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Chamber of Commerce discusses evolving workforce

Business leaders speaking at an April 18 Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Bethel Park said the Pittsburgh region will need to attract and retain talent thise next decade in order to avoid a potential workforce shortfall.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development projects that roughly 340,000 job openings will be created over the next decade, while the local talent pipeline can fill only 260,000.

Projecting job growth and Baby Boomer retirement, Allegheny Conference officials said the local talent pipeline will need to be strengthened in order to nurture growing sectors like healthcare, technology and finance. Linda Topoleski, vice president of workforce operations for the Allegheny Conference, said half of the 40,000 students who graduate from post-secondary schools in the 10-county region each year will leave the area for work.

“They get recruited freshman year by companies from outside this region,” Topoleski said of Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh students. “The competitive race for talent has really picked up and we as a region need to solidify our efforts to attract and retain more of that talent.”

Jennifer Beer, senior director of government affairs for the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, said working with businesses and legislators to create an inclusive “innovation economy” will likewise be important for the future. She also said the autonomous vehicle industry, for example, could employ engineers and auto technicians.

“While we have had great success with our founding industries – we think of manufacturing and industry – we want to be mindful of the up-and-coming industries,” Beer said.

Amy Halter, vice president of operations at Accion Labs, rounded out the function by discussing technologies just off the radar for business leaders and educators to watch. Artificial intelligence and automated transportation, she said, are already experimented with elsewhere in the United States and the world.

“I’m sure many of you watched the Jetsons as a child, and it’s pretty amazing to think that we are living in the very beginning of their world,” Halter said.

The South West Chamber of Commerce and Bethel Park Chamber of Commerce organized the breakfast discussion at the Crowne Plaza hotel.