I had a lot of fun Tuesday, the first time in my career I got to use a major league baseball park as a prop. The Pittsburgh Pirates hosted our roll out of ImaginePittsburgh.com at PNC Park.
ImaginePittsburgh.com aggregates in one powerful search engine all the open jobs posted online in the 10-county Pittsburgh region. At last count there were about 29,000, pretty close to the 30,000 or so seats at PNC Park.
Lately the Pirates have been doing a pretty good job of filling seats – especially with phenom Gerrit Cole making his major league debut June 11. As a region, we need to do better job of filling all the empty jobs in the region.
I know — it doesn’t make a lot of sense. With the unemployment rate still above 7 percent (although lower than the national and state averages), how can 30,000 jobs go begging around Pittsburgh?
As Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky noted during Tuesday’s news conference, there are a couple reasons. A big one is the skills gap. Too many people looking for work here don’t have the skills employers need to fill the open positions. Another one is demographics. Although our population is growing again and getting younger, it’s not happening fast enough to keep up with the new jobs being created and – even more important – the accelerating retirement of the Baby Boomers will impact the entire country. (If you missed the initial coverage, you can check out our multimedia news release here, and watch a video that we created of it here.)
The trailing edge of the Baby Boom is pushing 50, and the “Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30” generation now makes up about 18 percent of our region’s workforce. There are twice as many 50-somethings in our workforce as there are 20-somethings. All of this is the result of the economic bottoming-out of our region exactly 30 years ago, when the metro unemployment rate was more than 18 percent.
Over the past generation, the region as a whole engineered a pretty remarkable recovery. Our labor force and total employment are at or near record levels – and growing. But we remain a bit long in the tooth. We’re also lacking in diversity at a time when the fastest growing populations are non-white.
Fortunately we don’t have a crisis yet – our employers are getting by. But you don’t need much of a crystal ball to look to the end of the decade, just seven years away, to see that we have to do more to fill our talent pipeline. So, that’s the genesis of the re-engineered ImaginePittsburgh.com, a talent attraction and retention initiative with a website at its core.
If we spread the word about opportunity in the region both today and tomorrow, people already here, across the country and even around the world may consider Pittsburgh when they think about advancing their careers or just building lives they’ll love. Of course, it starts with each of us – the entire global “Pittsburgh nation.” We’ve got to spread the word that there is opportunity today and especially tomorrow. Several regional employers have stepped up to help by sponsoring the new initiative, including our founding sponsors, BNY Mellon, PNC and UPMC. (More are joining every week; contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)
Dozens of Pittsburghers, natives, newcomers and boomerangs have signed on as official Imagine Pittsburgh.com “Neighbors.” You’ll find their profiles on the site, and find a Facebook photo album of them to share with your social-media savvy contacts – which may include your kids, grandkids, or other loved ones in the Pittsburgh Diaspora. The idea is for folks who don’t know Pittsburgh or that haven’t been here in awhile to see our region through the eyes of people with similar interests and occupations. There’s even a survey to help match job seekers to Neighbors.
To encourage people to take the survey, we’re kicking things off with a promotional giveaway – a month of rent-free living at River Vue, a sleek, luxury high-rise right across the street from Point State Park. Big thanks go out to Millcraft Industries for donating the apartment and CORT for furnishing it. We’re thinking it might encourage somebody from outside the region to come visit and stay for awhile, but it’s just as good a prize for folks from around here. Think about it: An elegant downtown apartment for the holidays! What a great way to convince the kids and grandkids to come home to visit – and maybe think about making it permanent.
We’ve got a lot going for us. Last year Pittsburgh led the northeast in the total number of business expansions and relocations – according to Site Selection magazine. MSN Money literally called Pittsburgh a “boomtown.”
The economic game has changed here. No longer is it only about creating enough jobs to put people to work (the priority of the past 30 years). Now, it’s also about educating, training, attracting and retaining enough people to meet the growing demands on the horizon.
It’s a nice problem to have. But it means we can’t rest on our laurels. We’ve got to spread the word to talented people to “Imagine Pittsburgh.“