Pennsylvania labor chief Hearthway a 'data geek'


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Julia K. Hearthway introduced herself to the annual conference of the Council for Community and Economic Development on Thursday by showing a mock up of a name tag. It said, “Hello my name is Data Geek.”

“I am one of those geeks who love to go through reams and reams of numbers and data,” said Ms. Hearthway, secretary for the state Department of Labor and Industry.

To that end, she said, she is working with the secretary of Community and Economic Development, C. Alan Walker, to use numbers to convince Shell Corp. to build an ethane cracker plant in Beaver County.

She has countered arguments that Pennsylvania does not have the right mix of its labor force to build or staff such a plant by pulling the numbers of occupations here and how many workers each has. Those few areas in which Pennsylvania has a shortage of skilled labor are for occupations in which workers need no more than nine months of training, she said.

“We could easily meet the labor supply to build and operate the facility,” she said. “We had the labor demand. We had the labor supply and we had the road map for all of the training facilities.”

And then, Ms. Hearthway said, because she has a bit of a competitive streak, she also asked the Pennsylvania Center for Workforce Information and Analysis to pull the same numbers for Texas and Louisiana.

Those numbers “showed we had as strong a workforce, if not a stronger one.”

Using hard data doesn’t just help industry. For job seekers, the Department of Labor and Industry has opened up a new website called www.JobGateway.pa.gov. In addition to want ads, one of the things the website does is allow job seekers to link to information from the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis to see how career choices are expected to fare in the future.

Ms. Hearthway said the site does not say whether or not to stay with an occupation. Instead, it shows “exactly what their odds are in staying in that occupation and whether it’s trending up or trending down.”


Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.

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