The Labor Department hopes to prevent the booming natural gas industry from facing a skills gap in coming years, a top official said Wednesday.

Though Jane Oates, the department’s assistant secretary for employment and training administration, praised efforts to improve educational standards in coveted science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, she noted the energy and utility industries are in immediate need of skilled workers.

“I think it’s skills, and I think the availability of programs,” Oates told The Hill in response to a question on the largest obstacle facing emerging energy industries such as natural gas.

Labor has so far taken the lead in developing school curricula and workforce training programs for industries like natural gas and advanced electric grid technology, Oates said at a Washington, D.C., event hosted by National Journal.

Last month, the Labor Department awarded a $15 million grant to a workforce development program run by community colleges in western Pennsylvania.