Ready to work: The region needs to match students with jobs
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You've heard it a hundred times. There are no jobs in Pittsburgh for young people. The truth is there are more good-paying jobs here than you think, but too many young people don't know about them or don't have the skills to be hired for them.
Don't take the Post-Gazette's word for it. Ask any number of prominent businesses. U.S. Steel. UPMC. American Eagle Outfitters. Leaders from these employers and hundreds of others in southwestern Pennsylvania are concerned about the growing mismatch between skills held by local high school graduates and those needed in various industrial, technical or trade occupations.
While parents, teachers and students rightly focus on the value of a college education, there are jobs that go begging for lack of vocational training, math proficiency and other learning that does not require a four-year degree from an ivy-covered campus.
With the goal of filling such jobs with local applicants, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development launched the Pittsburgh Regional Compact last fall. The compact aims to bridge the gap between employers who say they have trouble finding skilled and qualified employees for certain openings and students who want solid jobs after high school but aren't necessarily college-bound.
So far, 98 businesses and 42 school districts from 10 counties have signed on with the compact, pledging to use workplace visits, internships, individual mentoring, adopt-a-school programs or other ways to give high school students firsthand insight to work opportunities and the knowledge needed to get there.
That's a good beginning, but nowhere near the potential number of participants. The Allegheny Conference, the region's private-sector community leadership organization, would like to enlist at least 300 businesses, 75 school districts and 3,000 students in the compact (for more information, go to www.pittsburghregionalcompact.org).
Besides working toward more specific match-ups of graduates to jobs, the compact has a more long-term, challenging goal: To maintain sufficient dialogue between education and business so that more students leave high school with the kind of skills needed in the workplace -- from math and writing ability to personal habits that make a young person ready for work.
That's an important objective that no successful society can discount if it wants a robust economy and a satisfied work force. That means not only greater collaboration between businesses and school districts, but also a wider conversation involving vocational and technical schools and community colleges.
Yes, there are jobs in Pittsburgh for young people, but it's up to business and education to work together and shape the work force that can fill them. The Pittsburgh Regional Compact is a great place to start.
First Published June 20, 2008 12:00 am