As U.S. crude production climbed to a 28-year high recently, the shale renaissance moved us one step closer to North American energy self-sufficiency. Substantial investment in the development of oil and natural gas has buoyed the economy, helping to support millions of jobs, generate billions of dollars in government revenue, and, most significantly, supply millions of consumers with affordable energy.

In this new shale revolution, energy is now one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation and an engine for economic growth. According to the consulting and forecasting firm IHS Global Insight, shale development has supported more than 2 million American jobs and generated $75 billion in federal and state tax revenues. By 2020, IHS estimates, total jobs linked to shale will grow to 3.3 million, with a total impact on U.S. gross domestic product of nearly half a trillion dollars.

American Petroleum Institute data show that 10 million jobs have been created in the energy sector alone. accompanied by tremendous economic development outside the industry. For example, fertilizer manufacturers such as Consumer Energy Alliance member company, CF Industries, has expanded its U.S. operations by opening three new plants. According to the American Chemistry Council, approximately $10 billion in capital investments have been made to expand fertilizer manufacturing in the U.S. through 2020.

These statistics point us toward the need for Louisianians to focus on workforce development, which will affect their role in the energy boom.

To take advantage of the opportunities created by the shale industry, students must be ready to compete in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career-focused education. Excelling in these fields will help students become the geoscientists, engineers and mathematicians needed to support shale energy development in the state’s Haynesville and Tuscaloosa Marine shale regions and to support the expanding manufacturing and refining industries in the state.

STEM jobs will increase by 17 percent in the next five years

Experts estimate Louisiana alone will have 69,000 STEM job vacancies by 2018. But how can Louisiana prepare to fill these positions? There are many schools in the Gulf Coast whose engineering programs feed students into the oil and gas field, including Louisiana State University. And, some oil and gas companies are even involved in programs to foster interest in science and engineering. Chevron recruits from over 90 schools in the U.S. — including LSU — through its University Partnership Program, which furnishes universities with scholarships, grants, laboratory upgrades and other funding and gifts.

Nucor Steel just opened their 28th steel plant here, creating 500 jobs during peak construction. It also will employ about 150 permanent workers who will earn a median salary of $75,000.

I can’t think of a more iconic image of the U.S. than the old “Rosie the Riveter” and steel. We lost the steel industry a decade ago. Now, the steel industry is back with a vengeance, competing with other countries around the world, because of hydraulic fracturing, shale development, and low-cost natural gas, which is in abundant supply.

Due in part to this energy revolution, today we are using our nation’s resources to bring manufacturing jobs back from China. Development of resources such as shale is reigniting industries once lost to the high cost of energy.

For our future generations, life is changing for the better. Just these few examples show that the moment is now for Louisiana’s future generations to take advantage of the energy revolution.

— David Holt, is the president of Consumer Energy Alliance.