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Story by CBS 4 Denver

Colorado’s oil and gas industry says it will need to fill tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade as the industry grows and people retire, and it hopes to fill many of those positions with women.

The industry is now making a pitch to girls as young as 11.

Bentley says women make up just 19 percent of the industry’s workforce — an industry that’s not only expected to add more than a million jobs over the next 20 years, but lose up to half its management to retirement in the next 10 years.

“Now is a great time if we’re going to diversify to do it,” Bentley said.

The Petroleum Institute has launched a campaign called Women in Power. It’s a recruitment effort targeting girls as young as middle school age.

“To show them science is fun. It’s not for boys, and it’s not for nerds,” Bentley said.

High school girls are also getting the full court press.

“You’re getting ready go to college, have you thought about what you want to major in? And if so, have you considered the oil and natural gas field? And If not, why? And if so, how can we help you along?”

Bentley says the industry isn’t just looking for engineers or college graduates. She says there’s demand for everything from accountants to marketers and many positions that don’t require a college degree.

“(The) industry is not leaving our state anytime soon. And while we definitely see ups and downs like we do in most industries, they are pretty solid here.”

A recent study found most women are open to working in the industry but aren’t aware of the opportunities.

The average salary of an oil and gas job in Colorado is $105,000 a year — $54,000 more than the average salary. The industry currently supports 213,000 jobs in the state, and the mountain region is projected to have 156,000 new job opportunities over the next 20 years.