Youth Employment the Focus of Events in Pittsburgh this Week

May 1, 2012

The 6th Annual Imagine! Career Week kicked off Monday in Pittsburgh and included a breakfast on Tuesday with Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis. The goal of the week is to expose Pittsburgh youth ages 14-24 to a wide range of career options.

"It's really important that we give youth the opportunity to explore multiple pathways to success. A four-year degree is a great option, but there's also plenty of jobs in our marketplace for individuals who may want to pursue a technical trade or associate's degrees, and we want to make sure that youth are aware of the diversity and range of options available," said Stefani Pashman, CEO of Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, which created the career week.

The board released data on the state of the workforce for youth. Overall it found that finding work for young people isn't easy; there is an estimated 1 job for every 10 people between the ages of 14 and 24. Plus, the jobs that are available are primarily concentrated in hospitality and retail. Pashman said while those do provide valuable work experience, they only expose youth to a fraction of the work force.

"We have so many jobs in diverse sectors like manufacturing, like healthcare, and we want to make sure youth are exposed to those through diversity of options," she said.

Summer internships have also taken a hit. The number available has been cut in half over the last decade. Now there are about 14,000 internships available, and more than 100,000 youth looking for them. But there are some opportunities out there, and Pashman said it's important for youth to start in the workforce, so they can begin to build communication and leadership skills.

"It's important to start to build the foundations to lead them to their pathway, and the more that we expose youth to multiple avenues, the better able they are to understand their interests, pursue their interests, understand where their passion lies, and to also strengthen the skillset in their toolbox," she said.

Imagine! Career Week includes numerous career fairs, in-school educational events, and workshops. Pashman said during the six years of these career weeks, there have been many gains, but she said there is still a ways to go in ensure that everyone who wants to work can find an outlet.

"I think we need to do a better job of thinking carefully about what opportunities we can really push down to the younger skill set," said Pashman. "I think there's probably some areas where we can be more creative about opening the doors."