Energy Jobs Present Opportunity and Challenge

Sep 19, 2012 Jobs.mp3

The Pittsburgh region will see a growth in energy-related jobs by 2020, according to a workforce analysis presented today by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (ACCD) and the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh, but training workers to fill them will be a challenge.  

Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky said 37 energy employers in coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, power management and intelligent building will need to fill 7,000 jobs in 14 fairly high-paying occupations such as engineers, maintenance technicians, welders, and salespeople.  These workforce needs can be met, according to Yablonsky, by expanding on the ShaleNET model implemented to train workers for six shale industry jobs that were being filled in the past by out-of-staters. ShaleNET, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor,  is a coalition of Westmoreland County Community College, West Virginia Northern Community College, Eastern Gateway Community College in Ohio and the Pennsylvania College of Technology to recruit and train workers for the natural gas industry.

According to the survey, about 4,200 of the openings will be due to retirement and attrition and 2,000 in the 14 high-demand occupations.

"I'm happy to say we now have 22 community colleges from four states teaching this program, and in the last year, we've trained and placed on jobs over 1000 people," said Yablonsky.  "That model is working.  Part of what we announced today is, we want to try to take that model, ShaleNET, and scale it beyond just those occupations to a number of other ones." 

One of the fourteen occupations requires only a high school diploma, said Yablonsky, and four require 4-year college degrees.  The other nine call for some sort of post-secondary education.  The message for workers, said Yablonsky, is to plan on lifelong learning and to realize a high school degree will probably not be enough.

David Porges, chair of the Allegheny Conference Workplace Committee, and chairman of EQT Corporation said the "help wanted sign is out."

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