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A dam solution: House GOP Millennial Task Force held a hearing on… hydropower?

(AP Photo)

Earlier this week, the House Millennial Task Force held its first hearing since Congress completed their summer recess. The youngest member of Congress, 33-year-old Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), chairs the GOP millennial outreach group. The task force is designed to cater to issues young Americans are facing. Monday’s hearing focused on jobs, specifically highlighting the hydropower industry.

Stefanik invited three millennials who work in the hydropower field to bring awareness to the energy sector and its emerging career paths. Hydropower plants use water stored in dams and rivers to power rotating blades that allow generators to convert the energy to electricity. Hydropower jobs are wide-ranging. The renewable energy industry has skilled workers onsite helping to facilitate and build hydropower plants. The hearing also highlighted hands-off positions like project managers, engineers, human resources, and research positions that the industry offers.

And while jobs are at the forefront of many millennials’ minds, hydropower positions do not seem to be sought after by young people.

“Unfortunately, the hydropower industry is facing an aging workforce and has not been able to attract as many millennials as the solar and wind sectors have,” Stefanik said at the hearing.

Only about 16 people attended the hearing, most of them were congressional staffers and some press. With free speech, student loan debt, and healthcare uncertainty as some of the few top agenda items for millennials, the hydropower workforce hearing did not gather much support. The meeting was also live-streamed, where a little more than 100 people viewed the hour-long discussion.

The millennial task force is supposed to serve as the young people’s outreach on Capitol Hill, but Monday’s hearing addressed issues that seem to cater more to Stefanik’s congressional district. According to a testimony by Justin Trudell, Director of Northeast Operation at Brookfield Renewable, there are over 55 hydro facilities in Stefanik’s district. New York is also the largest producer of hydroelectric power on the east coast. New York houses more than 300 hydroelectric generating stations and ranks fourth in the nation for hydropower generation.

After the hearing, Red Alert Politics asked Rep. Stefanik about her inspiration behind the decision to highlight hydropower specific jobs as a top concern for millennials. Stefanik said that the millennial generation, regardless of party affiliation, shows interest in environmental issues.

“So this is an opportunity to highlight that renewable energy sector that has job opportunities for millennials,” Stefanik said.

The New York congresswoman said that by bringing awareness to these types of jobs, it will solve other top issues that millennials are facing.

“When you talk about the student loan debt issue or the lack of economic opportunity this is highlighting jobs that are available today, one of the witnesses said there are jobs available if you graduate from high school, if you graduate with a certificate or a degree from a community college, and if you pursue graduate education there are jobs in this sector,” Stefanik said.

When asked what the next millennial task force hearing will discuss, Stefanik mentioned that the agricultural farming industry is also a growing avenue for millennial jobs that she sees in her district.

“I sort of plan these out as ideas come to me; I think one issue we may highlight is retirement savings and ensuring that millennials are understanding what policies we should put in place to encourage retirement savings,” Stefanik said.

Monday’s hearing was only the fifth hearing the task force has had since its creation in 2015. Other hearings have focused on college completion, flexibility, affordability policies, and millennials’ role as the untapped electorate for the GOP.

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