Ben Kamber

The Regional Transportation Alliance of Southwestern Pennsylvania, a public-private partnership designed to facilitate a broad community discussion about the future of transportation in the region, was launched on Sept. 30  to improve connectivity across the 10-county region, and in doing so, to improve competitiveness, economic vitality and quality of life throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.

“Our region has a unique opportunity to approach our transportation future in a new and dynamic way,” said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the organization that is providing staff support to the RTA. “Act 89, the state transportation funding package passed in 2013, stabilized our transportation infrastructure maintenance situation. Now it’s time to look toward the future to imagine what is needed to create a better functioning, interconnected multimodal transportation network that benefits the entire region.”

The RTA will be led by a 22-person steering committee that includes a public and private sector representative from each of the 10-counties and the City of Pittsburgh.

The first activity of the RTA will be an “Imagine Transportation” crowdsourcing initiative to identify transportation priorities through community feedback. Through the end of the year, more than 700 regional stakeholder groups – from small nonprofits to large employers, from environmental groups to social service agencies – will be asked to identify their most critical transportation problems and their ideas to address them. These priorities could be as small as “complete the two-mile bike path that’s supposed to run along the riverfront in my downtown” or as big as “build light rail to connect all 10 county-seat communities in the region.”

The RTA steering committee will then review these community responses to develop a picture for what the future of transportation in the region could look like. In its recently approved Long- Range Transportation Plan, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission called for an “ongoing regional discussion” if the region wants to move beyond the status quo transportation system. Groups and organizations wishing to participate in the crowdsourcing exercise should follow the instructions at

“Transportation is fundamental to economic development and vibrant communities,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a member of the RTA steering committee. “As a region, it’s critical that we take a visionary approach toward determining our transportation needs. And as a truly regional effort, the RTA will help facilitate this process and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

“Traveling to Denver, Colorado last year as member of a public-private benchmarking delegation, I saw what was possible when a region had a shared sense of vision to implement transformational transportation projects,” said Brian Heery, RTA co-chair, and president and CEO of Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc., located in Warrendale, Pa. “Public-private partnership was critical to metro Denver’s transportation successes. And these partnerships will be just as critical as we envision how our own transportation future is defined.”

“Improving connectivity and mobility throughout southwestern Pennsylvania is a crucial issue facing our region,” said Steve Craig, RTA co-chair, and Lawrence County Commissioner. “The launch of the RTA and its crowdsourcing initiative is just the first step in a journey to redefine how the region’s transportation network functions.”

For more information, visit

RTA Steering Committee

Co-Chair: Steve Craig, Commissioner, Lawrence County

Co-Chair: Brian Heery, President & Chief Executive Officer, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc.

Tony Amadio, Commissioner (Chairman), Beaver County

Alfred Ambrosini, Commissioner, Fayette County

Philip Ameris, President & Business Manager, Laborers’ District Council of Western PA

David E. Barensfeld, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Ellwood Group, Inc.

David K. Battaglia, Commissioner (Chairman), Armstrong County

Rich Fitzgerald, County Executive, Allegheny County

Kim Geyer, Assistant to Commissioner McCarrier, Butler County

Dr. Tori Haring-Smith, President, Washington & Jefferson University

John Lewis, President & Chief Executive Officer, Armstrong County Memorial Hospital

Lawrence O. Maggi, Commissioner (Chairman), Washington County

Henry J. Maier, President & Chief Executive Officer, FedEx Ground

Jeffrey Marshall, Chief Clerk and County Administrator, Greene County

Greg McCloskey, Director of Public Works, Westmoreland County

Bill Peduto, Mayor, City of Pittsburgh

Rodney D. Ruddock, Commissioner (Chairman), Indiana County

Art Titus, Chief Operating Officer, Elliott Group

Rodney Wilson, Manager-Business Development, CONSOL Energy

Bonnie Pfister

What’s to love about working as an architect, an engineer or a project manager in Pittsburgh? A lot of things, as a few young design professionals say in a video below.

“Makers” from such companies as P.J. Dick on the North Shore, Desmone & Associates architecture firm in Lawrenceville and Nello Construction in Canonsburg were just a few of the participants in the design-build contest sponsored by the Carpenters Union’s at their state-of-the-art training center in Robinson Township.

Teams of architects, engineers and carpenters had two weeks (around their full-time jobs) to come up with a design and engineering plan for a themed miniature golf course hole, gathering to build it in a single day. The competition coincided with an open house at the state-of-the-art center, as students from more than 100 high schools and career/technical training programs gathered to learn about careers during demonstrations and conversations with working carpenters.

Skilled carpenters are in high demand in the Pittsburgh region, particularly as construction season kicks into high gear as the weather warms. Apprentice carpenters earn while they learn during the four-year training programs. Upon completing the training, a journeyman carpenter’s starting salary ranges from $40,000 to $80,000 a year. An experienced carpenter can earn more than $90,000.

To learn more about the carpenters training program, go to the Keystone + Mountain + Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters website, or call Rick Ostraszewski at 412-262-1830, Ext. 7

Meredith Fahey

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

Edwin Drake’s Well, Titusville, Pa. 1859

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!

– Daniel Schweitzer, ShaleNET Hub Director, Stark State College

Bonnie Pfister

FeatureRMorganFew places are as old-school Pittsburgh as Eat’n Park, which began as a single car-hop eatery during the Truman Administration. But there’s a lot more to the home of Smiley cookies than you may realize.

It’s a large regional employer not only through its restaurants but its Cura Hospitality, which caters for hospitals and senior living communities, and Parkhurst Dining Services, which serves corporations, private higher education institutions, and cultural centers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. It’s also an industry pioneer in sustainability, from building LEED-certified restaurants and using LED lighting to a commitment to locally sourced food that dates back to 2002.

In recent years, Eat’n Park has opened two hip, finer-dining individual restaurants, including the Cultural District’s Six Penn Kitchen and The Porch overlooking verdant Schenley Plaza in the heart of bustling Oakland. The newest concept is Hello Bistro, which focuses on juicy burgers and an extravagant salad bar with locations in Oakland and the South Side.

That’s where such people as Rob Morgan come in. A manager at the Oakland Hello Bistro, in his free time he is able to enjoy the best of both city and country living. A night out for this self-professed foodie and his wife could mean sampling the other venues in the city’s increasingly vibrant food scene, or star-gazing at Mingo Creek Park near his Washington County home.

Morgan is one of the Neighbors featured on, a virtual concierge that highlights live, work and play options in the 10-county region. Here you can check out the more than 20,000 jobs gathered by’s powerful aggregator, sign up for updates about the region through our monthly eNewsletter, RSS feed, Facebook, Twitter or other social media channels and take the “Find Yourself in Pittsburgh!” quiz to see which Neighbors share your interests, with tips on what’s fun and engaging to do in the region.

Bonnie Pfister

Pittsburgh has jobs: 24,869 open positions in the 10-county region as of Feb. 25, as a matter of fact. And the right gig for you might not necessary be where you expect. There are IT jobs at banks, accountant positions at energy companies, and construction jobs at advertising firms — just to name a few. Check ‘em out:

Branch Manager at Dollar Bank in Washington County

Construction Installer Crewmember at Lamar Advertising

Export Control Compliance Manager at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland

Staff Accountant at EQT in Downtown Pittsburgh

Content Development Intern at in Downtown Pittsburgh

Check regularly for more career opportunities and news about the region. You can also sign up for our monthly eNewsletter, or follow us by RSS feed, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or our other social media channels.

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