Samuel Kang, general counsel of The Greenlining Institute, and Yonnie Leung, Pacific Gas and Electric Company Workforce Development senior manager, also said that it will take government, industry, academia and non-governmental organizations to work together.
Increasing Minority Ownership and Employment in Energy Sector
Former Energy and Commerce Committee member Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said that renewable energy equals environmental justice for communities of color. He said that “clean energy means clean air for some of the most disadvantaged communities in this country” and that Congress has a lot of work to do before it works on trying to passing another comprehensive energy policy.
Menendez also suggested that renewable energy is a “good jobs policy,” citing that just seven years ago, no one in New Jersey worked in the solar industry and now there are 10,000 people employed in the field.
The Senator, who is also a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Banking Committee underscored the the importance of creating access to capital for small, mid-sized, and minority businesses.
“As the economy slowly recovers, minority business owners often struggle with the availability of adequate capital to help businesses expand, grow and create jobs,” Menendez said.
His access to capital agenda also included increasing minority participation in Fortune 500 corporate boardrooms for companies to better understand, communicate and give better insight to the nuances and behaviors of their respective communities. In addition, increasing significant procurement of minority businesses at all different levels outside of supplying janitorial services, and removing other barriers to entry for minorities to create generational wealth were also a part of his agenda.
Menendez said he also plans to figure out how to get access to capital from Wall Street directly, and not through its philanthropic and charity efforts.
In addition to increasing minority business ownership in the energy sector, other guest speakers at the Summit constantly mentioned that it is important for African Americans and Latino communities to get involved in the energy sector via employment. Ray Dempsey, BP America vice president of government and public affairs, said that studies project that more than 500,000 jobs will be created by 2020 and will be geographically diverse.
Dempsey and Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) Chief Executive Officer Thomas Graham both expressed their support for an increase in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education prior to high school and beyond.
Graham echoed a number of other Summit speakers and said that America will need a qualified and educated workforce to perform the STEM-related jobs that will be available. Dempsey said that 21 percent of projected jobs will require some amount of STEM education to pursue.
Dempsey also mentioned that most demographic studies suggest that most babies born today are from minority communities who have a number of disparities including in STEM. He said if they persist, there will not be any doctors or engineers for the future, and underscored that it will “not be a minority problem, but an American problem.”
AABE will create an agenda and create a strategy on how to move forward on their priorities, in forthcoming weeks.