Women’s Energy Network starts local chapter

Women’s Energy Network, a global nonprofit organization for and by professionals in the energy field, kicked off the opening of its Susquehanna Valley Chapter Wednesday evening.

The chapter is meant to provide leadership, career development programs and networking opportunities for its members, with a focus on women, who come from a variety of specialties within the energy field, from gas and oil to electric, wind and solar.

Headquartered in Williamsport, the chapter covers 20 counties, including Lycoming, Bradford, Clinton, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Sullivan, Tioga, Union and others.

Although the organization’s goal is to empower women in these roles, men are also allowed to become members.

Shannon Munro, Pennsylvania College of Technology Workforce Development vice president, spoke to about two dozen women, some local and others from around the state, who gathered for the kick-off event.

Workforce development at the college is especially geared toward empowering students majoring in what President Donald J. Trump calls “recession-proof” jobs, such as industrial trades and energy, for which there are “more jobs available than students to fill them,” Munro said.

The skills gap — the number of jobs available compared to the qualified workforce available — poses a problem for many companies, especially in those industries, she said.

“We have a huge opportunity to impact the number of women entering the workforce in nontraditional careers because of this skills gap,” Munro said. “If you try to hire right now, it seems that everybody who wants a job has a job. It’s really, really difficult to find people who have the skills that we all need right now.”

“This is compounding because we have a massive amount of retirements happening,” she added, clarifying there aren’t enough qualified Millennial and Gen X workers available to fill the roles Boomers are leaving empty as they enter retirement.

Munro emphasized the importance to encourage people, especially women, to consider trade careers, such as those in energy. It’s not that they aren’t or can’t become qualified, but instead they don’t realize what opportunities are out there because they aren’t discussed, she said.

“We need to stop talking about ‘nontraditional careers for women’ and make these career choices the norm,” Munro said. “I like to call them high-potential opportunities. We need to reach outside an easy, comfortable, reliable network and pull more people into the conversation. There are many job openings in the area that are considered high-potential.”

There are 10,000 Boomers retiring from energy-related fields per day across the nation, she said.

“That is a huge opportunity for women,” she said. “Let’s take advantage of this and talk to girls about the opportunities that are going to be available.”