Commentary: Get in the mix / Pittsburgh can find opportunity in challenges
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Vibrant regions understand the connection among the growth of creative knowledge-intensive industries, talent and diversity. Research shows that these three components are common factors in regions and communities that have enjoyed high levels of sustained growth and economic competitiveness. Moreover, professionals between the ages of 24 and 40 have an expectation, perhaps even a requirement, that their surrounding environment not only offer a breadth of income-earning choices but also a comfortable acceptance and engagement of difference.
According to the 2010 Census, diversity was a major contributor to the nation's population growth. In a recent Brookings Institute report, demographer William Frey reported that minorities accounted for 98 percent of the population growth in the nation's largest metropolitan areas over the past decade. Hispanics and Asians contributed to the majority of growth in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, growing by 41 percent and 43 percent respectively.
This national demographic trend is resulting in a workforce that is more than 30 percent minority and rising. Those areas that will emerge in these highly competitive and uncertain times will be those regions capable of attracting and effectively engaging diverse workers.
The Pittsburgh region, after more than 20 years of economic and environmental renaissances, is in a position to showcase its assets to men and women seeking a place where opportunity, diversity and welcoming culture converge. As one newcomer, Farouk Dey with Carnegie Mellon University, said in an interview for the Vibrant Pittsburgh blog: "Pittsburgh offers our family everything we want from a large city in addition to a manageable and enjoyable lifestyle."
To realize our region's full potential, there are critical challenges that we must address. Pittsburgh is the second-least diverse metro area of the nation's top 100 cities and has one of the lowest foreign-born populations among the top 100 cities. The population death rate exceeds its birth rate, the workforce is aging and the region has only recently begun to generate a net in-migration of people.
However, these challenges -- when combined with the growing employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in energy, health care, technology and other sectors and the ability of our community leaders to come together to solve difficult problems -- provide Greater Pittsburgh with a chance to be a magnet for the diverse talent it needs.
In 2010, Vibrant Pittsburgh was born out of an acknowledgement of the importance of diversity to our region's economic competitiveness and a common agreement among leaders across all sectors that a focused and highly collaborative effort was needed. Our mission at Vibrant Pittsburgh is to work with the region's employers and community-based diverse groups to marshal regional resources for the purpose of ensuring our region's growth by attracting, retaining and elevating a diverse workforce, and promoting Pittsburgh nationally and internationally as a diverse and inclusive region of opportunities.
Through our highly collaborative approach, Vibrant Pittsburgh is coordinating and convening employers and community groups and partnering with existing nonprofits and regional resources to spark ideas and actions. The immediate goals of this effort are to:
• position the Pittsburgh region in external markets with qualified and diverse candidates to assist employers in attracting and growing a talented and diverse workforce
• bring together the employer-based and community-based diverse groups to foster the networks and supports that minority and diverse populations need to thrive in their workplaces and community-places
• work with and support diverse affinity groups in order that they become recruiting and retention agents for the region and its employers and are vehicles to connect new diverse employees and their trailing families to community resources that are welcoming and supportive
Our early initiatives and continued programmatic focus further on five programmatic areas:
1. Place-Based Marketing and Branding: Utilizing traditional marketing, Web-based and online vehicles and public relations, position the Pittsburgh region with prospective diverse employment candidates as the place to find a job, build a career, live and thrive.
2. Market-Based Outreach and Attraction: Promote Pittsburgh region employers and their employment opportunities with qualified and diverse candidates in several geographic markets each year as identified by participating employers.
3. Inclusion and Retention: Facilitate a network of inclusion between employers, diverse employees, their families and diverse community groups.
4. Local Elevation: Serve as a catalyst for advancing ideas, partnerships and actions that assist local diverse candidates in developing and/or elevating their current skills and knowledge to meet employer job qualifications.
5. Advocacy: Serve as a proactive and informed advocate in undertakings that ensure the Pittsburgh region has a solid and sustainable foundation on which to attract, grow, elevate and retain a skilled, talented and diverse employee population.
First Published October 27, 2011 12:00 am