West Pa. survey sees energy job growth through 2020

Posted September 19, 2012


PITTSBURGH The Pittsburgh region is poised to see the number of energy-related careers grow significantly by the end of this decade, according to a survey of area employers.

At the same time, according to a workforce analysis conducted on behalf of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh, the opportunity poses significant challenges for workforce development as employers increasingly compete for talent, especially across 14 high-demand, hard-to-fill occupations.

The results were to be officially released Wednesday during a news conference in Pittsburgh.

“At a time when our region is already setting all-time records for employment, the help wanted’ sign is out, and it’s likely to stay there for years to come,” said David Porges, chair of the Allegheny Conference Workplace Committee, and chairman, president and CEO of EQT Corp.

“For the energy industry in particular, our challenge is to educate, train and attract enough skilled workers to meet this demand.” Porges said in a statement.

“The good news: we have the tools necessary to make it happen; however, to be successful, we must have business, government and the workforce development system effectively working together towards this common goal.”

The detailed analysis, conducted by global talent-recruitment consultancy DDI of Bridgeville, involved in-depth interviews with 37 employers representing a cross-section of the 10-county region’s seven energy industries, including coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, power management and intelligent building.

According to the survey, these 37 companies alone expect to have more than 7,000 jobs to fill through 2020, with about 4,200 of the openings due to retirement and attrition and 2,000 in the 14 high-demand occupations.

The Allegheny Conference said the goal of the research was not to make statistical inferences about job numbers, but to determine what the greatest need will be and what skills will be most in demand to fill the energy workforce pipeline through the end of the decade.

“This report is unusual because we’re hearing directly from the employers about the positions they must fill in the years to come,” said Allegheny Conference Chief Executive Officer Dennis Yablonsky. “This information may help to guide dislocated workers contemplating a career change or young people thinking about their future career options.

“These are the high demand opportunities emerging in our region. These occupations include machinists, maintenance techs, welders and the people who supervise them, as well as sales professionals and engineers, family-sustaining jobs with good, long-term career prospects. Fortunately we have time to prepare to meet this demand.”

According to the survey, all but one of the 14 demand jobs across the seven energy-related industries will require more than a high school diploma or GED typically an associate’s degree or technical certification. Several will require a bachelor’s degree or more.

“We’re not predicting the number of jobs that will be available across the entire energy economy, but these results offer some practical, unequivocal conclusions about what we need to do to continue to grow our economy,” said Laura Fisher, senior vice president, Allegheny Conference, who has overseen the project.

“It is essential for employers and businesses to begin now to get the word out about the region’s job opportunities and training and educational resources, and to advocate for better alignment of education and workforce policy, programming and funding.

“We have the building blocks to meet the growing demand. Our region is home to 36 colleges and universities, community colleges and career schools, and nonprofit workforce development organizations, including robust building trades apprenticeship programs.

“The challenge is to properly align educational and training programs so that students and dislocated workers can make well-informed choices about post-secondary education.”

The Allegheny Conference and the Energy Alliance said that parents and guidance counselors have important roles to play to communicate the emerging opportunity in the region and to encourage students to seek out STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills and also important that they develop the critical thinking, communications and other behavioral skills embedded in a well-rounded curriculum.

“The workplace of the near future in our country and in the Pittsburgh region is one in which opportunities are available to anyone with the skills and training to succeed,” Porges said.

The Allegheny Conference and the EAGP said they were taking immediate steps to address the region’s workforce opportunity by:

n Building on the successful ShaleNET workforce development model, a multi-state, comprehensive recruitment, training, placement and retention program for jobs in the gas industry throughout the Marcellus Shale footprint, to target additional high-demand, hard-to-find positions across the energy industries;

n Increasing public awareness of the breadth of opportunity in the region by enhancing the ImaginePittsburgh.com talent attraction portal and related marketing;

n Advocating for key structural improvements to the workforce development system in the region and across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and

n Extending the analysis to include the entire 32-county, greater Pittsburgh region, which includes portions of Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia;

The groups said a new analysis of the energy sector by the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh indicates that the energy sector has an annual $25 billion economic impact direct and indirect on the 32-county region, representing 15 percent of its economy. More than 60,000 people are employed in direct energy jobs at 1,700 establishments across the greater region.

Copyright Observer Publishing Co.