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Blending of job skills sought in Western Pennsylvania's nexus industries

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By Rick Stouffer
Saturday, March 13, 2010

Job seekers equipped with knowledge of health care or energy -- combined with skills in manufacturing or information technology -- are best-positioned to find jobs in the Pittsburgh region in the future, a new study found.

Community College of Allegheny County asked the Hill Group, a Carnegie-based consulting firm, to identify industries that promise to show the greatest growth.

"The most interesting piece of information that we found from the study was that employers want people with a blend of abilities and skills," Charles Blocksidge, executive director of the CCAC-Allegheny County Workforce Alliance, said Friday after the report was released. The alliance is a work force development initiative that the college formed with state and local groups.

The so-called nexus industries, or those that combine high-growth fields with manufacturing or information technology, include:

• Health care or life sciences, combined with information technology. These skills would be valuable for workers who manage patient information in a hospital, for example.

• Health care or life sciences combined with manufacturing. This combination long has been a strength in the region, with its homegrown medical technology-related companies, experts said.

• Energy combined with information technology. Workers with these abilities could develop systems to analyze traditional and alternative energy sources, for example.

• Energy and manufacturing. This refers to workers who develop technologies to generate or distribute electricity more efficiently, for example, or those searching for better ways to extract underground natural gas.

Hill Group associates talked to representatives from industry, education, trade groups and other areas to compile the study. Discussions focused on what the stakeholders believe are growing industries, and their priorities for those industries.

The study concluded that employment in energy will grow fastest, but health care will generate the most new jobs. Financial services and insurance will grow, but only to recover lost employment during the recession, said the study, which didn't give projections.

"The study's findings make a lot of sense," said Range Resources Corp. spokesman Matt Pitzarella. The Fort Worth-based company is a major player in drilling natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale areas in Western Pennsylvania.

Pitzarella said there's a logical melding between the gas industry and manufacturing, because many manufacturers run their plants with the fuel. "Our industry uses state-of-the-art technology, so it makes sense that people with a natural gas and IT background would be well suited" for jobs, he said.

Blocksidge said the study results will influence the alliance's efforts. "We need to bring to our core education and training programs these blended skill sets," he said.



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