About Amanda Sennert

Amanda Sennert Amanda Sennert is the Workplace project manager at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, where she also coordinates communications for ShaleNET, a federal grant program that helps to prepare workers for family sustaining jobs in the natural gas industry.
Amanda Sennert

Anticipation is mounting for the the One Young World Summit, which brings its third gathering to Pittsburgh in October. Organizers say they have already registered 1,000 delegates, approaching the goal of 1,500.

One Young World flags welcome delegates in Zurich, 2011 / Photo by Amanda Sennert

The summit is an annual event for young future leaders, bringing together delegates in their 20s to tackle the same issues and topics our world leaders address every day. Topics range from education, sustainable development, global health, social business, youth unemployment and the role of global business versus government. Businesses and organizations may send some of their outstanding young professionals to participate, or sponsor delegates from other non-profits and countries. “Delegate Champions” with a Pittsburgh presence include Alcoa, Bayer, Google, Heinz and PNC, among others.

This is an excellent opportunity for businesses to invest in their emerging leaders or other youth leaders around the world. As a participant in last year’s gathering in Zurich, I had the opportunity to hear from such high-profile counselors such as Achbishop Desmond Tutu, Sir Bob Geldof, and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, and to network with peers from around the world. Organizations interested in sponsoring delegates are encouraged to apply here.

Amanda Sennert was a delegate to the 2011 One Young World summit in Zurich, Switzerland. Click here to read previous ImaginePittsburghNow.com coverage of One Young World, and here to check out her photos on Imagine Pittsburgh’s Flickr stream.

Amanda Sennert

ShaleNET has announced in its current newsletter that 883 local workers have landed jobs in the natural gas industry since June 2010 as a result of its training and placement efforts.

ShaleNET is a multi-state, comprehensive recruitment, training, placement and retention program for jobs in the gas industry throughout the Marcellus Shale footprint. The program plans to add three more Certified Training Providers to its program, bringing the total number to 14 across the Marcellus Shale footprint in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. ( For the entire list visit: shalenet.org/Assets/ApprovedTraining.pdf )

The newsletter also highlights the start of ShaleNET floorhand classes which were held in McKean and Indiana County. This course trains workers for positions in the entry level floor hand position, and differs from roustabout training by focusing on rig and electrical components, basic well control, and less on heavy equipment operation.

ShaleNET links industry, workforce investment boards and training providers to ensure local worker placement in six entry-level, family sustaining positions that have been identified as High Priority Occupations  by the Pennsylvania Workforce Development, a program of the state’s Department of Labor & Industry. To learn more or register for the newsletter, go to www.shalenet.org.

And watch the Our Region’s Business video below featuring ShaleNET’s  Byron Kohut,  Col. Grey Berrier II, deputy commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and CONSOL Energy’s  Gary Slagel.

Amanda Sennert
Participants in Allegheny County's Refugee Career Mentoring Program, Fall 2011

Imagine having to flee your home and your country due to war or ethnic persecution, taking little more than the things you can carry. Yet that is the case for nearly 11 million people around the globe, according to the United Nations. Tens of thousands are permitted to settle in the United States each year, and over the past two decades, the Pittsburgh area has welcomed several hundred refugees from places as varied as the former Yugoslavia, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many refugees are educated professionals who held high-skilled jobs in their home countries. But while legally permitted to work in the United States, finding appropriate employment here is often a challenge that is less about qualification than figuring out how to seek and secure employment and build professional networks in a foreign culture.

The Refugee Career Mentoring Program is working to bridge that gap. Launched in September by Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services’ Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council, the program is a collaborative effort of various organizations in the region, including the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Catholic Charities and Vibrant Pittsburgh.

Despite being an unfunded, largely volunteer effort, the program has successfully matched 10 refugees, mostly in the engineering fields, with 10 high-quality mentors, and holds monthly training sessions catered with donations from area establishments. Mentors provide training in such basic job-seeking skills as resume writing and interviewing skills, and introduce mentees to professionals and resources in the Pittsburgh region. At a recent session I had an opportunity to walk participants through ImaginePittsburgh.com, the Allegheny Conference’s one-stop job and career awareness portal featuring nearly 20,000 open positions across the region.

The Refugee Career Mentoring Program needs engineers and human resources professionals who work in engineering firms to participate in panel discussions, sharing their insights about networking and the skills and traits that employers seek. As the program’s chair, Yvette Yescas, recently noted, “For professionals in the engineering field — particularly environmental, agricultural or chemical engineering — this is an excellent opportunity to build professional networks and share expertise.”

To volunteer or learn more about the program, send an email to yvetteyescas AT gmail DOT com, or visit the DHS website. You can also check out Yescas’ blog on Career Mentoring here.

Amanda Sennert

When I attended the One Young World Summit in Zurich earlier this year, I had the opportunity to hear Jamie Oliver speak on healthy eating and nutrition, and his efforts through “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” to change the way Americans and the world think about food. At one point he polled the audience on how many in the room could cook a meal from scratch, and by this he meant, not using a microwave, or heating prepared foods. About 50 percent raised their hands. Keep in mind this was a group of well-educated young professionals. He then asked how long we expected to live. Let’s just say the percentage expecting to live to be in their 80’s was VERY high, too high. As Jamie noted, we were dreaming. Diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease would be sure to shorten our lives significantly. I came out of his talk wondering, what is being done to address this issue in Pittsburgh? Where is the movement? The answer became clear at the “Let’s Move Pittsburgh” symposium hosted earlier this fall at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, an event co-sponsor and regional leader in the healthy food movement, and I jumped at the opportunity to hear what was going on.

“Let’s Move Pittsburgh” is an effort to capitalize locally on the momentum coming out of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program that focuses on three pillars of children’s health: healthy food, increased activity, and decreased time in front of screens  –TVs, digital games, computers, cell phones. One expert in childhood obesity prevention, Tufts University Ph.D Christina Economos, discussed her project,  “Shape Up Somerville,” which aimed to transform the behavior of an entire Massachusetts town by focusing on unnecessary weight gain among its children. She took a holistic approach to this diverse and far-reaching epidemic by identifying stakeholders and how they can work together to reduce childhood obesity in their community. She stressed the need for champions of the cause, focusing on professional development for teachers, and noted that education for parents is just as necessary as for the children. Lastly, she encouraged us not to ignore the importance of policy in creating healthy food norms.

I also learned that Pittsburgh-area child-health organizations and individuals are already well aware of – and hard at work on — these issues. Sponsors The Heinz Endowments, UPMC Health Plan and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens were joined by child-health leaders from Allegheny General Hospital’s Integrated Medicine Unit, Pitt, Carnegie Mellon and Chatham universities, Hill House, Pittsburgh Public Schools, regional food banks and child-care centers, and many more. They shared their efforts, challenges and aspirations in childhood obesity prevention. I was impressed at the number of groups represented, and hopeful that the “Let’s Move” initiative can help buoy the local mission.

More sobering is the challenge ahead for the region, as schools with high prevalence of poverty tend to have high overweight and obesity rates, and are increasingly strapped for funding and other resources. It’s also a painful irony that communities facing high levels of obesity are also facing hunger.

But there are positive developments on the national level that can help. Sam Kass, Assistant White House Chef and Senior Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, noted that retail giants like Wal-Mart have agreed to reduce the prices of fresh fruits and vegetables, and to reduce the sodium and sugar content in all products sold in their stores. This alone could reach as many as 40 percent of Americans. Also, the shift from educational talking points that highlight the food pyramid to the more intuitive “My Plate” approach – teaching children to visualize the appropriate portions of different types of foods — seems like a welcome, practical change. National and local efforts to increase nutrition awareness are increasing and I’m hopeful that national policy shifts, coupled with the continued efforts of local child health leaders, will create healthier communities in Pittsburgh and beyond.

Amanda Sennert

ShaleNET has announced in its current newsletter that 873 local workers have been placed in employment in the natural gas industry since June 2010 as a result of its training and placement efforts. This number is expected to grow considerably once the nine institutions that were selected as Certified Training Providers through a competitive process are on-boarded and delivering the program’s services and curricula across Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

The newsletter also highlights the 3rd Annual ShaleNET Workforce Forum that was held in September, its on-the-job training grants, and recruiting and career education tools available on the website through the talent match system.

ShaleNET is a multi-state, comprehensive recruitment, training, placement and retention program for jobs in the gas industry throughout the Marcellus Shale footprint. It links industry, workforce investment boards and training providers to ensure local worker placement in six entry-level, family sustaining positions that have been identified as High Priority Occupations  by the Pennsylvania Workforce Development, a program of the state’s Department of Labor & Industry.

To subscribe to the newsletter or learn more, go to www.shalenet.org.

Amanda Sennert

Colleges and universities are increasingly looking for ways to increase their sustainability in all aspects — from curriculum to food service to building operations. Sharing best practices and talking through challenges was the focus at the recent national conference in Pittsburgh of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, known as AASHE. I was glad to have an opportunity to attend.

The conference began with a student summit featuring prominent environmentalist and popular author on climate change, Bill McKibben, the founder of the 350.org, a grassroots environmental movement that has organized demonstrations in nearly every country around the world.

Many schools are making huge changes in response to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which hundreds of colleges and universities around the countries have signed on to in order to reduce their impact on climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, energy conservation and other sustainable practices. In some cases, participating schools have funded a complete redesign of their energy system in order to meet the goals of the ACUPCC.  Butte College in California is one such example, and is now the nation’s first grid positive college receiving all of their energy from solar and geothermal power.

But smaller changes can also make a big difference. The conference highlighted changes students, staff and faculty members can make in their daily lives that can have a significant environmental impact, and save money.

One of our local institutions, Chatham University, has been working diligently with both faculty and staff to develop a program that will address its campus environmental sustainability. Through a partnership with faculty and staff, they conducted campus-wide studies to understand the beliefs that students, faculty and staff hold regarding sustainability and their place and ability to effect change. Those findings have lead to efforts to leverage that knowledge to create effective programs.

So far they have found that undergraduates feel they don’t have enough information to make a change. In response, Chatham’s sustainability team created a game called “What Would Rachel Do?” distributing environmental information and facts through trivia inspired by the mother of the modern environmental movement and Chatham alumna Rachel Carson.

Our other local universities aren’t lagging in the sustainability department either. I spoke with a representative from the University of Pittsburgh, who mentioned they have 12 projects in development for LEED certification, including the extension to the Graduate School of Public Health. Carnegie Mellon University also recently made public their plans for the campus over the next decade, which include numerous building upgrades, making their corridor of Forbes Avenue  more pedestrian- and bike-friendly and creating a meaningful public space for the school’s community.

David Orr, a world-renowned environmentalist and proponent of ecological design from Ohio’s Oberlin College, explained in his keynote speech that energy conservation is the fastest and easiest way to save energy, and is something that can be done even for those lacking the budget to make the large infrastructure changes needed to reduce fossil fuel consumption and thus reduce their carbon footprint. This is true not just for higher education but for everyone, and is something Sustainable Pittsburgh is promoting through the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge. Our staff at the Allegheny Conference will be participating as observers in the challenge, and I will be sure to share the best practices learned from AASHE with my colleagues here as we begin to roll out this effort.