Mississippi's Public Service Commission is holding what they call the first of its kind career summit to diversify utility companies in the state. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports, experts in the field say it's a matter of survival.
Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Cecil Brown is spearheading an effort to attract African American students to careers with utility companies.
"We've got accountants, we've got lawyers , we've human resource people, we've got people who drive forklifts, we've got diesel mechanics. All those jobs are available in industry but kids don't know about that," said Brown.
Some 200 people are in Jackson, for a summit to focus on outreach. Representatives are here from the U.S. Department of Energy, utility companies such as Atmos Energy and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Brown says African Americans make-up 40 percent of Mississippi's population, but the number hired by companies doesn't reflect that. James Campos with the U.S. Department of Energy says its critical companies diversify because the nation's demographics are shifting to minorities as the majority.
"In our country 2044, the estimate is a majority minority country. It's essential that we have everyone included in this mix because we have to maintain our energy dominance and our competitiveness," said Campos.
Beverly Hogan is President of Tougaloo College in Jackson.
"I think it's in their best interest as well as ours that we look at this and begin to share and partner and look at the opportunities," said Hogan.
Betina Brandon with Entergy says they've begun increasing minority hiring.
"We had about 72 internships this year and about half of those were minorities and so we did turn those into permanent jobs," said Brandon.
Commissioner Brown says they'll be tracking how utility companies progress in hiring African Americans.