Report targets skills needed to fill energy jobs

| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

More energy-sector jobs undoubtedly are coming to Western Pennsylvania, but the region needs to prepare to meet the demand for skilled workers or face talent shortages, a report to be released on Wednesday urges.

The “Workforce Analysis Report: Energy Sector Jobs in Greater Pittsburgh,” conducted on behalf of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh, identifies 14 high-demand, hard-to-fill occupations and work force development challenges.

“This is an early-warning signal that if we don't straighten out our talent pipelines, we will have shortages,” said Laura Fisher, a senior vice president with the Allegheny Conference, the region's main economic development group. “It's a good wake-up call. We already have a lot in place. ... Now is the time to bring the industry to the table with the public work force system and educational institutions.”

The 10-county Pittsburgh region is home to almost 1,000 energy-sector companies with 41,000 direct energy jobs that account for $19 billion in economic impact, or about 16 percent of the region's economy, the report finds.

A sample of 37 organizations across the seven-sector energy industry — coal, gas, nuclear, solar, wind, transmission and distribution components, and intelligent building technologies — found that leaders of those companies by 2020 plan to fill nearly 2,000 new positions in 14 target jobs from general helpers to mechanical engineers. Those companies plan to fill nearly 5,000 positions during that span that come open due to retirement and attrition.

The total number of existing and new jobs to be filled across the energy industry is expected to be much higher, said Kurt Rankin, an economist with PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh.

“It is a reasonable assumption that we are talking in the order of tens of thousands, rather than hundreds, of jobs created by 2020,” said Rankin, who was not involved in producing the report.

Through July, more than 2,500 jobs were added this year in Pennsylvania in the natural resources sector, he said.

Pennsylvania outpaces Texas in the creation of natural resources jobs, with a growth rate of 18 percent in July over the previous year, compared to Texas' growth of 9 percent. North Dakota's growth stood at 36 percent that month, Rankin said.

“Pennsylvania is going to be following the trail North Dakota has been blazing,” he said.

Education and training will be key challenges to meeting the demands of the growing energy industry, Fisher said. All but one of the 14 target job fields identified in the report will require a certification or some form of education beyond a high school diploma, she said.

Other challenges will be attracting young people and showing them the demand for these high-skill positions across sectors of the industry.

“These are not the jobs of yesterday,” Fisher said.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or

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