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Allegheny Conference on Community Development Uses Labor Market Data to Transform Workforce

“We were able to validate today’s needs and more accurately project what the needs of our future workforce would be.”

Linda Topoleski

Workforce Operations and Programs, Allegheny Conference

The Client

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development is a nonprofit, private-sector leadership organization dedicated to economic development and quality of life issues for a 10-county region in southwestern Pennsylvania, United States.

The Challenge

The Pittsburgh region is at an inflection point: Like many parts of the country, it is facing a monumental demographic shift as its aging workforce retires at a rate of about 29,000 baby boomers per year. At the same time, fewer workers are coming up in the pipeline. With modest economic growth, the region will need to fill about 340,000 new openings over the next 10 years. In addition, 1.2 million incumbent workers will need to be upskilled as technology rapidly changes the world of work. While the Pittsburgh region has transformed its economy from steel and manufacturing to “ed, meds, and technology,” it now must transform its workforce to meet these new challenges. In order to fill this gap and ensure their region has a healthy, thriving economy, the Allegheny Conference had to understand the current and future jobs and skills that employers need while also retaining more college graduates and attracting new workers to the area. To accomplish these goals, the Allegheny Conference needed a way to clearly communicate an action plan with community leaders.

The Solution

With this impending challenge, the Allegheny Conference had to find answers to the following three questions:

  • What jobs and skills are in high demand right now, as well as five and ten years from now?
  • What are the strengths and risks in the future of Pittsburgh’s regional workforce?
  • What can the community of employers and training providers do to promote and capitalize on local strengths and build a competitive workforce for the future?

Working with Pittsburgh’s top economists and HR directors, the Allegheny Conference conducted a national search for a partner that would help them answer these questions and solve their labor market problem. Their team chose to use Burning Glass Technologies because of the company’s ability to use leading-edge artificial intelligence and other tools that provided the Allegheny Conference with the real-time, localized examination of labor market supply needed to solve this challenge. “Burning Glass’ data gave us a real-time lens into employer demand across our entire 10-county region,” said Linda Topoleski, vice president, Workforce Operations and Programs at the Allegheny Conference. “Not only could we see which jobs and skills were in highest demand, but also what skill trends were emerging. Combined with focus groups comprised of 125 CEOs and HR directors, we were able to validate today’s needs and more accurately project what the needs of our future workforce would be.”

“Burning Glass’ data gave us a real-time lens into employer demand across our entire 10-county region … Not only could we see which jobs and skills were in highest demand, but also what skill trends were emerging. Combined with focus groups comprised of 125 CEOs and HR directors, we were able to validate today’s needs and more accurately project what the needs of our future workforce would be.”

Linda Topoleski

Allegheny Conference

Identifying Emerging Industries and Occupations

In order to maintain a successful, growing economy, the Pittsburgh region needed to transform their aging labor market and compete with other companies at a global level while attracting the companies and jobs that would power their economic future. Burning Glass and the Allegheny Conference identified the following four emerging industry clusters with high-priority occupations:

By identifying these emerging industry clusters and the specific skills associated with them, the Pittsburgh region could prepare workers to be leaders in these emerging industries. Pittsburgh is already a leader in the autonomous vehicle industry, due to the presence of Uber and Argo AI, both of which are building and testing on-road autonomous fleets, and four other autonomous vehicle companies. The Allegheny Conference plans to build on that strength while creating and growing the other three newly identified industry clusters. “Through labor market insight, we’re able to determine the higher end engineering demands, as well as the technician level demands of these emerging industries, and to see how they will add pressure to our existing talent pipeline,” said Alison Treaster, Director of Workforce Business Engagement at the Allegheny Conference.

Bridging the Gap Between Education and Business Community

With a clear vision of which industries they needed to expand, the Allegheny Conference’s next step was to facilitate ongoing dialogue among business, education and workforce development leaders and policymakers. “We fanned out in teams, and presented our findings to more than 5,000 local leaders in small groups, and had dialogue on solutions we could work toward in a collaborative way. The challenge is too big for any one group to solve, and the solution sets are interrelated.  We presented our information to the local educators and workforce, and received a welcoming, open attitude from professors to talk with employers about the skills their employees need for their jobs,” Topoleski said. With these insights, schools can design their programs and courses to better accommodate the workforce. “This has created a bridge between professors and employers,” Topoleski said. “It’s been a really great, beneficial collaboration for all involved. In addition, we are working to retain more students in the region and expand programs to expose students to local job opportunities and also to the quality of life in Pittsburgh.” The Pittsburgh region’s leaders plan to educate more than just their students on top skills. They also plan to keep local workers up-to-date on emerging skills. By adding new skills to their resumes, workers can create clear pathways to upward mobility and high-priority occupations. In order to grow the economy, the Allegheny Conference also plans to attract more talent to Pittsburgh. They launched targeted marketing efforts to attract talent for high-demand occupations, like engineering and IT. With 61 colleges and universities in the Pittsburgh region, the Conference aims to retain more  graduates by introducing them to their region’s beautiful geography, vibrant arts and entertainment scene, and more.

Sharing the Data

To make the data accessible for everyone, the Allegheny Conference embedded Burning Glass data into their website, ImaginePittsburgh.com. This site allows users to dive into the four highest-demand occupational clusters in order to see insights such as how many people are employed in the industry, what the median salary is, skills in demand, and the projected growth by occupation. “Transforming this data into a more digestible format has allowed everyone to see the value of this information – even those who aren’t data savvy,” Topoleski said. ImaginePittsburgh.com also provides a regional job board, powered by Burning Glass, that allows workers to search for jobs in their region in addition to providing them with information on what it’s like to live in the area. Burning Glass’s real-time jobs feed tool, NOVA, collects thousands of job postings every night to keep the website up-to-date with the newest jobs in the area, across all industry sectors.

Key Takeaways

  • Real-time labor market data identified key supply and demand factors impacting emerging industries that will allow Pittsburgh to attract and develop talent and grow its economy.
  • The Allegheny Conference is working with K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions to help better align their programs and courses with workforce demand.
  • Local residents, companies and others are able to quickly and easily gain access to Pittsburgh’s labor market data through a user-friendly, online platform powered in part by Burning Glass.