As a region, some of the biggest issues that we face revolve around population growth and workforce talent.
The growth of our region is at stalemate. The average age in our metro area has dropped to 42. Our elders are passing away, and there are people moving to Pittsburgh for jobs, lifestyle and affordability. We are not replenishing our losses though. We just are not.
Growth in opportunities for work comes mostly from younger companies, who are scaling their business ideas and need multifaceted, talented people to help them. Compounding this, many of these companies are starving for experienced executive leadership who have grown companies from ideas to large scale.
Larger corporations, while still hiring, are mostly replenishing their workforce with new skills as a generation retires. The replacement positions are not the same positions and require new skills, and not necessarily those of many of our new graduates. Surely internship programs are a critical key to successful workforce development, but when seasoned people leave the workforce, the skills gap is enormous.
While we report as a region a massive exodus of retiring people and a potential job gap of more than 80,000, we must realize that we do not know what these ”jobs” actually are. We do know what skills we need today, but I would dispute that we know what we need tomorrow. Therein lies a big part of the problem. What exponentially compounds our dilemma is the alignment of primary education and the core competencies that we know we will need. Not jobs mind you, but core competencies.
We know that we are moving rapidly AND that there are new basic skills that are requisites to every opportunity which lies ahead. Internships, entrepreneurial education and part-time work must be part of every high school experience. College is not for everyone and that is OK. There are actionable items that we all can take no matter what work we do. I am asking each of you: what stops you from taking a student and bringing them into your work environment for a four- to six-month period of time? At least once a week, if not more. The value that you receive from being connected to a different view of your world, your work and your contribution to the economy, will be altered. I promise you that.
“Here is my ask for all of you. What are you doing to help develop the pipeline for the new world of work? How are you partnering with a school or students to expose, and hopefully immerse, them in the new economy?”
As more people gravitate to living close to urban cores, we have to ask ourselves, why is this not happening en masse in Pittsburgh? Schools matter for all of us; whether we have kids or not. But when those of us with children consider education, cost and access, we hear from newcomers that the best schools lie outside of our urban core. Additionally, affordable housing for families exists outside of our urban core. When people come here to visit, this is what they ask. Where are the best schools? Where can I have the easiest commute with access to world-class amenities?
We have incredible schools in our region and they don’t exist in many places inside the city. If we cannot change the city schools quickly (and I know that through new leadership they are trying), then it becomes more of a problem to attract people here. Not everyone wants or needs to live in the city of Pittsburgh for us to become a growing region, but our city cannot shrink in terms of residential living. New leadership of our Port Authority and Parks Conservancy excites me. Strengthening mobility for point-to-point access married to our parks for recreation makes living here even more fabulous.
Here is my ask for all of you. What are you doing to help develop the pipeline for the new world of work? How are you partnering with a school or students to expose, and hopefully immerse, them in the new economy? Do you have stories to share with us? What should we be doing at the Tech Council to connect you with these opportunities for collaboration with schools and businesses?
We are all on the hook for this.