The Washington, D.C.-based American Petroleum Institute is seeking the future of oil and natural gas employees among today’s STEM students. 

API mobilization director Tara Smith Anderson expects to meet up to 250 middle school girls today at Iowa Lakes Community College, during the Making a Difference: Women in STEM Festival. 

Smith Anderson’s visit is part of a push to engage more women and minorities amid an expected workforce fall in natural gas and oil industries. She tours nationally to speak to Girl Scouts, students and extracurricular groups about employment opportunities in API-member companies. 

“We know that of the roughly 3 million direct employees in our industry, that about half of them are going to retire in the next three years,” Smith Anderson said. “We also know that America looks very differently than it used to. … To fill these job openings, we have to look at more women, more minorities, people that haven’t traditionally worked in oil and gas. People aren’t necessarily flocking to work in oil and gas.”

Oil and natural gas industries bring in $6.9 billion a year to the Iowa economy, Smith Anderson said.