Meredith Fahey

The success of ShaleNET – linking more than 2,000 people with Marcellus Shale industry-related jobs – was recently profiled in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a front page “Sunday Business” story.  As P-G Energy and Business Reporter Erich Schwartzel notes in the article, there is not one unique “student profile.” People come to these trainings from all walks of life and parts of the country hoping to get trained and find potentially high earning employment in the oil and gas sector. The common attribute of those who succeed is that they are hard-working folks, willing to put in long hours in outdoor conditions. Training classes now are available throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York and shortly, Texas.

ShaleNET will soon be expanding its reach, both in terms of geography and skills training. Started in 2010 as an entry-level jobs training program supported by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, last fall ShaleNET was awarded an additional $14.9 million follow on grant. With the maturing of the industry and with the additional money, participants will be able to continue their education and training by earning certificates and two-year degrees that will help them find jobs in the midstream and downstream part of the industry – that is, beyond the drill rigs and in the processing of oil and natural gas.

The original founders of ShaleNET – the Allegheny Conference, Pennsylvania College of Technology and Westmoreland County Community College – partnered with Stark State College in Canton, Ohio, and Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, for this second round funding, with the hope of scaling ShaleNET to become a national job training and education model.

To learn more, visit and view the video below to learn more about how partnerships are expanding workforce training opportunities in the U.S. under the ShaleNET banner.
African American Chamber Board Chair Samuel Stephenson presents a lapel pin to keynote speaker Dennis Yablonsky,

Since the collapse of the steel industry 30 years ago, the Pittsburgh region has transformed itself into a diversified economy. More recently, it is one of just three metros in the country to have fully recovered from the Great Recession that began in 2008.

But there’s still much to be done to connect all Pittsburghers to the opportunities that are here and to close the “skills gap” that could lead to labor supply shortage in the years to come.

Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development,  outlined these challenges and more at a keynote address to more than 300 members of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania at the group’s Dec. 3 annual luncheon.

You can read more about it at the New Pittsburgh Courier, and the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Laura Fisher

When workforce demands start growing, the ShaleNET  program gets going with comprehensive recruitment, training and placement and retention services for employers and employees in the natural gas industry.

ShaleNET is a U.S. Department of Labor-funded $4.9 million multi-state workforce program addressing current and future jobs in the burgeoning natural gas industry. Focused initially on the Marcellus Shale natural gas play in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York, ShaleNET in September received another DOL grant totaling $14.9 million. This second grant will extend programmatic and geographic reach.

An innovative partnership between educators (primarily in community colleges and technical schools) and the natural gas industry, ShaleNET now will also prepare individuals in places like Texas and North Dakota to successfully fill key shale gas jobs. The program draws on best practices and demonstrates the value of “stackable credentials”  in preparing workers for jobs open now and those anticipated in the future. Stackable credentials can be accumulated over time to build up a person’s qualifications and help him or her to move along a career pathway or up a career ladder to different and potentially higher-paying jobs.

The partnership approach distinguishes the ShaleNET initiative. Through industry and academic partnerships, employers and potential employees are able to benefit from ShaleNET’s one-stop training model. Redundancies are reduced, curriculum is current and standardized and those seeking training don’t have to guess at which training options will provide them with what they need to be successful on the job.

Leaders from industry and academia recently gathered for the fourth annual ShaleNET Workforce Forum. They included representatives from the four schools delivering ShaleNET training:  Navarro Community College, Corsicana, Texas; Pennsylvania College of Technology, Williamsport, Pa.; Stark State College , North Canton, Ohio; and Westmoreland County Community College, Youngwood, Pa.

Also participating in the forum was Jane Oates, U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration and Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Dennis Yablonsky. Both were featured speakers addressing the unique benefits of this partnership and its potential to become a national model for workforce development.

Watch the video below to learn more about ShaleNET’s value to training providers and as a government investment and why Pittsburgh is uniquely poised to advance this type of approach as a successful model.

Dennis Yablonsky

Part of the power of Pittsburgh is the way that individuals come together to find solutions across sectors, organizations and interests. That is exemplified in the robust discussions generated at the Robert M. Mill Labor-Management Lecture Series, which returns to the Community College of Allegheny County on this coming Monday, Dec. 3.

At that 3 p.m. session, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and I will discuss what is needed to build a modern transportation system that serves the needs of both business and individuals. I’m looking forward to hearing from John D. Porcari, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, who will keynote the event. Admission is free but reservations are required to, or call 412-237-4476.

The timing is fortuitous, because transportation funding remains an urgent  concern for our region. The Conference is continuing to urge state legislators to take up the long-term statewide funding solution outlined in the 2011 report by the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission (TFAC). It’s a realistic, achievable framework for meeting the funding needs of not just public transit, but also of the commonwealth’s highways, roads, bridges, ports and rails.

This ongoing labor-management series aims to enhance the understanding and recognition of the large role labor unions and labor relations have played in Pittsburgh’s successes. Previous sessions have featured Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers and John Surma, chairman & CEO of U.S. Steel (and former chair of the Allegheny Conference). Interviews with CONSOL Energy President Nick DeIuliis and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka following their appearances at an October 2011 session can be heard here or below.

Suzi Pegg
The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

Embarking on the 2012 Tour of Europe with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) reminded me a bit of an old movie directed by David Wolper. It’s called If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium – a comedy about a group of tourists on a whirlwind tour of seven countries in 18 days. If you saw my itinerary for the tour with the PSO, you’d know why I can relate.

Just reading our trip itinerary is exhausting. Not unlike the tourists in that 1969 comedy, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) President Dewitt Peart and I will are zipping through several western European countries over the next three and half weeks. All the while, we’ll be leveraging the PSO tour to once again market our impressive Pittsburgh region to potential investors and influencers. This is a great platform because Europeans really relate to the PSO – one of the world’s elite orchestras. The PSO has rock star status in Europe, and this status opens doors for the PRA to introduce the region, using our musical ambassador as a “calling card” and one example of the quality that’s synonymous with Pittsburgh – in the concert hall, the board room and beyond.

To begin the trip, I took advantage of one of this season’s last nonstop flights between Pittsburgh and Paris. Fear not, that service is only going on winter hiatus; it returns in full force next May. I was thrilled to see a full flight, including a number of travelers using connecting to other global destinations in India, the Middle East and elsewhere. The more that business and leisure travelers from the region use this flight, the greater the likelihood that it will remain an option. Beyond convenience, it’s a critical asset for Pittsburgh to have in order to compete as a global business destination.

My first stop is Bilbao – Pittsburgh’s sister city in Spain. The similarities are almost eerie, including a tunnel that opens onto a spectacular view of the city, surrounded by rivers. The Guggenheim Museum sits majestically on the banks of the Nervión River, and visitors mingle all around the charming city.

Alfonso Martinez Cearra, director of BM30

My first meeting on the tour is with my good friend Alfonso Martinez Cearra, director of BM30.  This organization is similar to our Allegheny Conference on Community Development,  and Alfonso’s position is akin to that of Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky. Alfonso is a big supporter of Pittsburgh and has visited our region quite a few times to explore collaborative opportunities and best practices between the two cities. I asked him about his impressions of the region.  Our work ethic, he says, is memorable. It’s very similar to that of people in Bilbao – dedicated, hard-working and eager to create success. And he loves our rivers — certainly common ties that uniquely bind Pittsburgh and Bilbao as sister cities.

After a series of other meetings during the day, I caught up over dinner with Eloy Alvarez, the chair and secretary general of an organization called Orkestra.Eloy visited Pittsburgh earlier this year and is keen to work with our region on energy initiatives – especially those related to our universities and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in the South Hills. He is quite an engaging man and well respected in Spain. He’s also very pro-Pittsburgh.

Now we’re in San Sebastian, along the coastline of the beautiful Basque Country. Our first visit is with an organization called Vicomtech where we meet with project managers who are working on technology projects. Several of these individuals are huge fans of Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, another of our regional assets that make us attractive in the global market.

The gang from Sempere and Mikel Burzako (right), Pennsylvania’s investment representative in Spain and Portugal

While there I was pleased to have lunch with my friends from Sempere Componentes, a marketer and distributor of railway parts and components. They have been working in the Pittsburgh region for several years and count the Port Authority of Pittsburgh as one of their key clients.

Just before lunch, they found out that I carry a small soft toy around with me as a mascot. I call it European Frog. Yes, I have a very silly side. Frog has been around the world with me – a companion when I’m traveling for business without my husband. In fact, Frog has more air miles than my husband does. Once my friends from Sempere Componentes saw that I had Frog with me, he was invited to la comida.  However, he’s not used to a Spanish business lunch and took a siesta in the back of the car all the way back to Bilbao.

I love working with these guys, and they love Pittsburgh. I hope to see them back in our region soon to discuss next steps.

So ends my visit to the Basque Country. It’s always a great pleasure to visit and work with the people here. The region is doing well compared to other parts of Spain, and I strongly encourage Pittsburgh region companies that are looking at opportunities across the pond to give the Basque Country a second look. The PRA has made inroads here and can make the necessary introductions. Just ask.

I’ll check back in again with further updates. Until then, cheers!

For previous updates from “where in the world” Suzi Pegg may be, click here.

“European Frog” at rest post-lunch

Southwestern Pennsylvania’s expertise and ability to address water-relatedneeds are creating business opportunities both at home and abroad.

Such opportunities are detailed in a report by water, environmental and engineering experts from Carnegie Mellon University. It was released Sept. 27 at a conference at ALCOA’s headquarters on the North Shore. Click here or on the slideshow below to see photos from that event.

Conference sponsors the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and Sustainable Pittsburgh also announced creation of a Water Economy Network of business, academic and non-governmental organizations to advance regional water innovation, leverage market development opportunities and solidify southwestern Pennsylvania’s competitive advantage while addressing water challenges here. The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) is a 10-county coalition that markets the benefits of doing business in southwestern Pennsylvania, and assists companies looking to relocate or expand here. Sustainable Pittsburgh builds coalitions to integrate economic prosperity, social equity and environmental quality for communities and businesses.

Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (of which the PRA is an affiliate) noted that Pittsburgh’s signature rivers differentiate the region.

“These abundant supplies of water are important to industry and commerce, but the preservation of them as natural assets is equally critical,” Yablonsky said. “Pittsburgh is globally recognized for investment in striking this balance, and we’re driving innovation related to the sustainability and security of water. We already have a foundation of firms – 3,000-plus strong – with the potential to identify and operate as a regional water cluster.

“And there’s room for more,” he added. “The implementation of the report released today and the formation of the WEN can help existing businesses access new water-related opportunities and will encourage new business ventures and job creation in a cluster that embraces supply and treatment, components, services and transportation related to water. This will position the Pittsburgh region to be a national center for excellence for the water industry overall.”

Jeanne VanBriesen, director of CMU’s Center for Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems and a report co-author, said, “In developing the Sustainable Water Innovation report, we collaborated with a cross-section of regional stakeholders to evaluate past successful projects relating to water to identify criteria for future sustainable and innovative projects.

“The demonstration projects presented in this report help set the path towards distinguishing our region as a leader in water innovation and address water challenges here, while leading the way for other regions,” she added.

Eight projects from four broad areas were identified as potential tasks for a regional water innovation consortium, including:

(1) energy development and water management;

(2) navigation infrastructure, monitoring, and water security;

(3) stormwater and green infrastructure; and

(4) regional watershed and drinking water interactions.

The full report, Sustainable Water Innovation Initiative for Southwestern Pennsylvania can be found at  Pittsburgh’s H2Opportunity: An Assessment of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Water Sector can also be found at this website.

Photos from the Sept. 27 conference: