Meredith Fahey is a Pittsburgh transplant from Wisconsin. She managed the Allegheny Conference’s Workplace program from 2012 - 2015, and is particularly interested in promoting Pittsburgh as a global city to attract top-notch talent to the region. Curious by nature, she can be found exploring the world in her free time.
Studies suggest that “soft skills” — social etiquette, communications and personal habits – can be almost as important on the job as the “hard” skills of technical or administrative knowledge learned at college or in career training programs.
Here at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (the parent organization of ImaginePittsburgh.com), we’re curious about how prepared our region’s young workforce is for the contemporary workplace. It’s part of our efforts to help build a world-class, globally competitive workforce in the 10-county region.
If you graduated within the past four years, please click here to take a brief survey about how ready you felt for your first professional job (or jobs). You’ll be entered for a chance to win first-row, over-the-dugout tickets to a Pirates.
If you’re not a recent college grad, please pass the word to those who are! The survey — and Bucco tickets sweepstakes — will conclude on June 12.
A career in IT isn’t just for software engineers anymore. In fact, an analysis of regional jobs data by ImaginePittsburgh.com and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance indicates IT opportunities pervade every industry propelling our region’s economy. Preparing for many of those jobs can be done in two years or less with an associate’s degree or certificate training. (Read the report here. )
ImaginePittsburgh.com gathers open jobs and makes them available on demand in a searchable database. As of Oct. 8, there were 27,161 jobs open. The PRA is working with its sister endeavor ImaginePittsburgh.com (both under the umbrella of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development) to mine the data for insights about regional opportunities.
ImaginePittsburgh.com Project Manager Meredith Fahey and PRA Market Research & Analysis VP Jim Futrell spoke on KDKA Radio’s Mike Pintek show Wednesday about the findings under the hood of the region’s most comprehensive job search aggregator. (Click on Hour 3 in this link to to listen now.) Then Jim — along with UPMC Chief Innovation Officer Rasu Shrestha — weighing in on regional hiring trends on the Oct. 12 edition of WPXI-TV’s Our Region’s Business.YOu can watch that video here:
There’s been lots of talk – both nationally and in the Pittsburgh region – about the skills gap. There are abundant jobs that require two years (or less) of training or a certificate or associates’ degree, but too few people in the workforce have the correct skills. In the case of jobs related to the to the Marcellus Shale natural gas play, that’s meant employers have sometimes relied on workers from such traditional markets as Texas and Oklahoma.
The good news: our region has a program that is closing that gap, a program so successful that it has been expanded to other locations. Through ShaleNET, designed in 2010 to train individuals for careers in the oil and natural gas industry, nearly 5,500 people have completed training, and more than 3,500 are employed.
Daniel Schweitzer, director of the ShaleNET hub at Stark State College in North Canton, Ohio, explains how ShaleNET is closing the skills gap in the article below. The article first appeared in the April ShaleNET newsletter. Sign up here to receive future newsletters about this innovative program.
INSIGHTS: Stark State College, North Canton, Ohio
It has been more than three generations since the oil fields in Bremen and Titusville established Ohio and Pennsylvania as the leading oil producers in the United States. A century ago, this region was the key player in the oil and natural gas industry. A century ago, the ubiquity of skilled trades was a result of indigenous factors. They were bred by families whose livelihood was the oil and natural gas, manufacturing and transportation industries.
Why then, are so many employers hiring from outside of the region? It’s the skills gap. It’s in the news. Politicians like Ohio Senator Rob Portman are talking about it. Stark State College and ShaleNET are doing something about it.
Belying the region’s rich history in oil and natural gas, the skills gap comprises three generations of atrophy to our skilled labor force. It’s been a long time since the heyday of manufacturing in the Ohio Valley. The digital age has undervalued the vocational and skilled labor populations for some time now and there is a dearth of skilled labor at this critical juncture.
There may be only 40 active unconventional drilling rigs in Ohio’s Utica Shale, but there are hundreds of Utica wells “seasoning” as you read this. Seasoning is a euphemism for “waiting to be put into production” and midstream gathering, take-away, and processing capacities are being developed at a furious pace. There are hundreds of thousands of miles of pipelines in the forecast queue for the next decade alone. Someone has to build, monitor and maintain this infrastructure and now is the time to rebuild the economic muscle of the Ohio Valley.
The first ShaleNET grant funded short-term trainings for entry-level jobs into the oil and natural gas industry. The second ShaleNET grant, which we are 18 months into, is a capacity building grant. It was designed to ramp up higher education offerings with multiple avenues of access and outlets to skilled trade jobs with a focus on the oil and natural gas industry. The backbone of ShaleNET is the stackable credential model, which starts with a three-week non-credit class wherein the student gains IADC Rig Pass, first aid, and equipment operating certifications. This is enough for many to get industry jobs and counts as college credit if a student continues into a credit-based program such as Process Operation. From there, a student can complete a one-year certificate which is largely technically focused, and proceed to an Associate’s and then to a Bachelor’s degree. Stark State College currently offers one-year certificates and two-year degrees in four ShaleNET career pathways: Instrumentation and Electronic Technician, Process Technician, Pipeline Technician, and Industrial Mechanics Technician. A fifth pathway, Production Technician is under development.
The ShaleNET grant has been instrumental in allowing Stark State College to develop its oil and natural gas programs. ShaleNET funding is used for staffing (administrative and instructors), curriculum development, and equipment procurement. The Well-Site Trainer Lab and Simtronics Simulator Software, both of which would be cost prohibitive without ShaleNET funds, are fundamental parts of our curriculum. Both Simtronics and the well-site trainer are key components that allow us to develop class exercises and hands-on activities that have value to potential employers.
We are in just our second semester of these new ShaleNET based degree offerings, and we already have over 70 declared majors with over 100 participants in our credit-based classes. In fall 2014, we are extending ShaleNET into the secondary education classroom, by offering our PET101 class in a 100% web-based format. This delivery modality was developed to allow vocational schools, high schools and career centers to incorporate PET101 into any distance learning classroom since it needs only a proctor to mediate student activities. As of now, there are several post-secondary institutions planning to offer PET101 in the fall with over 20 students registered. Students who complete the class with a passing grade will also receive college credit for the class if they enroll in a ShaleNET degree program at Stark State College.
With ShaleNET, we are off to a great start to closing the skills gap!
The film Girl Rising, detailed in the post below, is returning to the SouthSide Works Cinema on Thursday, April 24. (Note date change.) Tickets may be purchased in advance here.
This post previously appeared under the headline: Sreken Megynarodniot Den na Zenata! (Happy International Women’s Day!)
“Meri, you must do your hair and put on makeup, for a change,” said my host mother, Vaska. “Oh and here, wear my beautiful shawl, with your pink blouse. Ajde brzo, we have to meet Lenke in 10 minutes.”
I remember distinctly my first International Women’s Day celebration, nine years ago in tiny Zletovo, Macedonia. I served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in this Balkan nation of two million people, working on a variety of community development projects for the municipality, including a major water fluoridation project.
We were getting ready to join Lenke and all the other women in Zletovo at Zlatitsa, one of three restaurants in the village. The local women’s organization organized a celebration every year: hiring a live band, providing a Macedonian feast, raffling off prizes and– most unique of all — a joke-telling contest. After the speeches and formal program, the singing and dancing began. It was a six-hour escape from the mundane household work and family caregiving that consumed most of these women’s time.
At the end of the night, the women poured out of the restaurant – for a few hours a haven, a joyous cacophony of storytelling, sharing of best practices, remembering times past and laughing — back to their quiet dark houses. The fun was not to be had for another year.
International Women’s Day has its roots as a socialist political event dating to the early 20th century. In Zletovo, any political or social justice aspect of the holiday has been lost, but it remains an important day of solidarity and camaraderie amongst women.
March 8 is cause for celebrating women’s success and increased influence in leadership, innovation and workplace participation but it is also a day to remind ourselves of all the work yet to be done. Work to close the income gap, work to protect women’s health rights and work to elect more women to office. The quickest and perhaps simplest way to achieve these goals is to make sure every girl around the world receives an education.
Despite progress, an estimated 66 million girls are left out of the classroom. Studies show that educating a girl can break the cycle of poverty in just one generation and that in developing countries, educated women are less likely to marry against their will, less likely to die in childbirth and more likely to make sure their children receive an education.
A few nights ago I had the opportunity to watch the film Girl Rising at the SouthSide Works Cinema. The film tells the stories of nine girls from around the world — including the nations of Haiti, Peru, India, Egypt and Afghanistan — who fought through the challenges of poverty, political oppression and gender bias to receive an education. Some of the stories are hard to hear, but the film is threaded through with moments of grace, beauty and most of all hope: these young women are using what they have learned to build better lives for themselves and their families, and a brighter future for others in their community.
But Girl Rising is more than just a movie: it is an international campaign for girls’ education, and to change the way the world values the girl. In honor of International Women’s Day, I encourage you to find ways to celebrate and improve the lives of women and girls around you — perhaps through the resources offered at the Girl Rising website. You can bring a public screening to your community (another SouthSide Works screening is scheduled for April 24 if at least 41 tickets at $10 each are purchased), donate an educators’ edition and curriculum to be shown in your neighborhood school and help spread the word by sharing this post with your personal, business and social media networks about how we can help girls in poverty to improve their lives and their communities through education.
In an effort to curb the January blues and encourage folks to venture out post-holiday spending extravaganzas, the concept of promoting a region’s independent restaurants during otherwise slow periods has caught on like wildfire throughout the United States– and Pittsburgh is no exception.
Pittsburgh Restaurant Week highlights 40 restaurants throughout the region that offer discount prices on meals through this Sunday, Jan. 19. It’s a great opportunity to try places that you haven’t yet been to, or couldn’t normally afford. Monday night we decided to dine at Paris 66. There is something so indulging, decadent and fancy about French food that we never think of it as an option during a typical weekend.
Walking into the cozy space on Center Avenue in East Liberty, I was immediately transported to Paris. Everyone spoke French. Our waiter was an apprentice sommelier from a tiny French town, and diners on the back patio were from France and Francophone Canada. It was nice experience to have in Pittsburgh. For an appetizer, they served Oeufs Meurettes — two poached eggs in a red wine reduction sauce with mushrooms. It was delicious diversion from the typical French starter of escargots. For our entrée they served Magret de Canard aux Chanterelles, Pommes Salardaises — sliced duck breast in a brown mushroom sauce with roasted potatoes. It was lovely and the mushroom sauce was a welcome extension from the mushrooms in the appetizer. Dessert was Galette des Rois — King Cake. It is a flakey flat cake, almost like a kringle, smothered in almond paste which is served at the Epiphany on January 6. Typically a fava bean is cooked somewhere within the cake and whoever is served the piece will have good luck in the upcoming year.
Pittsburgh is home to pierogies. I mean the little cabbage or potato and cheese stuffed pasta pockets run around PNC Park during every home Pirates game. Pierogies were also featured on the cover of November’s Pittsburgh magazine; it seems like the city is in a bit of a pierogie craze. To Pittsburghers, this is nothing new, but to a newcomer this love affair may seem odd — isn’t it just a ravioli?
Actually the pierogie isn’t really a craze but a long-standing staple of Pittsburghers’ diets, dating from the strong eastern European heritage of those who came to work in the mills generations ago. And that’s just one of many things newcomers learn at Pittsburgh’s Dine Arounds.
In a broader effort to extend the welcome past hello and connect people, Vibrant Pittsburgh, the World Affairs Council and Pop City Media have teamed up to host local Dine Arounds for newcomers. On Oct. 23 the second city-wide Dine Around was hosted various Pittsburgh families in homes from Mt. Washington to Highland Park in an effort to welcome newcomers to the city, to answer their questions about the little idiosyncrasies that make our region unique and to connect them to other newcomers. The Dine Arounds give hosts an opportunity to meet some of the many internationally minded folks who are moving to the region.
This time around, there was professional photography and a social media strategy to create buzz. And after dinner, everyone was invited for dessert at the Society of Contemporary Craft to meet the larger group and share their night’s experiences.
“The Dine Around is a great way to connect with interesting people, get to know different neighborhoods and begin to understand the city through the eyes of locals,” said Jon Neckers, a Michigan native, returned Peace Corps volunteer and recent graduate of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. “I’ve been here for three years now, but still feel like a newcomer. Everyone is friendly, but Pittsburgh can be a hard nut to crack.”
Connecting newcomers to locals through Dine Arounds is a unique strategy for a city that has struggled with diversity and talent attraction and retention. But there is good news: since 2008 more people have been moving to the region than leaving it, and in the past five years the number of 20- to 34-year-olds calling the region home grew by 7 percent. That figure is expected to grow by another 8 percent by 2020, according to economic forecasting by the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research. This is good for a region with one of the oldest populations in the nation — and good for future Dine Arounds.