Charter School Emphasizes Energy Education

There's trouble in the oil patch, to many in the field are close to retirement and to few young people are prepared to enter the energy industry. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports that one area charter school is trying to address the problem.

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The school is the Harmony School of Excellence which will expand its traditional math and science curriculum to include an emphasis on energy education. The problem facing the energy industry and in fact other engineering and technical fields is real. Andy Ellis is with the American Association of Drilling Engineers.

"We are short of qualified personnel, not only in the engineering end, the science end, but also in the technical end. It's difficult to attract people in to it right now. There's huge shortage and it's not getting better in the future."

This shortage exists, Ellis says, despite very attractive entry level salaries.

"This field offer extremely good benefits and wages. People coming out of college are getting six figure salaries and a signing bonus."

And that's with only a Bachelor of Science degree. Ellis says on one hand too many qualified students are going into other fields and on the other there are not enough qualified students.

"I think in schooling in general they are not getting the background in science and math that they need, and it's making it very difficult to get into the science and engineering schools in college."

Houston's Harmony School of Excellence wants to help change that in a way few other schools, so far, have done.

"This is really the first one to adopt it in Texas, just full out and say 'look we want to educate our students on all the opportunities available in the energy industry."

Kristina Hardwick is the Harmony School's PTO president. She is also a Policy Task Force Leader for GHEEC, the Greater Houston Energy Education Collaborative. She says GHEEC will be helping Harmony with its energy education by providing one internet portal for energy content from various source.

"All the different content providers, many of them include groups like The Society of petroleum Engineers, and The American Association of Drilling Engineers, The American Geological Institute, all these different groups have content that relates to various aspects of the energy industry."

Hardwick says GHEEC will also provide mentors and experts for classroom presentations. She says Harmony will incorporate all this with what is called an integrated curriculum.

"Whether the subject is PE or art or music or, of course, science or math, there would be an activity or two throughout the year related to the energy industry. It might be social studies activity on the history of the energy industry, or it might be a relay race to model the very first off shore pipeline that made D-Day a success."

Hardwick says there are all manner of things that can be done in a fun and challenging way to help students learn more in general about science and math and in particular about how it relates to working in the oil patch. Both Harwick and Andy Ellis agree that if the Harmony School of Excellence effort can work any place, it's here in the energy capitol of the world.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...