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Development & Transportation

Pittsburgh Won’t Pay You $10K To Relocate, But Hopes Young People Will Consider Other Factors

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Katie Blackley
/
90.5 WESA
A music festival takes place on Pittsburgh's North Side.

A summer program from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development aims to build a pipeline of young talent to help position the region for the future, and early data suggests it’s working.

“We’re really trying to get away from being the best-kept secret,” said Stefani Pashman, the conference’s CEO.

Even before the pandemic, the future of work in Pittsburgh faced some significant hurdles, namely an aging workforce and a growing mismatch between job requirements and applicant education. Across the United States, the demand for skilled workers continues to rise. Coupled with the growing interest in remote work, companies and even municipalities are in a fierce contest to draw people in.

Meanwhile, each year after graduation, nearly 20,000 potential Pittsburghers leave the region as they leave their colleges and universities with a diploma in hand. It’s a huge problem that presents a huge opportunity, said Pashman.

“They are in our backyard, they are here,” she said. “They are easy to connect with and they are really enthusiastic and need jobs.”

The conference created The Pittsburgh Passport, a free program to any Pittsburgh-area interns. The idea is to help people build stronger ties to the region through networking events, professional development activities, affinity groups, and outdoor fun.

After two years the program seems to be having an impact: Participating companies say they’ve seen a significant increase in both new hires and employee satisfaction. Across the more than 35 companies, people have accepted job offers 30% more than previously, and both interns and existing employees report feeling more engaged.

Attracting talent is a challenge for regions across the country.

Tulsa, Oklahoma offers $10,000 and a social network to people who relocate; Northwest Arkansas does, too, and officials will throw in a bike. Meanwhile, West Virginia announced in 2021 that one of its more flush native sons would pay $12,000 to anyone willing to relocate with a full-time job from out of state.

In Pittsburgh, meanwhile, Pashman said it became clear that a lot of college students felt as though they could be anywhere.

“We’re selling them on the job, we’re selling them on the employer, but we’re not really selling them on the region,” she said.

Last summer, in its second year, Pittsburgh Passport operated virtually, which allowed far more interns with an area connection to participate. Just as with remote work, that allowed for a more diverse group of interns.

Diversity is good for business, said Justin Kaufman, managing partner of Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Pittsburgh office, which released a case study on The Pittsburgh Passport.

“We know that inclusive teams lead to diverse perspectives, creative thinking and open collaboration,” he said, adding that it’s also good for the city at large.

Pashman agreed. “It will just improve the vibrancy and opportunity professionally for everyone in Pittsburgh if we can improve the diversity of this place,” she said.