The Future of Work in the Region

May 25, 2016 Economy, Education, People & Community

The Pittsburgh region is ramping up to put itself on the leading edge of workforce supply and demand by 2025. According to a recent study commissioned by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the region's workforce will look dramatically different in the next 10 years as a result of a wave of retirements, occupational transitions and economic growth. Prepared by leading labor market analyst Burning Glass in collaboration with Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, the report, "Inflection Point: Supply, Demand and the Future of Work in the Pittsburgh Region," provides insight into the occupations that will be in high demand in the region's future and the skills that workers will need to prepare to fill these jobs.

According to Laura Fisher, Senior Vice President – Workforce and Special Projects at the Allegheny Conference, the report is a 10-year forward look at supply and demand for a 10-county region around Pittsburgh. "We wanted to understand where occupational growth would be and where it would not be, so that we could be effective about proactive education and workforce development."

The study revealed two very important findings. One related to demand and one related to supply.

"Relative to demand, we are seeing the rapid reshaping of jobs and occupations by technology," says Fisher. "Going forward, technology is fundamentally restructuring what people will do and how they will do it. Not only do we need to be sure that our youth and college students are getting the right training, but also that adults already in the workforce are going to need to be upskilled. So we need to look how we make training — beyond what a company might offer — widely available and accessible."

Fisher says that the alarming issue is on the supply side. The report shows that each year, 29,000 workers are retiring and employers are adding roughly 5,000 jobs. At the same time, the long-term pipeline, being our K-12 students, number on average 26,000, which means the Pittsburgh area is facing a potential shortfall of 8,000 workers each year.

"The fact is, we are short in the number of people we will need," explains Fisher. "There is a gap of nearly 8,000 workers every year between the anticipated demand and what the supply will generate."

The supply gap has important implications to workforce development.

"Not only does it mean that we need every student in our K-12 system to be given the skills with which to be employed," says Fisher, "but we also need to do a much better job retaining our college graduates in the region — both two- and four-year graduates."

Just over 40,000 postsecondary students graduate every year in the region. However, on average only half of them stay to work in the region — about 43 percent of those with a 4-year degree and 62 percent of those with a two-year degree.

Fisher says that part of the problem is that "we are graduating people in areas where we don't have jobs." It's important to sell Pittsburgh and the region to students, she adds, and, early in their careers, to help students understand where the jobs will be and where the jobs won't be, with the hope that they will pursue pathways that will lead to employment in the region.

Fisher says we also need to do a better job of attracting people to the region and retaining them. "We cannot — on our own — grow our way out of this shortage with the population that is here."

The report is a call to action to employers, educators and policymakers across the region to immediately accelerate efforts to educate, train, retain and attract talent.

In a news release, Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, stated, "To be successful, this is going to require the engagement of everyone in the region. We have the right assets and talent in place, but a new course must be set by the end of the decade, if not sooner. Otherwise, every gain we've made in recent years to transform our region's economy could erode rapidly though competition from other regions, market forces and technological change. By working together — a hallmark of the Pittsburgh region — we can do this...our best days are ahead."