadres in his industry. And those people need pipe and steel, and either plants maintain that, we're going to still do it.

Look, we're not in a recession-proof industry. And I don't think there's many recession-proof businesses. And I don't want to be the first one to tell you there's not ups and downs. And certainly, politics has a big, big play in it. Geographical politics, there's all kind of things you can get into. But I think as you begin to look for a job and look for a career, look for one that's going to serve you, that you have fun, that you put your feet on the ground in the morning and you enjoy going to. Now, if it works that you can take that skill set and transfer it and go different places, that's like a double bonus. That would be the goal. That's what I would look for.

Sunderland: Steve, I think you hit it. Just a couple things I'd add. We all have to work with technology, so being comfortable and doing that. That trend's only going to continue. I see a lot more need for this ability to analyze information coming from a lot of sources and be able to make sense of it all. I mean, data's only data. The human element of interpreting that and coming up with the, so what does this mean, is paramount. And all of this trending stuff is great, but at the end of the day, you've still got to be able to communicate, influence, and really advise. And a lot of that communication is still in person through verbal communication. So those skills are paramount, regardless of the trends, in my opinion.

Kornegay: All right, thanks. So we've got some questions, and LSU is definitely in the house today. One out of four participants in the construction industry own their own businesses. How should someone prepare for being his or her own boss and leading others beyond learning the craft? And Stevie, I think that might be for you.

Toups: Yeah, I appreciate you throwing me under the bus, Julie.

Kornegay: [laughs] I know.

Toups: I think…how do you prepare yourself to own your own business? Look, I think you have to have a passion for what you do. That's number one. Don't do it to go make money. Do it because you love it, because you really want to do it. I think that's the first thing. The second thing I'd say is, save as much money as you can. Make sure that you can live without a salary for a little while as you begin to build your business. That's paramount.

The other is, have a set of mentors. Have people you can go to. If you think of it this way, have a personal board of directors, somebody who can guide you and say…again, that you would want to listen to, and you respect their opinion, hey, that's not a good idea. Hey, don't do that. Hey, try this, try this. Have you tried this? If you can build a personal board of directors that you respect their opinion, who are successful…and don't just measure successful by a whole bunch of rich friends. Measure successful by people that have their own business but manage their families well. Have people that have their own business and manage their church and personal life well. Have people who have their own business love what they do. And they smile all the time, and they communicate with people. And then finally, look, if you have a couple people who are successful at what they do and make money, that's good, too. But a well-rounded board of directors that can keep you on track, keep you grounded would be so, so, so, so important.

But you've got to love what you're doing. That would be my suggestion.

Kornegay: All right. Well, we are so close on time. I think if we can answer one more question quickly. We got another question, should we be concerned about careers in energy, given the volatility of oil prices?

Toups: I'll take that, and then Rob can close us out. I was just interviewed for an article in the NR [Natural Resources] magazine, and they asked me the exact same question. So I don't know who asked it, but they're really, really smart. You know, the volatility of oil prices is tough. But the people in the energy business have learned to adapt. We're really good at that. I mean, this industry is really good at adapting. Now sometimes, when oil was at $100, I think the adapting from 100 to 70 to 50 has been tough. But you'll see, these companies are learning to make money and refine their product at $50.

I think the thing to do is realize hydrocarbons is something that we're always going to need. I think there's going to be volatility in everything. There's volatility in everything that we do. The energy industry has figured out how to adapt and roll with the punches. That's what we do. So yeah, you know, you can always say it's rough. It was sure a lot easier at $100 a barrel, and now it's tougher at $50 a barrel. But you know what, there's still people making plenty, plenty of money at $50 a barrel.

Sunderland: Yeah, the only thing I'd add, Stevie, to what you said is the industry is large. It is diversifying. And at the end of the day, we're a very important part of the critical infrastructure of the United States. And as a result, I think this energy is going to be sound and present tremendous opportunities for a very, very long time.

Kornegay: All right. Well, I just want to take a second to thank everybody. Stay tuned for updates on future programs. We're working to secure speakers and dates for topics like marketing and technology. So if you have suggestions for future programs, please include that information in the survey at the end of the webinar. We really do want to know what's important to you. All right, slide 42.

So finally, on behalf of everyone, I would like to thank you for participating. If you joined us via the webinar tool, you likely saw a survey link pop up on your screen. Please take a moment to complete that and let us know how we did. We will also send out the survey via email. You only need to fill this out once. The resources that we talked about today, the different reports, there are links in the PowerPoint. So if you want to download those, you can have access to those. Or you can visit our website at frbatlanta.org, back slash education.

So if you know of someone that would find these sessions valuable, they're recorded. And we will be archiving them on our Maximum Employment Matters webinar in the coming weeks. With that, I'd like to officially bring us to a close. Thank you to our speakers. Thank you for our audience. We appreciate you joining us today. Have a great rest of your day.